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December 8, 2008

Atlantic Yards Report: media watch

In anticipation of Episode 4 of the IFC Media Project, which airs tomorrow night at 8pm, Norman Oder posted three articles on his Atlantic Yards Report blog, covering the IFC documentary, neutrality vs. the middle, and a litany of significant stories that the local media missed or plain ignored:

Unreliable Sources: The IFC Media Project takes a look at AY (and AYR)

[E]pisode 4, to be broadcast on Tuesday at 8 pm ET, takes a look at Atlantic Yards. The show, which contains five elements under the rubric Unreliable Sources, devotes the longest segment, lasting 10 minutes, to AY, in which I will appear.

No screening copy has been made available, so I don't know what the episode will say.

The description:

Atlantic Yards New York has three major daily papers all competing for readers, advertisers and power. This should lead to great coverage of major stories – but in the case of one story at least, it hasn't. Atlantic Yards is one of the biggest real estate developments in the city's history, yet the three papers have barely scratched the surface. In this piece we examine how government collusion with the developer and the developer's business ties to the paper have resulted in a half-told story that's failed to serve the public interest.

I was interviewed at length, but I know they interviewed a lot of other people.

Neutrality, the "mushy middle," and "false-balance" journalism

The act of fact-checking should spur skepticism of supporters' claims, given that neutrality should be pursuit of the truth, as Laurie Becklund comments below. (Thus claims by AY opponents or other critics should not be taken as gospel, either.)
Former Los Angeles Times reporter Laurie Becklund, co-author of two books and winner of a team Pulitzer, commented:

It has always seemed to me that one of the most dangerous errors of American journalism is mistaking the center for neutral. The center is a mid-point on a sliding scale. Its place is determined by opinions and prevailing winds.

Neutral is, or should be, the radical willingness to find and communicate what's true, no matter whether that truth lies in the middle or to one side.

This is hardly a novel notion, and no decent journalist wants to be unfair or wrong. Often, we don't know the facts. But, when was the last time you read a "for the record" from a news organization apologizing for tacitly reassuring the public, often over and over again, even after the facts were in, that it had missed reporting the very heart of the matter?

For example, why hasn't the New York Daily News explained that taxpayers paid for the front-page Bonanza it claimed developer Forest City Ratners was offering homeowners in the Atlantic Yards footprint? And why hasn't the New York Times explained that taxpayers paid for helping former footprint residents find "greener grass"?

A dozen Atlantic Yards stories that have gotten scant or no coverage

Oder offers more details on this dirty-dozen list with links to his past criticism on his blog, but here's a quick run down of stories that many media organizations have passed on:

  1. The ACORN bailout.
  2. Last week's work stoppage.
  3. Ratner's attempt to get out of paying restitution for removing trees.
  4. The "generous" taxpayer-funded buyouts.
  5. The Times's pass on the "Brooklyn Day" rally.
  6. New Atlantic Yards renderings and timetables ignored by the Times.
  7. "The view of Atlantic Yards in neighborhood scale."
  8. The bogus economic analysis by Andrew Zimbalist.
  9. A critical analysis of the Community Benefits Agreement.
  10. The bogus "scaleback" story in the Times.
  11. Naming-rights giveaways to sports teams on "public" venues.
  12. Ratner's unsupported claim of winning 20 court decisions.

Posted by lumi at December 8, 2008 5:39 AM