Sunday, October 15, 2006

Blight and the Courier-Life's "visual walk"

It's not online yet, but in this week's Courier-Life chain, Stephen Witt offers a rather, uh, incomplete account of the blight fight regarding Atlantic Yards. [Update 10/17/06: here's the article.] He summarizes it as such:
DDDB and opponent bloggers and journalists contend the area is not blighted, citing published reports of how parts of Prospect Heights are being revitalized.
Meanwhile, a visual walk around the rail yard portion of the footprint reveals homeless people still in the area as well as overgrown weeds, broken glass and litter.


But what if the Courier-Life allowed its readers to actually read more about those issues, linking to some of the writings briefly referenced? (Try here, and here and here. Or a more detailed summary.)

Would readers be less impressed by the conclusions of the "visual walk" if they were reminded that litter and weeds could be cleaned up by the MTA? Or if they learned that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which spent a lot more time examining the proposed site footprint than did Witt, comes to different conclusions? Or forced to ponder whether the presence of homeless people should be a trigger for a blight designation? (Don't some homeless people sleep on the steps of churches?)

Homeless redux

The state's Blight Study, oddly enough, contains an 8/26/05 article by Witt regarding the presence of homeless people near the railyards. DDDB attorney Jeff Baker had responded:
For largely inexplicable reasons the Blight Study includes an August 26, 2005 article from the Brooklyn Heights [Courier] Article. Ostensibly it is included to show that some homeless people had recently moved into an area on Block 1119, Lot 7. We suspect the real purpose of including the article is to denigrate DDDB as it serves no particular purpose otherwise. However, the article does demonstrate that the presence of the homeless in that area is a recent event – only five months prior to the article and that the property is owned by the MTA who has failed to maintain and police the property. What it also demonstrates is that contrary to the allegations in the Blight Study, the area is not a high-crime area, because the individual interviewed in the article stated that he felt safer living on that lot than he does in the homeless shelter and that the crime level is not particularly high.

Authority in the blogosphere

It appears that many newspapers are not yet ready to follow the advice from Doc Searls, veteran journalist and marketing/Internet maven, on how to remain relevant. Among his suggestions:
Fourth, start following, and linking to, local bloggers and even competing papers (such as the local arts weeklies). You're not the only game in town anymore, and haven't been for some time. Instead you're the biggest fish in your pond's ecosystem. Learn to get along and support each other, and everybody will benefit.

Fifth, start looking toward the best of those bloggers as potential stringers. Or at least as partners in shared job of informing the community about What's Going On and What Matters Around Here. The blogosphere is thick with obsessives who write (often with more authority than anybody inside the paper) on topics like water quality, politics, road improvement, historical preservation, performing artisty and a zillion other topics. These people, these writers, are potentially huge resources for you. They are not competitors. The whole "bloggers vs. journalism" thing is a red herring, and a rotten one at that. There's a symbiosis that needs to happen, and it's barely beginning. Get in front of it, and everybody will benefit.


And take people beyond one person's brief "visual walk."

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