MEDIA WATCH: Who's full of bullshit? Russo's 'District 299...' is usually irrelevant, but when a 'reporter' living in Brooklyn criticizes reporters in Chicago who are watching Safe Passage nonsense, he becomes the joke

Actually, Alexander Russo is the one who is full of shit about Safe Passage, but what can you expect from a guy who believe he can pontificate about Chicago's public schools from 800 miles east of Chicago. Normally, most people with real time real world contact with Chicago and Chicago Public Schools learned long ago to ignore the Chicago Tribune blog "" and the self-important ruling class effusions from Alexander Russo. Now and then, however, something comes out of Russo that is so silly -- and outrageous -- that it has to be shared. Readers, first, need to remember that Russo's pontifications about Chicago come from a guy who is living and working in Brooklyn New York. How the Tribune lets that one get by is for someone else to cover.

Chicago Tribune "education" blogger Alexander Russo ( has gotten away with his posings and pontifications about Chicago's public schools since he moved to Brooklyn nearly a decade ago, but now and then his pretentious posturings irk even those who took a vow of silence when friends said, "Ignore his irrelevant..." (fill in the black). But Russo knows more about Safe Passage from the Safety of Brooklyn than the Chicago reporters and others on the streets documenting the hypocrisy and racism of the latest publicity stunt by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.Although "Safe Passage" is far from the biggest story in Chicago Public Schools in September 2013, it is a major one because of the insight it provides into the hypocrisy, racism and cruelty of the Emanuel administration and its mercenaries at Chicago Public Schools. Let's be precise with those three words: hypocrisy, racism, and cruelty.

A year ago, as the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 was looming and the CPS and City Hall administration was avoiding reality, the word was already out that Rahm Emanuel was going to close "50 schools." Rahm's quota of closings was an open secret in Chicago, although it might have been ignored if you were covering the mean streets of Englewood, South Chicago, or North Lawndale from some Trust Fund Kid's safe haven in Brooklyn. The tricks included dealing with Jean-Claude Brizard, Brizard at the time (September 8, 2012) was still "Chief Executive Officer" of CPS. By a year ago, he'd been humiliated -- in we would say, a racist way -- by Rahm on an almost daily basis. Brizard's final humiliation came on the day when he showed up for the contract negotiations with donuts and was told "Thanks for the donuts, now get out of here..." by Rahm's team. Brizard had already been promised that quarter million dollar golden parachute to ease his pain, as well as a top level job like the one he now holds at the College Board, the ruling class's equivalent of those "no work" or "no show" construction jobs in Newark that provided such reality to "The Sopranos" years ago...

Brizard winds up in New Jersey, although a New Jersey (Princeton) that uses its bludgeons in a different way from the rougher neighborhoods of Newark, Jersey City, and Elizabeth. Tony Soprano's boys would roll their eyes at the quarter million dollars in hush money Emanuel arranged for Brizard, and then ask WTF FFF! when Brizard later opened his mouth and criticized Emanuel from the safe confines of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation while safely ensconced at Princeton.


Let's get back to the musings of another East Coast fan of Chicago: Alexander Russo.

Apparently, Russo's street-by-street knowledge of the West Side and South Side (where more than 90 percent of "Safe Passage" is deployed) comes from Google Maps or some other kinds of high tech stuff. As a result, Russo is able, on behalf of the Tribune's bloggers, to take a cheap shot at a news report, initiated by CBS Channel 2 News, that showed that by the second week of schools, "Safe Passage" was already collapsing, and not just from the heat.


"So I called bullshit on a Chicagoist rewrite of a CBS story about Safe Passage the other day, and have gotten some interesting comments in response since then -- most of them supportive.

The Chicagoist story was about workers quitting Safe Passage, but of course mentioned the violence issue, too. Both stories are crap, according to me -- hyperbolic, context-less -- though they grab lots of attention and serve both media and CPS opponents' purposes.

Chicago has some extremely dangerous neighborhoods, and people have to live in them and kids have to get to school and home again. It's entirely possible or perhaps even likely that someone is going to get hurt somewhere near one of the yellow signs during 2013-2014.

Some of you — media included — seem like you are almost looking forward to it. Generally, if something happens to a kid or parent on the way to school or home again, I care about that even though it's not a core CPS responsibility. I've gone back and forth over the years about whether non-school violence should be tied to CPS even when it happens off school grounds and school hours.

CPS has gone back and forth about it as well, highlighting it during the Duncan years and then making it harder to connect nonschool incidents with CPS students since then. But I understand that there's legitimate concern about safety and youth violence.

However, when it comes to Safe Passage specifically, I don't really care what happens overnight, or over the weekend, or even during the day while the kids are in school but Safe Passage isn't active.

I don't really care about what happens a few blocks away from a Safe Passage route, either. It's either on the route or it isn't.

Talking or writing about that stuff is just trying to score political points against the Mayor and CPS by folks who many of them are scared and angry about losing jobs and being misunderstood and a shitty economy and all sorts of other things that, again, aren't at heart about kids getting educated.

Or, just as likely, it's some sad/desperate journalist or blogger trying to get his or her story out there.

Last but not least, let's remember that individual incidents count, but overall numbers count more. This is true whether we're talking about workers quitting (what percentage of the total, how does it compare to other similar jobs?) or violence (compared to the total number of kids in Safe Passage, or attending those schools, or compared to last year).


September 9, 2013 at 10:31 AM

By: Valerie F. Leonard

Alexander Russo Finally Admits He Doesn't Care

Thanks for sharing this, George. Now we know, beyond a doubt, that Alexander Russo doesn't care about what happens to children or community residents who are crime victims along Safe Passage Routes, who happened to be attacked after school hours.

September 24, 2013 at 10:33 PM

By: alexander

thanks, george

thanks for the diatribe, george -- though it's tough work trying to make the argument that my blog posts are unimportant and yet you spend so much energy trying to debunk them.

why do you spend so much time and energy writing about where i'm living rather than on the, ahem, substance of my argument?

oh, and thanks for the FB friend request.

September 25, 2013 at 5:43 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

One comment per month to '299'...

Actually, Substance researchers devote very little time to the corporate pundits -- like those at the Tribune's blogs.

This week, we're spending some time reporting Education Nation's choice of the top public education expert in Chicago -- Deborah Quazzo -- to be at that event. Corporate media in Chicago and the USA nowadays is a laugh a minute. Russo's a fart in a cistern in that world.

It's part of our job, though, to keep an eye on the corporate media -- the apologists for corporate predations against public education. And, to be honest, every now and then one of the former crew members jumps off the Ship Of School Reform, resigns from the corporate gravy trains, gets expelled from the Brookings Institution (and lots of other exclusive clubs), and winds up on our side.

I don't by the way expect Alexander Russo to Do A Diane, but you never can be certain of anything in school politics. Especially Chicago school politics.

But we try to take one devotional example every couple of weeks of the abject silliness of corporate apologetics and its ever more limp punditry and blogitry.

This is even more so especially since there is a lot of competition among corporate shills for the honor of being mentioned at

We were waiting impatiently for Education Nation to pirouette on to Center Stage, but then we had two Russos in three weeks, each one sillier than its predecessor. First, that Safe Passage comment, then the descent into the Hall of Mirrors of leftish sectarianism and vanguardism.

Back to Russo's deviant Trotskyism, which was another point.

After a year of coverage in the "progressive" and socialist media, both in the USA and elsewhere, of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, it was unique that Russo picked up that really silly outfit to quote.

There are a large number of little lefty sects out there.

There are a dozen stories a day about the collapse of Safe Passage for anyone covering Chicago schools from closer than 800 miles east of here. It was Preacher Patronage, Patronage, and in your face corruption from the day CPS awarded the first "Culture of Calm" contracts following that scramble after the Derrion Albert murder. My estimate is that they have wasted more than $100 million on these hustles since the day I spent sitting on that concrete wall near the Derrion Albert memorial (with that Sponge Bob dolls in the middle -- and I didn't put it there) having community people come up to me asking why I (an old white guy) was sitting there and I told them I had been covering this story for about 40 years and wanted to interview anyone who lived near Fenger and the "Agape Center" about how things were going in Roseland more than a decade after the community was saved by the most famous Community Organizer in the world.

But back to crazy left wing sects for a minute.

Lots of people want to make THE REVOLUTION. Several of them are fulminating against the refusal of the leaders of the CTU (some of whom are Methodists and Communists, Unitarians and Conservatives, Socialists and Papists -- it's a Big Tent) to follow their CORRECT LINE and MAKE THE REVOLUTION THIS WEEK! OR EVEN YESTERDAY!!

The democracy part is what works best. Back to Russo's choice of that tiny sect. Or his snarky apologies for the latest predations on 111th St.

September 25, 2013 at 9:29 PM

By: John Kugler

yikes (*)

damn i better start using my thesaurus. but i believe that was a smack down if i ever saw one. i get what russo dose but the brooklyn thing is lame and getting old.

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