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January 8, 2010

Got “Bilked?” The New York Times Biased Report on Federal Investigation Involving Forest City Ratner

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White catches The New York Times bilking readers out of accurate reporting in this must-read piece of media criticism.

What’s your definition of “bilk”? We think that these days “bilk” generally evokes the concept of someone being swindled out of something valuable by fraud, trick or deceit, as in any of the following usages in the New York Times (here and here- at the risk of going just a tad too far to be sure we make our point):

. . . Irving Picard, the trustee for the investors bilked by Bernard L. Madoff. . .

. . . where Mr. Stanford, 59, has been held since he was indicted in June on charges of bilking investors through a scheme involving Antiguan bank certificates.

Marc S. Dreier, once a high-flying New York lawyer who orchestrated an elaborate fraud scheme that bilked hedge funds and other investors of $700 million. . .
...

Times Says Ratner Was "Bilked" by Public Officials

Why do we want to be so sure of the meaning conveyed by the New York Times use of word “bilk”? Because of the story the Times wrote today about a federal corruption case in Yonkers where three individuals, two of them public officials, have been indicted for taking improper payments in connection with two development projects in Yonkers. One of them is Forest City Ratner’s $630 million, 1000-apartment, 81-acre Ridge Hill project. The Times reported that Forest City Ratner has allegedly been bilked by the public officials. Specifically, the Times article said that the indicted public officials:

. . . are accused of bilking two developers of tens of thousands of dollars and funneling the money and other favors to Ms. Annabi in return for her support.
...

Ratner, a Specialist in Public Officials, Is “Bilked”?

So the Times is reporting that Forest City Ratner, a real estate firm whose specialty is collecting government subsidies through its relentless cultivation of public officials, was outsmarted....

It sounds to us instead as if Forest City Ratner got a pretty good deal and likely everything it was bargaining for. It doesn’t look at all like it was swindled.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Was FCR really "bilked" by indicted Yonkers pols (and shouldn't an unwitting Brooklyn Standard contributor be careful writing in the NYT about FCR)?

In his Noticing New York blog, Michael D.D. White lays out the evidence to suggest that the New York Times leaned over backwards to accommodate Forest City Ratner in its story about the indictments in Yonkers.

By the way, the Times contributor who wrote the article, Nate Schweber, was a prominent, though unwitting, contributor to Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Standard Fall 2005 "publication," with his name attached to two articles that he didn't write (as well as two others that he did write, at least in some form).

Posted by eric at January 8, 2010 11:21 AM