Does media storm over Brizard expose Rahm’s weakness?

Sun-Times editorial 4-17-10: "The next time Emanuel argues for a longer day, let’s hope he has his facts nailed down"

Is our Mayor-elect really that inept?

It’s quite unusual for our Chicago media to take a critical approach to anything about the current wave of “education reform.” They just love it.

But there’s something going on with the Sun-Times and Rahm Emanuel. They have rightly run corrections of some of his misstatements about schools – this one about Rahm’s charter high school “misstatements” and this editorial published last week ago (and pictured above) which criticizes Emanuel for falsely stating that the Chicago Teachers’ Union turned down an offer of more pay for a longer school day in 2007.

The Sunday Sun-Times ran a major story about the two discrimination suits filed against Brizard for calling a 58-year-old high-ranking administrator “too old,” and for sending others to a “rubber room” for unspecified offenses.

Now there’s today’s front-page story about how Brizard is “likable but not liked,” which includes this quote from me:

The steep graduation improvement “is the big whoop-de-do reason Rahm gave for bringing him in,” said Julie Woestehoff of Chicago’s Parent’s United for Responsible Education. “This raises serious questions about whether [Brizard] is telling the truth and whether he did anything at all.’’

The story includes a sidebar titled, “Does the graduation rate add up?” The answer is a pretty clear “No” to the Rahm/Brizard claims.

While the Sun-Times has taken the most aggressive posture of all our local mainstream media, they aren’t the only apparently disaffected folks. Of course, it didn’t help that Rahm has refused to allow reporters to talk to Brizard – at least here in Chicago. For today’s story, a Sun-Times reporter actually went to Rochester, where Brizard agreed to talk if he could do it “without getting into trouble.”

Here’s a great video clip posted on Mike Klonsky’s blog showing Rahm running away from reporters who are asking him about the Brizard appointment. One reporter, who had been swooning over Brizard only a couple of days earlier (“Everyone wants to hire him…”), chases Rahm’s back – “Is this how we have to talk to you, shouting down the hall?”

So, the honeymoon isn’t just over before it began for Brizard, but it seems to have ended pretty quickly between Emanuel and some segments of the media.

Is it because he’s “not likable,” like his pick Brizard? Do some reporters hold grudges from years back? Or is Rahm just that inept as a public figure, as I’ve suggested?

In any case, Rahm’s handling of this mess is certainly another welcome crack in the facade of the “education reform” movement.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.