Saturday, December 23, 2006

Is the Daily News in the tank when it comes to AY?

In my press criticism, I've focused much of my attention on the New York Times, because it's the city's most important newspaper and because the Times has a special obligation to exactingly cover Forest City Ratner, which is in business with the parent New York Times Company.

But the Daily News, owned by real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman, deserves scrutiny as well. Let's acknowledge that the newspaper has the right to run numerous masthead editorials and Errol Louis columns cheerleading for the Atlantic Yards project. (I've dissected them regularly.) Still, the rate of such editorials far outpaced any other daily.

Also, let's acknowledge that the paper has published a point-counterpoint and, of course, let sports columnist Mike Lupica challenge Bruce Ratner's plan.

Don't believe the hype

But the Daily News has a problem, and it goes way beyond the practice of a tabloid editorializing on its front page.

Inside the news pages, the newspaper has truly embarrassed itself, in both overhyping and underplaying stories. Take yesterday's slight and speculative story, following up on news announced Wednesday, headlined Nets go High Tech: Ratner throws in new home for elite Brooklyn HS in arena deal.

First, Ratner has made no such promises stated in the headline. As the article stated:
Ratner agreed in a statement to "work with the city, state and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new, 21st century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough."
Ratner spokeswoman Joyce Baumgarten said yesterday plans were "still in the formative stages."


What does "work with" mean? Contribute space in a new Ratner development? Sell space at a certain rate? I couldn't get any answers this week. There's no story beyond the vague statement.
If the developer had pledged to build a new school, we would've been told. Similarly, the developer has allocated space in one planned Atlantic Yards building for a school, but the city is paying.

That Brooklyn Tech story, hyping a phantom, appeared on page 2 of the main news section.

Only for Brooklynites?

Two days earlier, on Wednesday, the News ran an article headlined Price of Yards too high? State opens books before key vote. On the day of the Atlantic Yards vote by the Public Authorities Control Board, this article appeared in the center section of the edition that circulates only in Brooklyn.

In other words, Daily News readers from elsewhere in the city and state were not informed that:
The Empire State Development Corp. revealed recently that projected tax revenues from the project had dropped from about $1.4 billion to $944 million.
The number of jobs and personal income created by the project were also estimated to be dramatically lower than expected, according to the projections.


There's something wrong here.

Eminent domain distraction

The same thing happened when the Daily News covered the eminent domain lawsuit that could not only derail the Atlantic Yards plan but establish a new legal doctrine. The 10/27/06 article, headlined Ratner plan hit with suit: Eviction targets seek to stop Yards, appeared only in Brooklyn.

This leads to the question: is the Daily News in the tank? Are the editors deliberately underplaying stories of civic importance and hyping the ephemeral?

The evidence is troubling.

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