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March 24, 2011

Whither the New York Times? Noticing New York Comment Respecting a Manhattan Institute Sponsored Debate

Noticing New York

The Times is having a harder and harder time not covering Atlantic Yards. That’s partly because Atlantic Yards is a bigger story than the paper has heretofore rightfully acknowledged. Basically, I think there was a decision at the Times made, albeit in the necessarily amorphous and unstated way that decisions would have to be made in such a news organization, to relegate Atlantic Yards, and more specifically the governmental misconduct and impermissible cronyism associated with Atlantic Yards, to the status of an official non-story within its pages. But the story won’t go away.

With new revelations like the Forest City Ratner pattern of being involved in the bribery of government officials, the recently unveiled ambition to make Atlantic Yards the densest forest of modular units in North America and EB5 program abuses in selling green cards to the Chinese solely for developer benefit the Atlantic Yards saga is a constant poster child for malefaction. But what the Times most misestimates is the extent to which the Times story interrelates with the coverage of the national and local stories it editorially believes it should be covering vigilantly.

I believe that the Times made a miscalculation that Ratner, as a financial buddy, could be off-limits for critical pieces- but not puff pieces- (Its own little behind-the-scenes deal with the devil), but that indulgences would come (in the good old religious sense of buying indulgences to recover from sin) via its moralistic vigor on national issues. But there is no such line to be drawn. Everything is connected. (This is one of the points of an epically idiosyncratic Noticing New York piece currently in the works: Adding A few More Off Topic Notes (Or Are They Really?).)

(* You encounter a similar Jekyll and Hyde split with Michael Ratner: On the one hand he is a defender of intentional human rights coordinating with the likes of Naomi Wolf and on the other he is feathering his nest with political contributions to now-indicted state senator Carl Kruger, no doubt with the intention of keeping the money flow from his brother Bruce Ratner off the radar screens)

The Times can’t write about race relations without observing the context in which white men like Ratner have attempted manipulate those concerns for their own financial advantage. The Times can’t cover Bloomberg and his potential run for president without observing how he favors awarding the development of big swaths of the city to a small in-crowd of connected developers. The Wall Street shenanigans covered by the Times very popular op-ed columnist Paul Krugman echo in the goings on with respect to Atlantic Yards as do all the Times stories about the accelerating redistributions of wealth from the middle class to the upper echelons.

The list of what the Times is missing by failing to make connections goes on ad infinitum. It also all relates to the question asked by the title given to the St. Francis evening debate: “Is the New York Times Good for Democracy?” The Times seriously hamstrings itself with respect to covering the big story on American Democracy by failing to adequately cover Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by eric at March 24, 2011 11:29 AM