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AFT Tops Refuse To Provide Press Credentials To Education Press Substance At Chicago National Convention
Date 08/06/29/23:48

AFT will not be able to give your organization press
credentials. We only provide credentials to legitimate news

June 26, 2008

To: Janet Bass, American Federation of Teachers, Washington, D.C.

From: George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance

Re: AFT attempt to censor coverage of the 2008 AFT convention in Chicago by excluding Substance reporters and videographers

Dear Ms. Bass:

Before this goes any further, please inform me what a "legitimate news organization" is according -- to the AFT definition. I'm afraid we've been down this road before, and it's time that AFT stopped trying to censor Substance. Now.

Although I had once had a discussion of this matter with Mr. McElroy (years ago, in New Orleans), I thought AFT had matured since then. If you can quickly correct the misinformation under which you are currently laboring, this matter can be resolved quickly.

Hopefully, the following information will help you in your pursuit of the facts so that your policy and praxis in this matter improves, although my staff and I resent even having to discuss it with you.

Please note the following:

1. Our staff has covered professional events involving members of the teaching profession for decades. During the past five years, we have covered conference and conventions of educators including the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Council for the Social Studies and others. We have also covered other major political events both for print and new media. For example, last summer I covered "Yearly Kos" here in Chicago and during that time we interviewed or questioned several of the (then) Democratic Party presidential candidates.

2. Locally here in Chicago, we regularly cover the news pertaining to education, including the monthly meetings of the Chicago Board of Education (one of which I covered yesterday). We have also covered labor union news on a regular basis going back decades.

3. This summer, we will have reporters covering the major conventions, including the National Education Association. We intend to cover AFT in the same manner, albeit with more staff so that we can better serve our growing readership, both in print and on line.

4. As I've noted to you, our publication appears in print monthly and has been publishing continuously for 33 years. You can locate PDFs of our back issues from 2002 onward at (or linked to

5. We regularly publish Web updates on the Web at We are currently updating and enhancing our web site so that we can provide daily updates from the NEA and AFT conventions. Any attempt by you or others in power at AFT will cause us to suffer loss to our business and will certainly qualify as a violation of our First Amendment rights.

6. Our staff regularly blogs at www.district

7. We have covered news in Chicago for more than 30 years (education primarily, also other) and all of our regular staff carry press passes issued by the Chicago Police Department, which issues such passes for those covering regular news and "spot news."

8. In January 2008, we were cleared to cover the White House visit of George W. Bush to celebrate the anniversary of "No Child Left Behind" here in Chicago. Although we were not part of the "Pool" (which only included the regular traveling pool and four local reporters), we were part of the larger press corps that covered the activities of President George W. Bush during his Chicago visit. This included the landing of Air Force One at O'Hare Field, the external coverage of the visit of the President to Chicago's Greeley Elementary School, and the President's speech on the economy at the Union League Club.

I could add to this list, but I hope this will suffice to clear up any ambiguity so that we don't have to discuss the misinformation that you are laboring under further. Please RSVP me satisfactorily on this matter so we can proceed with the arrangements.

Since I have to continue making arrangements for both our coverage of AFT and for our Web presence at various events this summer, I will need to hear from you promptly once you have reconsidered this matter and resolved it to the satisfaction of the Bill of Rights and our mutual interests.

If you have further questions for me, please feel free to call me at 773-725-7502 so that we can resolve this before it goes much further. By your response you have forced me, as you can see, that I now have to take a few additional steps in defense of our right to cover the news on our beat without censorship from the bureaucrats of AFT or any other entity. We have defended these rights in the past and, I promise you, we will continue to do so into the future.

Thanks for your kind consideration in this matter,

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

cc: SPJ, Chicago
Alan Barinholtz, Attorney at Law, Chicago

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