SUBSCRIPT: 'This story isn't where government agents tell the press it is, but where the action is unfolding!'... Reporters can break free from the 'pens' during Board of Education meetings... If they really want to

…One of the reasons why news coverage of the activities of December 14, 2011 at the Chicago Board of Education became closer than usual to accuracy — despite all the spin put into things by CPS, City Hall, and the one percenters on the Chicago Board of Education — was that reporters, photographers, and camera crews broke out of the “pen” to actually go to where the news was happening.

Despite sometimes desperate attempts by CPS security to prevent reporters at the December 14, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education from covering the stories that burst out once the "Mic Check" and Peoples Board Meeting began, most reporters, photographers and videographers got to the story as it unfolded. Above, TV crews pushed out of the "pen" in the rear of the Board chambers to photograph part of the Mic Check, while Substance reporter John Kugler (back to camera) videod the action as it unfolded where it was taking place. In the rear of the above photograph, some CPS bureaucrats are conferring, waiting to be told what to do just prior to the Great Scurrying of the Board members and the highest paid CPS executives. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.To be specific about December 14, 2011. The security people at the Board are under general orders to keep reporters and media (especially the TV cameras, which CPS fears like a vampire fears garlic or a crucifix) "penned." The “pens” are the two pens CPS sets up so every camera's eye is looking at the Board members, and reporters are dependent on the Board’s video version of reality for what they see, on the Board’s words for what they hear, and on CPS handouts (and those ubiquitous mendacious Power Points Jean-Claude Brizard’s team seems to use for erotic stimulation) for “facts”.

Above, with Substance apologies for the quick and blurry shot, Chicago Union Teacher editor Kenzo Shibata had to square off twice with security pushing him as he went to the story, rather than remaining in the "Pen" where CPS officials try to demand video and photo journalists remain to get the story from the Board's point of view. Substance photo, taken quickly on a turn, by George N. Schmidt during the beginning of the Mic Check at the December 14, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education.Reporters covering the meetings of the Board of Education are supposed to ignore anything else going on in the room, outside the room, in the lobby, or out on the street and bring to the public All The News That Fits. Good reporters try to go where the stories are, but the hacks who depend on CPS for handouts try desperately to ignore anything but the official Party Line, as we couldn’t resist noting when everything broke loose December 14.

During normal times and the usual staged media events, CPS (and often Rahm's) "communications" people are out in force. Combined, City Hall and CPS have more publicity people shining the mayor's image on events than all of us have reporters covering education in Chicago. That's how bad things have gotten as corporate downsizing of newsrooms combined with corporate upsizing of “communications” staffs. The overpaid “communications” — basically overpaid and undercompetent bureaucrats like CPS “Chief Communications Officer” Becky Carroll (at $160,000 per year) — people can be seen going nuts any time a reporter, camera person, or camera crew breaks free from the "pens."

Both the administrative bureaucrats and the “communications” bureaucrats can be seen often trying to sic security on the First Amendment to keep the Hollywood version of reality the only version Chicago gets. The security people are under orders, and under all of those pressures that come with working for a Boss who will fire anyone he doesn’t like.

Two reporters who broke free from the pens at the very beginning of the December 14 Mic Check were WBEZ's Linda Lutton and Substance's John Kugler, both of whom can be seen in action in the right side of the above photograph while Adourthus McDowell (standing in yellow jacket under the EXIT sign) began the Mic Check. Most other photogaphers and reporters moved towards the unfolding stories, while one or two remained rooted in their seats waiting for the Board of Education to provide them with the version of what really happened. In the case of the Chicago Sun-Times, the official CPS and City Hall version of December 14 became the subject of a "Tsk Tsk Tsk" editorial on December 22, 2011, criticizing the Chicago Teachers Union for militantly opposing the 2012 Hit List, which the Sun-Times, as usual, supports. Substance photograph by George N. Schmidt. It was heartening to Substance to see so many of our colleagues was doing their jobs — going to where the stories were unfolding. For a time, security were doing their jobs, too — trying to keep the TV cameras penned according to David Vitale's orders. (Some of our friends even heard Mr. Suburbia, “Chicago Administrative Officer” Tim Cawley, calling out one of those Alice in Wonderland “Off With Their Heads!” calls, but failing.) Eventually, as everyone now can see, security stood down (except for locking out anyone who left the Board chambers) and we all continued doing our various jobs… 


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