Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hunley-Adossa, via the compromised Witt & C-L, counter-attacks weakly against coverage in The Local, AYR

(For the record, my story today about the MTA is much more important than this one.)

Maybe the best defense is a good offense, but in the case of 35th District Council candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa's counter-attack against the media, the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt doesn't come up with much, tagging the New York Times's blog The Local (and me) with some flimsy accusations while avoiding the central facts.

Moreover, Witt is precisely the wrong Courier-Life staffer to be performing such surgical media criticism, given that his own newspaper recently published an article about his new novel while omitting a crucial fact--that it is self-published--that the author has apparently tried to obscure.

"Paper of record accused of bias"

In the article, headlined Paper of record accused of bias (and also on CNG's BoroPolitics), Witt writes:
A longtime civic activist charged The New York Times with propagating a smear campaign as she tries to unseat incumbent Letitia James in the upcoming 35th District City Council Democratic Primary.

Delia (Dee) Hunley-Adossa, who has been the president of the 88th Precinct Community Council for the past 10 years, said she was appalled that The Times ran a story about her this week saying she was unreachable.

The story, which ran under the headline, “Have you seen this woman?” alleges that Hunley-Adossa has been unreachable and is dodging the media.

“I question their objectivity and have from the beginning,” said Hunley-Adossa, who has always been very reachable by this newspaper.


If only the Courier-Life, which presented this article first online (and will presumably publish it in print this Friday), followed the web convention and linked to the evidence at hand.

The Times article included these passages:
Last week, The Local made many telephone calls to Ms. Hunley-Adossa and left several voice messages. All went unanswered and unreturned. In fact, The Local dialed her number so many times we can remember it.

Calls to friends and supporters didn’t help.

...After calling the phone number on the campaign site Monday, we got in touch with Musa Moore, Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s campaign manager, who promised, on more than on occasion, an opportunity to speak with her.

That promise has not been kept.


The karaoke incident

Witt writes:
Hunley-Adossa pointed out that Times reporter Andy Newman, who also runs the paper’s blog covering the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area, The Local, published a photo of himself singing karaoke with the woman who runs James’ blog.

Newman said that while he sang with the James staffer, it was not at a James event.

...“It was at the apolitical birthday party at a bar for the blogger who does Clinton Hill Chill. At such a politically neutral event, I would be happy to sing with one of Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s staffers,” he said.

But Hunley-Adossa remains unsold about Newman’s response.

“I’m not sure he would sing with one of my staffers,” she said.


Keep in mind that in the original report, on March 26, Newman wrote:
(No political endorsement is implied here. I would just as gladly have duetted with someone from the campaign of Ms. James’s challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, if such a person had materialized.)

Also note that Witt's new novel, American Moses, contains a thank you on the Acknowledgments page to none other than Amyre Loomis, a member of James's staff.

That certainly doesn't tilt Witt's coverage in favor of James.

Attacking AYR

Witt's article includes a slam at AYR:
“I’m also appalled that The New York Times constantly links to someone’sblog who reports one-sided on Atlantic Yards,” said Hunley-Adossa, referring to Norman Oder’s Atlantic Yards Report blog, which writes lavishingly of James and continually criticizes any community supporters of the project.

Hunley-Adossa is the chair of a group of community-based organizations that signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Several of these organizations, including Hunley-Adossa’s, received funding from Ratner as per the CBA.


Lavishingly? Is that even a word? Do search on "Letitia James" and back that up.

I don't continually criticize any community supporters; I do continually raise questions about the legitimacy of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), taking off from criticisms raised by experts on CBAs like Good Jobs New York, Good Jobs First, and the Partnership for Working Families.

Linking to AYR, and following up

Witt writes:
Newman responded that The Local’s blog-linking is highly unscientific and admitted they miss a lot of stuff.

“We link pretty frequently to Oder’s blog because he covers Atlantic Yards, one of the most important issues for the neighborhood, in great depth. Sometimes Oder will send us a note saying, ‘Hey, I just published a particularly interesting piece, you should check it out,’” said Newman in an emailed response.


Despite Hunley-Adossa's accusation, The Local has actually treated her fairly gently. It has not raised the questions I have posed in my blog (and sometimes in the comments section of The Local):
–how much does developer Forest City Ratner contribute to fund the fledgling community organization Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), the CBA signatory Hunley-Adossa leads?

–what environmental expertise does Hunley-Adossa have to run BEE, which aims to address green issues?

–why has BEE distributed more money in compensation to Hunley-Adossa than it has spent on program services?

–why does half the BEE board consist of Hunley-Adossa family members?


Perhaps that's why Hunley-Adossa is so wary of debate.

Contradiction within CNG

It's pretty funny that CNG's BoroPolitics site is hosting an article claiming that Hunley-Adossa is accessible, given that the original piece in The Local quotes Gersh Kuntzman of the Brooklyn Paper, which is one of the contributors to BoroPolitics:.
Nor are we the only news outlet that is having trouble contacting Ms. Hunley-Adossa.

“We at The Brooklyn Paper have been astounded by the lack of response to our questions from Delia and her campaign,” said Gersh Kuntzman, editor of The Brooklyn Paper. “She aspires to a very lofty position –- public servant –- and, as such, she needs to answer questions from independent media.”


Witt's self-published novel

As noted, Witt's own newspaper has recently offered some questionable coverage. The blog version of the recent profile of Witt states (right):
Indeed, “Moses” draws most of its influence from Witt’s own life. Much like the novel’s main character Southie, Witt has traveled all across America and the world, working various odd jobs from a baker in Boston to a grape picker in France to a concierge in Israel. Witt describes “Moses” as “an unconventional love story.”

“The characters are very flawed people. Southie is a hothead who acts before he thinks, but has leadership qualities. He’s clueless, while Zippy (his wife) is very conflicted. The story is intergenerational,” said Witt.

Witt self-published “Moses” using his own start-up publishing label “Never Sink Books,” which he launched in 2007. The imprint is just a small portion of his larger, full-service media company, Never Sink Media. Future projects include the novel “LowHearted” by D. Amanda James, which is set in Brooklyn.

(Emphasis added)

That didn't appear in print (below), where the information was compressed:

Indeed, “Moses” draws most of its influence from Witt’s own life. Much like the novel’s main character Southie, Witt has traveled all across America and the world, working various odd jobs from a baker in Boston to a grape picker in France to a concierge in Israel.

Witt describes “Moses” as “an unconventional love story.”

“The characters are very flawed people. Southie is a hothead who acts before he thinks, but has leadership qualities. He’s clueless, while Zippy (his wife) is very conflicted. The story is intergenerational,” he says, adding the book is the inaugural novel for Never Sink Books, a publishing house which specializes in modern American folk tales.
(Emphasis added)

While there's nothing wrong with self-publishing, the failure to explain that suggests to readers that a publisher served as a gatekeeper, evaluating Witt's novel, then choosing to publish it. That didn't happen.

More about Never Sink Books

Also note that, according to the web site for Never Sink Books (below), there's no mention that Witt runs the show. However, the registration for the publisher's web site (bottom) indicates that Witt is in charge.



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