Friday, June 17, 2011

What happened to the Brooklyn Paper on Atlantic Yards? Three meetings this week result in no coverage (so far)

There were three important Atlantic Yards-related public events in the past week, with my coverage linked:
--a meeting June 11 on governance reform sponsored by BrooklynSpeaks, local elected officials, and others
--a forum June 14 on traffic changes sponsored by Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation
--a session June 15 on reviving the alternative UNITY development plan, sponsored by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, local elected officials, and others.

The events drew healthy crowds, more than 100 people for the latter two.

The hyperlocal web site Patch (owned by AOL, operating in several Brooklyn neighborhoods) covered all three events (governance, traffic, UNITY), while reporters for the Brooklyn Downtown Star, the New York Times's The Local, and others also attended some events.

Where was the Brooklyn Paper?

The Brooklyn Paper, initially the leader among paid media in coverage of Atlantic Yards (click on graphic to enlarge), hasn't covered any of the events yet, though it did send a reporter to at least one of them.

But we have learned about "a sun-powered bikini that can also charge iPods," a new bagel-maker, and the tourist charms of Budapest, as well as some more substantive stuff.

The Brooklyn Paper did cover a meeting of a Community Board 10 committee in Bay Ridge, where locals shot down a plan to turn Third Avenue into a pedestrian mall.

Why should civic concerns of those around the Atlantic Yards site matter less, especially given the size and prominence of AY, and the fact that a private developer is taking the lead on such public responsibilities as reconfiguring traffic?

Querying the Brooklyn Paper

I asked editor Gersh Kuntzman whether the Brooklyn Paper was covering any of the events and, if not, why not.

As is policy, he directed me to contact the high-powered public relations outfit, Rubenstein & Associates, that represents not only the Brooklyn Paper but others in the same corporate umbrella, such as the New York Post.

I passed on that opportunity, knowing I'd get boilerplate. Either they cover it or they don't. And, I'd note, the hyper-competitive Kuntzman surely needed no Rubenstein OK to razz Patch (not without reason) for missing an angle on the story of food trucks in Prospect Park.

Speculations on motive

The Brooklyn Paper has cut down its Atlantic Yards coverage in the past two years, in my judgment, since it was bought by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group.

Why is Atlantic Yards no longer an important story for the Brooklyn Paper?

It's impossible to say for sure, but perhaps the newspaper's marketing alliance with the Nets (click on graphic below, from the paper's daily update last month, to enlarge) has an impact.

And surely the newspaper, which like many other print outlets facing a tough advertising environment, expects significant Barclays Center advertising.

Renting office space from Forest City Ratner can't hurt either.

And maybe there's been a philosophical re-set. "Once it's built, you kind of have to focus on the positives," Kuntzman said in May 2010 about the Atlantic Yards arena.

The evidence as of now suggests that's imprudent, since the arena will clearly cause some negatives.

The role of the Brooklyn Paper

The Paper paid a partial compliment to the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn, deeming it "docu-ganda" (not so) but crediting the directors' " painstaking approach to illuminating the horrendous process that created Bruce Ratner’s Frankenstein."

The Brooklyn Paper, as a longstanding forum for Brooklynites, might be the best place to host a point-counterpoint, or discussion, about the new film. Instead, we haven't seen a full review, just a few short paragraphs.

Tthe Paper's web site regularly includes such self-praise as this week's example (click on graphic at right to enlarge).

Perhaps a little humility might be in order.

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