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COWARDS: How Substance edits out anonymous e-mail messages if the writer doesn't provide a real return e-mail address

On the last day of February, we received an e-mail message from an anonymous poster who took up the cause of supporting CPS Turnaround Chief Officer Donald Fraynd and criticizing several of the critics of the Fenger "turnaround" who have posted comments here at SubstanceNews.

Above (right), Chicago Public Schools Chief Turnaround Officer Donald Fraynd sits with other CPS officials who testified (without being under oath or being subjected to cross examination) against Marshall High School during the "turnaround" hearing about Marshall on February 1, 2010. Left to right are Chief Administrative Office Robert Runcie (back row), Director of Performance Ryan Crosby, and (far right) Chief Turnaround Officer Donald Fraynd. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.While we do not forbid blogging conventions, including pseudonyms and anonymous postings, we also check every e-mail address that is provided. In the case of "Seriously" (February 28, 2010) posting on the thread following our story about the problems at Chicago's Fenger High School, the blogger also gave a phony e-mail address.

As a result, we left the post up for 24 hours (you might be able to read it today) and then I'm taking it down. Reason? You can post here anonymously or pseudonymously, but you can't lie about your e-mail address. While we have the tools to get through to the root of every e-mail that comes in here, we don't bother with those who blather. Rather, we hold up their work for one day for examination, then take the posting down. So those who wish to read "Seriously" should do so before March 2, 2010, because he will disappear by then.

According to "Seriously" his e-mail address is

sorry@ndpathetic.com

Let me know if you can get to him there. We have other ways, but now we're waiting for him to get back to us by phone at Substance (773-725-7502).

Because someone took the effort to do something silly about our posting last month about the chaos inside Fenger, we're giving everyone the chance to read it again at the top of our March 2010 Home Page. You can also get back to it at

www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=1163§ion=Article

Sorry that we're having some technical problems with our automatic Link, but you can copy and past that address to get back to the February 2010 original posting of this courageous piece of reporting.

Last month was very busy here at SubstanceNews. People may have missed it, although you can still locate it in our Back Issues February 2010. 



Comments:

March 1, 2010 at 10:31 AM

By: Al Korach

retired delegate

`I WAS VERY FORTUNATE TO HAVE GROWN UP IN A UNION FAMILY. MY FATHER,AN IMMAGRANT WAS VERY ACTIVE IN THE AMALGAMATED CLOTHING WORKERS OF AMERICA. I RECALL GOING TO THE UNION HALL FOR ALL OF MY MEDICAL AND DENTAL CARE.MY DAD WOULD ALWAYS SAY TO ME, "STAND UP AND BE COUNTED." AS A TWENTYISH SCHOOL DELEGATE (NO ONE ELSE WANTED THE JOB).I WAS AMAZED AT THE FEAR AMONG TEACHERS TO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED. THEIR NEED SEEMED TO BE THE LACK OF ACTIVE UNION LEADERSHIP AT THE LOCAL SCHOOL LEVEL.

AS A GROUP THEY ALL LOVED ANONYMITY. THE BLOGS PROVIDE THE ABILITY TO SAY SOMETHING WHILE STILL STAYING IN THE SHADOWS. MY HATS OFF TO SUBSTANCE FOR PROVIDING THE ABILITY TO BLOG AND AT THE SAME TIME EXERCISING A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF CONTROL. I RECALL TRAVELING DURING THE CB (citizens band Radio)CRAZE AND LISTENING TO MANY VILE, RECIST COMMENTARIES UNDER THE CLOAK OF ANONYMITY.

MANY OF THE BLOGGERS ALL USE THE EXCUSE THAT IF THEY KNOW WHO I AM THEY WILL "GET" ME." IT SEEMS THAT WITH ALL THE SCHOOL CLOSINGS THEY ARE GOING TO GET YOU YOU ANYWAY. I DO NOT FEEL THAT IT'S SAFER TO GO TO THE SLAUGHTER QUIETLY. I ALWAYS FELT THAT IT WAS SAFER AS A DELEGATE TO GO TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE AS AN EQUAL TO DISCUSS UNION ISSUES. IT USUALLY LED TO BETTER RESULTS.

DURING THIS TIME OF UNION AND SCHOOL CRISIS IT'S TIME TO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED. THIS STARTS WITH THE HEADS OF THE CTU AND EXTENDS DOWN TO THE LOCAL SCHOOL DELEGATE AND MEMBERSHIP. IF IN THE END THE MEMBERSHIP WILL NOT TAKE A STAND WHO WILL?

March 2, 2010 at 10:57 AM

By: alexander

blogger

don't do this, george -- that would be my advice.

either allow open unregistered comments or don't allow them, but don't censor anonymous comments if that's something you allow -- especially if your motivation is that you disagree with the poster.

that is, unless you want only people who agree with you and who don't mind their emails being posted to read and comment on your site.

unsolicited advice, as usual

district299.com

March 2, 2010 at 9:10 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

retired teacher, parent

Alexander: Would you allow someone to post using a bogus e-mail address and false name and then turn around and attack other bloggers?

This person basically said that anyone who didn't agree with him/her was anti-child and shouldn't be teaching. That is not encouraging open dialogue. I think George was right and I have not seen him try to erase people for disagreeing with him as long as there was proof that the person was a real person.

March 3, 2010 at 2:46 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Basic fairness and integrity rules

While I appreciate Alexander's suggestion, we disagree. All we ask of our anonymous commenters is that they provide us with an accurate e-mail address and that they be careful when making assertions of fact that are clearly unsourced. In the case of "Seriously" two days ago, the e-mail address was nonsense, so I checked it out, then asked the person (publicly here) to contact me by phone or e-mail within 24 hours. No contact led to deletion.

Substance is now in our 35th year, and we've evolved a few basic guidelines over those years.

Here are some basic reasons why.

The most serious one is that we will quote sources off the record in our news stories, but both our reporter and our editor have to know the name and other background on the source. That generally (not always) saves us from the "Janet Cooke Problem" that was still evident at some papers as late as the fifth season of "The Wire" — when a reporter can keep a source secret, even from the editor. Not good.

Over the years, based on verified tips, we've reported any number of major stories out of CPS. Some of them have been doozies. A couple of years ago, we reported that a high ranking union official was a scab. A couple of decades ago, we reported that a high school principal had been raping students in his office. Around the same time, we reported that Marva Collins was a media hoax and that "60 Minutes" had helped spread the hoax by not fact checking Marva's miracle stories.

All those stories (and hundreds of others not as dramatic) required our using protected off-the-record sources, at least for a time. You can't write about a tyrannical government without protecting some sources. But if you don't doublecheck and verify sources, you could get into the kind of trouble The New York Times got into when leading us into the Iraq War. Some of the credibility the White House got prior to March 2003 was based on Page One stories in The New York Times filed by Judith Miller. Miller, as is now knows, was in the tank with her Bush White House sources — and White House spin.

We allow our "comments" here to remain open, but within the guidelines we just enforced against "Seriously." If "Seriously" wants to be taken seriously, he can return in his own name or clearly giving us a real e-mail address.

In a couple of cases, I've asked people who were blogging under a pseudonym to blog in their own name, since they were getting a bit wild in their "factual" claims.

Generally, these things have worked out. This site is growing both in our volume of news and analysis (more than 440,000 "hits" in February 2010 isn't a bad number for 13 months' up time) and in the comments we encourage. We'll stick to our basic guidelines, however. As some readers noticed (New York Times report in the Business section, March 1, 2010). on line articles are not being as carefully edited and fact-checked as those which go into print. Even print articles in major magazines are not subjected to the kind of fact checking most people assume to be in place. (For example, that ludicrous puff piece from the August 2009 Chicago magazine on Ron Huberman was simple run through without any fact checking, so it basically amounted to the reporter taking dictation from Huberman himself and his admirers).

In 35 years, we've never burned a source we promised to be off the record. That's what gives "Seriously" the assurance that he can post here — provided he doesn't play games with us. We're learning how to encourage healthy exchanges here in "comments".

March 3, 2010 at 9:55 PM

By: Jay Rehak

Your policy is fair

George,

I know that you don't need anyone to tell you you're right, but I agree with your policy on this. Let those who would make claims or accusations speak/write in the light, not in the shadows. If people are afraid to put their names to a piece of their writing, the publisher of such prose should know and protect the source. Otherwise, we are all subject to malicious innuendo, which is unfair to everyone, including those with whom we disagree.

March 3, 2010 at 10:18 PM

By: Garth Liebhaber

Fair Speech, not Free Speech

I will speak from direct experience being involved in an activist media project which featured open publishing that the anonymity factor was both a boon as well as a burden. When it came to comments, it was especially a burden. Many hours of many people's time were sucked up in endless flame wars that would never have existed if people used their real names. George grudgingly allows "Noms de Guerre" but I guarantee that if Substance were to allow obnoxious "Incendiary Comment Bombs" like the one just deleted, it would demolish the credibility of this project. People are turned off by such negative time wasters as this flamer. Parents and teachers, especially, and who are the prime readers of Substance have even less time to waste on a site crowded with obnoxious lurkers. It's not Free Speech, it's Fair Speech. You have to be responsible to the rest of us when you choose to occupy space here. : )

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You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at substancenews.net. We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

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