Thursday, July 21, 2011

Maybe Murdoch has a light touch with the Brooklyn weeklies he bought, but the change in Atlantic Yards coverage has been profound

Reports WNYC, Fearing a Heavy Hand, Outer-Borough Papers Find Murdoch Has Light Touch :
When News Corp – which owns the New York Post and Wall Street Journal - bought community newspapers in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn in 2006, 2007 and 2009, respectively, media watchers were worried they'd be reshaped as conservative Murdoch mouthpieces.

But several former staffers at The Brooklyn Paper and TimesLedger newspapers say the marching orders never came — and the neighborhood papers that now make up the Community Newspapers Group at News Corp continued to make their own decisions about editorials, endorsements and reporting, according to former employees.
About Atlantic Yards

The piece concludes:
The Brooklyn Paper, formerly a fierce watchdog on the Atlantic Yards project has become less aggressive since the 2009 sale, Oder alleges, but he isn't sure whether or not that is attributable to News Corp.

"“I do see less of a focus on hard news," he said. "There is a lot of softer news. It's hard to say if that is Murdoch or just a sign or our times. When weekly newspapers like Brooklyn Paper were stronger they did more aggressive reporting."
I don't think my comment is so much an allegation as a (well-founded) argument.

I posted a comment:
To amplify my comments, the Brooklyn Paper's changed posture has been significant. For example, the newspaper barely covered the documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" and has ignored such things as Borough President Marty Markowitz claiming that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards." [Editor Gersh] Kuntzman himself has said that, once the arena's built, "you kind of have to focus on the positives."

That said, the newspaper even before the 2009 sale was changing its editorial policy regarding Atlantic Yards. Couple that with some other factors--a recognition, perhaps, that the arena would be a major advertiser and the CNG papers in Brooklyn renting space from Forest City Ratner--and there's cause for concern about a pattern of playing nice with Brooklyn's leading developer.

Still, that relationship might have changed had the Brooklyn Paper been sold to someone else.
I told WNYC I had no evidence of any dictates from headquarters. On the other hand, the newspaper aims to sell ads and generate eyeballs. Being tough on Atlantic Yards no longer achieves that, they've apparently decided.

This week's paper

Take a look at the cover of this week's Brooklyn Paper. The lead story--albeit on a very busy front page--comes from a press release about Barclays Center interior images.

The article about an important Atlantic Yards legal decision comes at the bottom of the page. Of course that's a week late, so it's understandable why they don't lead with it. (Could the story, which surfaced in the early afternoon of Wednesday, July 13, gotten into last week's paper, which I believe had a late afternoon deadline? Only if they were very aggressive about coverage.)

I have more of a problem with the teaser at the bottom of the page: "Ratner cracks down on rats." That's snappy, but inaccurately portrays the developer as a leader. More precise would have been something like "Ratner finally responds to rats" or "Ratner's belated rat response," since the offer of new garbage cans came only after months of complaints.

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