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April 10, 2009

An open letter to the NYT Public Editor: why has the Times ignored Forest City Ratner's "incredible" bailout of ACORN?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pens an open letter to The New York Times regarding its (absent) coverage of the ACORN/Forest City Ratner relationship.

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

I know you’ve steered clear of previous requests to look into the complicated, vexing question of the impact on Times coverage from the parent New York Times Company’s relationship with developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), which together built the Times Tower in Midtown--a relationship that has drawn critical scrutiny from Editor & Publisher's ethics columnist.

As you read on, you’ll find evidence that a Times reporter knew of (and was alarmed by) a $1.5 million loan/grant that Brooklyn-based FCR gave last August to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which had suffered severe cash flow difficulties in the wake of an embezzlement scandal.

“This is incredible,” reporter Stephanie Strom wrote after learning that the deal was allegedly approved without ACORN board’s assent, adding that an explanation given to her “doesn’t hold water.”

In doing so, FCR has helped bail out an organization reeling from the revelations that not only did the brother of ACORN’s founder embezzle nearly $1 million in 2000 but also, as the Times reported 9/10/08, that the news was “concealed by senior executives until a whistle-blower told a foundation leader about it in May.”

Also, as the Times reported 10/22/08, ACORN's budget has been suffering, as it apparently owes taxes to federal and state authorities while foundations that previously supported the organization have backed off. Meanwhile, two board members, both members of a committee established to lead ACORN through its turmoil, have sued the organization, charging that ACORN was destroying financial documents and covering up improper expenditures.

The Times chose not to report on that crucial loan. But that FCR-ACORN relationship remains worthy of sunlight, given the crucial partnership between FCR and ACORN’s New York affiliate in the enormously controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

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Posted by eric at April 10, 2009 10:28 AM