Saturday, May 05, 2007

Times covers window into suspect's mind, but not ESDC's mind

Judged by the allotment of column-inches, a reader of the New York Times would have to conclude that the trial of Peter Braunstein, a former writer for Women’s Wear Daily charged with the sex-abuse and kidnapping of a former colleague, is much bigger news than the legal battle over the Atlantic Yards project.

The Braunstein case, which has been huge in the tabloids, got extensive coverage in the Times this week, including a preview Monday, followed by trial coverage Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The Friday headline was "Suspect’s Purchases Are Cast as Window Into Dark Mind."
However, the window into the mind of the Empire State Development Corporation, whose Atlantic Yards blight designations were questioned sharply in court Thursday, went unexplored.

Neither the Times nor any other daily sent a reporter to Thursday's epic hearing in the lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards environmental review. Brutally weird.

News as construct

The Times's slogan "All the News That's Fit to Print" is of course a construct; the range of coverage is constrained by space and personnel, and shaped by judgment calls by editors and reporters.

Times editors and reporters apparently didn't think the Atlantic Yards hearing Thursday was worth coverage. (On the front of a Metro section was an article about a Bronx restaurant accused of not accepting pennies in payment.)

Maybe they're just waiting for the resolution of the case. However, trial coverage--even in the Braunstein case--is a legitimate way to inform readers.

Last month, Times Metro Editor Joe Sexton crowed about the paper's coverage:
I mean, c'mon. Pick any major topic of the last several years in New York... The paper's coverage has been unmatched.

Not exactly.

New Public Editor

The Times has just named its third Public Editor, or readers' representative, Clark Hoyt of the Knight-Ridder chain, who begins May 14. The Times reported:
Mr. Hoyt said that he could not predict what subjects he might focus on. “They are likely to be driven by what readers care about and complain about,” he said.

However, the Public Editors follow an understandable if not completely justifiable policy of refusing to examine coverage that occurred before their watch. So the absence of coverage this week, as well as other previous Times lapses regarding Atlantic Yards, won't engage Hoyt.

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