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MEDIA WATCH: WBEZ radio report includes complete audio tape of the September 13 Tribune Forum with Karen Lewis and Jean-Claude Brizard

Linda Lutton, one of the few reporters covering Chicago's public schools who isn't chained to some version of spin nowadays, got her report on the September 13 forum up at WBEZ radio, and the lengthy story includes a link to an audio of the entire exchange, so that our readers can hear and judge for themselves. Substance is still hoping that someone will do a decent transcript of the entire exchange as well, but so far none has come our way. (Our reporters at the event didn't tape it, but only took very extensive notes). The URL for those who can't hit a hotlink is: http://www.wbez.org/story/brizard-lewis-talk-education-91951#

Like most media events, the September 13 Chicago Tribune Forum on public schools was run for television. The photo above shows part of the crowd during the event, along with the media people who were supposed to stay confined to the riser in the rear of the audience. A major ethical dilemma facing TV news reporters in Chicago in the 21st Century is that there is very little reporting or fact checking going on. TV cameras take video of important people such as Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard and simply replay what they say without any fact checking. As a result (see next photo) Brizard can say just about anything he wants and it becomes a "fact" as far as the TV rendition of Chicago news is concerned. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.One of the more interesting local media angles to the event was that the Chicago Sun-Times ignored it. While many of us at Substance might agree that there are kinky things about the way that the Chicago Tribune does its rendition (far from "extraordinary") of the "news" about schools nowadays, it's clear that the September 13 thing was a major event and sad that the Sun-Times was apparently sulking.

If Substance readers have the time, we noticed on August 24 that the editors of WBEZ has apparently dumped the monthly show "Cheat Sheet" from their programming. You might want to give them a call or email about that. "Cheat Sheet" was broadcast on "848", the WBEZ morning show, on the day after each meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, but for some reason the WBEZ brass dumped it during the summer. Given the extraordinary things that have already been done to the city's credibility and to the schools during the four meetings of the Chicago Board of Education that have been held since Rahm Emanuel's "team" (under Jean-Claude Brizard) took over in June, it's sad that the amount of news and informed commentary is being restricted by "public" broadcasting in Chicago. We expect such censorship from WTTW (public TV in Chicago has been controlled by guys like venture capitalist Martin Koldyke of "AUSL" fame for more ethan ten years), but WBEZ seemed to be trying to provide news and intelligent commentary, at least a little bit.

Tribune editor Bruce Dold (above right) allowed Jean-Claude Brizard (above left) to repeat several statements that were either factually untrue or even ridiculous. One of those statements came when Dold asked Brizard how CPS could afford the $150,000 "bonus" to schools that were joining the so-called "Pioneers" (the elementary schools that were voting to waive the union contract). Dold's question came because the Tribune, for the 20th or 21st year in a row, had once again credulously reported a CPS "deficit" claim as fact after Brizard and the Board decided at the Board's June 15 meeting to not pay the contractual four percent raise to unionized workers in the fifth year of their labor contract. First the Tribune credulously accepted the Board's claim that it was facing a "deficit" of $712 million. Then the Tribune repeated the claim, adding that the "deficit" was "unprecedented" (ignoring the fact that by the time he was finished with his fictionalization of the CPS "deficit" a year earlier, Brizard's predecessor Ron Huberman was telling the public that the 2010 - 2011 "deficit" had been "one billion dollars"! Dold was standing with two examples of how CPS has been lying this school year in the above photograph. During the September 13 forum, Brizard claimed that his administration had discovered another "$30 million" it could "cut from bureaucracy" and that was how it was able to get the money for the 'Pioneers" and their "bonus." Actually, the Brizard administration has added to the central office bureaucracy, and the two people standing with editor Dold above are examples. Brizard himself, with his potential "bonus", will be paid nearly 25 percent more than Arne Duncan, one of his predecessors, was paid a mere three years earlier. And the newly created post of "Chief Officer for Communications" now being held by former Blagojevich aide Becky Carroll (above center) did not exist prior to June 2011, when Brizard put it into the supposed austerity budget that required dishonoring the fifth year of the union contracts. Carroll's newly created position (a "cabinet" post under Brizard's new organization chart) pays $160,000 per year, although the public will have a hard time learning that, as CPS "communications" officials refuse to provide the public with the detailed information (called the "Employee Position File") which their predecessors provided routinely to Substance and others for more than 20 years before Rahm Emanuel became Mayor, Brizard CEO, and Carroll CCO. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Too bad they dumped "Cheat Sheet."

One of the main results of the constant downsizing and reorganization of Chicago media is that there are fewer reporters actually being paid to report and check the claims of those in power. The tough guy image of Chicago reporters (male and female) from the days of the old City New Bureau (at which both Mike Royko and Kurt Vonnegut, among many others, learned basic reporting and fact checking) is long gone in the era of corporate news. Most reporters in Chicago in the 21st Century are under orders from their editors to recycle the news releases provided by those in power, without fact checking any claims made. As a result, the daily media barrages of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the press office at Chicago Public Schools usually get the PR version of the "news" into the news stream without fact checking.

And ironic example was before the eyes of the public on September 13 during the Tribune forum. Tribune editor Bruce Dold allowed Jean-Claude Brizard to repeat several statements that were either factually untrue — or patently ridiculous. One of those statements came when Dold asked Brizard how CPS could afford the $150,000 "bonus" to elementary schools that were joining the so-called "Pioneers" (the elementary schools that were voting to waive the union contract).

Dold's question came because the Tribune, for the 20th or 21st year in a row, had once again credulously reported a CPS "deficit" claim as fact after Brizard and the Board decided at the Board's June 15 meeting to not pay the contractual four-percent raise to unionized workers in the fifth year of their labor contract.

The shame of the Tribune continued across the summer months, beginning on June 15, 2011, when the newly minted "Chief Administrative Officer" of CPS (a guy named Tim Cawley, who had been in office less than a month) presented the first of several Power Points on the supposed "deficit." First the Tribune credulously accepted the Board's claim that it was facing a "deficit" of $712 million. Then the Tribune repeated the claim, adding that the "deficit" was "unprecedented" (ignoring the fact that by the time he was finished with his fictionalization of the CPS "deficit" a year earlier, Brizard's predecessor Ron Huberman was telling the public that the 2010 - 2011 "deficit" had been "one billion dollars"!)

Just prior to the September 13 media event, Dold was standing with two examples of how CPS has been lying this school year. During the September 13 forum, Jean-Claude Brizard claimed that his administration had discovered another "$30 million" it could "cut from bureaucracy" and that was how it was able to get the money for the 'Pioneers" and their "bonus." This was apparently in addition to the "$400 million" that Brizard's "team" had supposedly cut from bureaucracy prior to September 2, 2011, when the first Pioneers were feted. (Note: CPS at its most bloated has never had anything like $400 million in "bureaucracy" under any reasonable definition of bureaucracy; the whole thing was made up by City Hall and repeated into the media mainstream all summer).

Actually, the Brizard administration has added to the central office bureaucracy. And two people standing with editor Dold just prior to the opening of the forum were examples of more than a quarter million dollars of that add.

Brizard himself, with his potential "bonus", will be paid nearly 25 percent more than Arne Duncan, one of his predecessors, was paid a mere three years earlier.

And the newly created post of "Chief Officer for Communications" now being held by former Blagojevich aide Becky Carroll did not exist prior to June 2011, when Brizard put it into the supposed austerity budget that required dishonoring the fifth year of the union contracts. Carroll's newly created position (a "cabinet" post under Brizard's new organization chart) pays $160,000 per year, although the public will have a hard time learning that. CPS "communications" officials refuse to provide the public with the detailed information (called the "Employee Position File") which their predecessors provided routinely to Substance and others for more than 20 years before Rahm Emanuel became Mayor, Brizard CEO, and Carroll CCO.



Comments:

September 15, 2011 at 8:22 AM

By: Rod Estvan

CPS position file

The CPS has posted on its website its position file as of 8/1/11. Miss Carroll is not making $160,000 as reported she is making $165,000. The total salary for all the staff in her department which is called external communications was on Aug 1 $628,825.00.

Rod Estvan

September 15, 2011 at 8:47 AM

By: Bob Busch

Where is the Position File?

Mr Estvan

Would you please post the address of the position file?

September 15, 2011 at 12:09 PM

By: Rod Estvan

position file address

Go to http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Financial_information/Pages/EmployeePositionFiles.aspx

Then click on the Aug 1, 2011 file.

I hope this helps.

Rod Estvan

September 15, 2011 at 6:52 PM

By: bob busch

position

Thank You Mr.Estvan the link worked

Bob

September 15, 2011 at 6:58 PM

By: bob busch

position

Thank You Mr.Estvan the link worked

Bob

September 15, 2011 at 7:01 PM

By: bob busch

position

Thank You Mr.Estvan the link worked

Bob

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