Friday, February 09, 2007

"Mad overkilling" a response to Atlantic Yards neglect

So, why didn't the New York Times or the New York Post, both of which sent reporters, publish articles about the federal court hearing Wednesday regarding the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case?

I can only speculate. Maybe space was tight. Maybe the Times was handicapped because the one Times reporter who'd actually gained expertise on Atlantic Yards, during more than a year of reporting, was promoted to Albany. Maybe the Post didn't want to distract from the day's crime-heavy local coverage.

Still, the Sun, the Daily News, Metro, and amNY, among others, managed to find news in the hearing.

Other cases in the news

There was other news in the Times yesterday coming from courthouses. The Times ran a B1 story on a brief pretrial hearing in an alleged gay bias murder. The state courtroom in Brooklyn was packed, according to the article. That's a sign of public interest--but so was the federal courtroom packed for the Atlantic Yards hearing a few blocks away.

Also, the Times ran a B2 story on a lawsuit about to be filed on behalf of 12 Guatemalans who were turned into a captive labor force at a nursery company and thus were victims of human trafficking. Both stories were indeed worthy of coverage, but no more than the Atlantic Yards hearing.

The Brooklyn afterthought

I've argued that the Times has a special obligation to cover Atlantic Yards exactingly, because the parent New York Times Company is partners with AY developer Forest City Ratner in the new Times Tower.

Sometimes, however, the challenge is not to cover Atlantic Yards exactingly, it's to cover Atlantic Yards at all. Is Brooklyn--big enough to be a city itself--always threatened with obscurity?

Brooklyn College professor Paul Moses's observation about Brooklyn's place in the local mediascape bears repeating: Nowhere in the country do so many people get so little local coverage.

Imagine Brooklyn as a separate city with its own daily newspaper. The Atlantic Yards case would've been front and center. Instead, it's too often absent in a metro area teeming with stories--or, oddly enough, sometimes strategically overplayed.

"Mad overkilling" Atlantic Yards

I raised some of these issues in the interview with me published Wednesday on the New York Observer blog The Real Estate, headlined Q&A: Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder. Here's a relevant excerpt:

The Real Estate: Daily News columnist Errol Louis once called you "The Mad Overkiller," and NoLandGrab calls you that, too, albeit tongue-in-cheek. What do you think about being called that?

Norman Oder: I think it is sort of amusing and encouraging, because it implies that I care about this enough to look really, really carefully. I think that I would be less of a mad overkiller if we lived in a city with a daily devoted to Brooklyn. Can you imagine that a project of this size received just one op-ed in the Times? So, if I write versions of op-eds, does that make me the mad overkiller or does that mean I am filling a vacuum that should be filled? .

I write even more reportage than "versions of op-eds," so the same criticism applies to the news coverage of the project. If you only read the Times, you wouldn't know there was a significant court hearing Wednesday regarding Brooklyn's most controversial development.

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