MEDIA WATCH: CPS 'Communications' Chief Warned About More Federal First Amendment Litigation If Discrimination Against Substance Continues

On December 19, 2011, I wrote to Becky Carroll, the "Chief Communications Officer" for CPS, warning that CPS would be facing litigation if she did not begin providing Substance, by email and fax, with every item that was sent to general media distribution. A day later, she has not responded, and the sophomoric antics of the Board's Communications Department become more and more curious, in the Alice in Wonderland sense, as the days go on.

At this point in history, since Substance covers the news in education out of Chicago, we generally request, and receive, news notices from publicists (which is what Ms. Carroll at $165,000 per year is) working for various public agencies. Almost always, they simply comply, if no other reason than that to risk suppressing information because they are inclined (or "bent") towards discriminating against their critics is more trouble than it is worth. During the past five years, CPS has lost three First Amendment cases in federal court in Chicago. One of those cases, decided on March 26, 2010 by Judge Amy St. Eve, ruled that Ron Huberman's administration had violated teachers' First Amendment rights.

The URL for the March 2010 Substance story on Judge St. Eve's forceful decision is:§ion=Article

CPS Chief Communications Officer Becky Carroll was brought in to CPS by Rahm Emanuel's Board of Educationon June 22, 2011, at a salary of $165,000 per year. That salary that was more than $30,000 higher than that paid to any of her predecessors, including Peter Cunningham, who served in that position under Arne Duncan at an annual salary of $120,000 per year. Prior to the appointment to the CPS job, Carroll's experience with CPS consisted of her having attended (and graduated from) Lane Technical High School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.During the past five months, Substance has received more (many more) press notices from Minneapolis Public Schools than we have from Chicago. This is simply because Ms. Carroll had a snit when we reported on several CPS "news" slants with the facts, sometimes humorously so. Sadly, by New Year's Day, we will have to take this further, since Ms. Carroll does not have the right to discriminate against any news organization in the distribution of materials paid for by the taxpayers and distributed by a government agency such as the Chicago Public Schools. Even though Ms. Carroll and her co "Officers" currently in power at CPS may actually be in the business of destroying public schools across Chicago, through privatization and other means, until CPS becomes a private entity, neither she nor anyone else in her department has the right, by law, to continue to discriminate, as she has, against Substance.

Below are three things.

The first is the email we sent to Ms. Carroll, in her official capacity as "Chief Communications Officer" Chicago Public Schools, demanding that she do her job without discriminating against Substance and warning of the consequences.

The second and third are recent communications which she issued from CPS at public expense, but refused to issue to Substance in the same distributions as all other Chicago media received them.

Sent: Monday, December 19, 2011 5:32 AM

Subject: Becky: Here is a simply New Year's necessity. Stop discriminating against Substance or face consequences

December 19, 2011

To: Becky Carroll, CPS Communications Chief Officer

From: Substance editorial staff

Re: Discrimination against Substance in CPS communications distribution

Hello Becky:

It's been interesting since you were appointed "Chief Officer, Communications" (at the unprecedented annual salary of $160,000 per year plus bonuses; did you know that the most Peter Cunningham was ever paid in one year was $120,000 per year?...) by the Brizard administration and the current Chicago Board of Education last summer to watch closely the unprecedented (and puerile) attempts at spin and silliness on the part of the third largest school system in the USA, under your command and on orders from Jean-Claude Brizard. But for Christmas and the New Year, Substance has to ask you to cease and desist in that pattern...

...NOW, since we don't want to celebrate the New Year with yet another First Amendment litigation against CPS. They are both expensive and, to be honest, tiresome (although it would be interesting to be back in front of, say, Judge Amy St. Eve on another iteration of this saga).

So here it is (prefaced with a "Please" since it's the holidays).

Please stop discriminating against Substance as you have been doing for the past five month, since it is interfering with our business, which as you know is covering the news of CPS in a timely manner both on line ( and in print (the monthly print edition of Substance, which was publishing long before you were a student at Lane Tech, or began working for the Blagojevich administration).

Attached are two examples of your discrimination from the past week. These were media materials sent to other Chicago media via email and fax but not to Substance. The Substance email address is:

The Substance fax number is: 773-725-7502.

Please provide us with all press materials that have been emailed or faxed to Chicago newspapers, radio news outlets, TV stations, and other news entities since August 1, 2011 under the Freedom of Information Act.

And continue providing us with everything that is released to Chicago media, including notices of news conference and other events, henceforth.

Happy Holidays,

George N. Schmidt


The Substance editorial, reporting, and research staff


December 21, 2011 at 2:45 PM

By: Steve Thompson

Im really impressed with your unbiased reporting

Wow, if i have ever seen unbiased journalism that truly asks the tough questions it comes from the substance news source. I am really quite happy that you say you are reporting on education, but when it comes down to it all you are trying to do is drag peoples names through the mud. I understand that it is frustrating, but why dont you put some phone calls into her office. Why instead write a piece that does not contain any news content and instead is just you bitching about how you are not getting the press releases. Your average reader not only does not give a shit, but can do nothing to soothe your whining. I understand that you feel insignificant as I have never heard of the publication or of the website. I understand that is difficult and that you probably envy Becky for the position that she has found herself in, it is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the city. I understand that you wish with all of your heart to make half of what she makes, but i digress. Also it might because of the spelling and grammatical errors contained within the email left (CPS) a little confused. " did you know that the most Peter Cunningham was every paid in one year was $120,000 per year?" I mean that is the first sentence of the email, next time a little proofreading might help. Just wanted to state my position on the matter, maybe next time someone will cares. (did you get the extra s in cares, i was just poking some fun.) (i proofread it thoughts) Also, i would stop threatening people whose relationship you are looking to improve upon. Im just saying.

December 21, 2011 at 6:44 PM

By: Bob Busch

A Proper Post (response to Thompson's defense of Becky Carroll)

Dear Mr. Thompson. What email are you writing about? I have searched the entire story and cannot seem to find your source. As to your comment: “I understand that you feel insignificant as I have never heard of the publication or of the website. I understand that is difficult and that you probably envy Becky for the position that she has found herself in, it is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the city.”

Pray tell how did your response arrive at a web site you never heard of? As to your opinion that the lady has one of the most difficult jobs in the city, I laughed so hard I almost cried. The city of big shoulders does not consider being a mouthpiece hard work. Finally this is not Rhetoric 101, and you do not have to grade papers.

December 22, 2011 at 3:46 AM

By: J.S. Whitfield

Chicago (City of Big Shoulders)

Holiday reflection: Which verses in Carl Sandburg's Poem Still Hold true to this day?

for example "the gun man kills, and goes free to kill again."


Hog Butcher for the World,

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;

Stormy, husky, brawling,

City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.

And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.

And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.

And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,





Building, breaking, rebuilding,

Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,

Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,

Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,

Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people, Laughing!

Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.



Hint? The 99% or the 1 % ?

December 22, 2011 at 8:14 AM

By: Bob Busch

Stand Up For Sandburg

Super Post

Know the poem well glad to read it again.

Happy holidays to my fellow bloggers.

Bob Busch

Carl Sandburg High School

Class of 65’

July 3, 2014 at 9:27 AM

By: Joe Carroll Jaycox

Pooling together to save Chicago Kids' lives !

When I was 10 in 1946 our teacher announced to our class that we were going on a "field trip" to the Museum of Science & Industry. I didn't know what a "field trip" was. I didn't know what the Museum of Science & Industry was. Turned out MSI was one mile from our home in Kenwood on the South Side of Chicago

We were poor Irish and our working parents couldn't afford to take us there (6 kids). After that I wanted to go back and to other museums in Chicago i.e. Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, etc.and did because I shoveled neighbors' snow and cut neighbors' grass in the summer to make money to go to museums. My 3 older brothers were away at the war (WWII)and my 2 older sisters were always at the USO. My Dad worked at Argonne Nat'l Laboratory, my Mom at Carson, Pirie & Scott downtown so I was alone a lot until then. Because of that trip to MSI at age 10 I developed a quest for knowledge and later graduated from De La Salle H.S./ De Paul U., was a U.S.Marine and was in the Peace Corps.

As I look back I wonder "what if" our teacher never took our class to MSI on a field trip and how many Chicago kids almost 70 years later are in the same boat that I was when I was 10. Joe Carroll Jaycox

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