Monday, March 21, 2011

"Gray Lady Down," a debate on the Times, and an AY mention

Having read William McGowan's book Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of The New York Times Means for America, I knew it does not address such relatively local issues at Atlantic Yards (built by the Times Company's business partner on the Times Tower, Forest City Ratner), but instead more ideological issues such as gay marriage, immigration, the Duke "rape" case, and the war on terror.

So McGowan didn't bring up Atlantic Yards during a debate last month with Michael Tomasky, American editor-at-large for the Guardian, at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. (Tomasky's main point was that the allegedly halcyon days of the past featured flawed coverage, especially in scope, of a different stripe.)

An AY question

During the Q&A , at 1:08:34 in the video below, Noticing New York blogger Michael D. D. White brought up Atlantic Yards:
"Is the Times earnest and philosophically consistent, or is it making calculated decisions about its financial survival and benefit? As I go back in time and look at their coverage of eminent domain abuse issues, or, for example, the Columbus Circle development, and I compare to their coverage of what I think is a very big story, Atlantic Yards, which has to do with their real estate partner, Bruce Ratner, and it takes place after they engaged in buying a building with eminent domain for their new headquarters, I don't see consistency."
McGowan responded:
"You're getting into some of the contradictions, some would say hypocrisy, between the values that the Times preaches on its editorial page and its behavior as a corporate entity with a bottom line and a Wall Street profile. Aside from that use of eminent domain to create space for its new headquarters, an issue such as executive overcompensation, the Times has railed and railed about that, in the paper, inevitably on its editorial page and inevitably reports surface in the news report about it. However, even though corporate governance is one of Arthur Sulzberger Jr's hobbyhorses, the Times executives are way overcompensated."
So McGowan wasn't really able to address the Atlantic Yards issue.



Sorting it out

I think the issue is somewhat murky. I have no doubt that the editorial page is committed, by virtue of the "spirit of the Times" (aka Sulzberger), to supporting Atlantic Yards, or, at least, keeping its mouth shut about dismaying details.

Is the Metro desk in the tank? I don't think so--and I can't let myself think so. But the Times has done, on the whole, a lousy job covering Atlantic Yards.

Editors make choices, and the Times has chosen to put far less energy into looking carefully at Atlantic Yards than at a number of other issues. Meanwhile, the Sports section laps up Nets publicity.

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