Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Mayoral candidate Tom Allon, of Manhattan Media, and his ill-fated work for Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Standard "publication"

Tom Allon, President/CEO of Manhattan Media is a (mini)mogul running for Mayor in a self-professed Bloombergian mode, and his campaign so far has drawn skepticism mainly because of his longshot status.

But if Allon gets serious attention, he should be questioned about his company's ill-fated, un-journalistic alliance with Forest City Ratner on the promotional Brooklyn Standard "publication" (embedded below).

The "publication" lasted all of two issues in 2005, folding after ridicule in the Times (headline:
O.K., the Whole Paper Is Basically an Ad ) and a mini-scandal over putting a contributor's byline on articles he didn't write. (Allon promised a retraction in the next issue, but no issue ever emerged.)

"I encourage our journalists to cover the Mayoral race, as well as politics in general, with neither fear nor favor," Allon said in a letter this month to staffers, according to the Observer. "I am a journalist first, and would have it no other way."

He sure wasn't a journalist first back in 2005, appearing on the Brooklyn Standard masthead below two Forest City Ratner "editors in chief."

The Brooklyn Standard perhaps is Bloombergian in another sense: it shows a willingness to promote major development and ally with real estate developers. For example, Allon put his name on a puff piece about the arena. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

Higher standards now

Then again, Allon might make the argument that the Brooklyn Standard was an aberration.

After all, his well-regarded political newspapers, City Hall  and The Capital, cover the news fairly. (Manhattan Media also publishes weeklies and lifestyle magazines.) Indeed, Edward-Isaac Dovere, the Brooklyn Standard's "Executive Editor," afterward began a distinguished career at City Hall, and recently moved to Politico.

And his company's journalists have been covering his campaign without fear or favor. Indeed, City & State First Read, the morning roundup from Manhattan Media's two newspapers, has been skeptical, today observing:
* Manhattan Media President Tom Allon's nascent campaign for mayor has so far not sparked a resurgence of the old talk among New York business leaders that they'd love to find a Bloombergian successor to Bloomberg. (Manhattan Media owns City Hall and The Capitol, which publish this email; Allon is not involved our editorial process.) That crowd once swooned over the idea of finding a wealthy executive who could govern with common sense and no obligations to party leaders or interest groups; Richard Parsons was frequently mentioned but never took the bait. With pols like Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson chasing real estate dollars, with the existing field raising serious millions in the last six months, and with the public mood still sour on the economy, the window for finding a private-sector savior is closing rapidly. "Even the billionaires are fed up with the billionaires," said someone who mingles with them regularly.
Allon's letter

Reports the Observer on Allon's letter to staffers:
But I also recognize that the news of my candidacy will put some of our hard-working and stellar journalists in an awkward position; they cover politics, particularly at City Hall, that will be directly relevant to my own ambitions, and we have formulated policies to ensure that they — and all of us — maintain the credibility and excellence that has allowed us to thrive as a local media company.

Henceforth, I will no longer be involved in the day-to-day editorial process of City Hall or any mayoral political coverage in our weekly newspapers. As I did two years ago when our company did media placement for the Bloomberg and Vance campaigns, I will recuse myself in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 local endorsement process. I encourage our journalists to cover the Mayoral race, as well as politics in general, with neither fear nor favor; I am a journalist first, and would have it no other way.
The initial news

Indeed, City & State First Read, first offered a brief, skeptical account, as noted in the Observer:
The field of mayoral candidates may get a little bigger as Tom Allon, president and CEO of Manhattan Media, considers a run for the office. What seems like a vanity run to push his pet issue of improving city schools is a long shot at best, and it complicates matters for us as he’s the head of our parent company. We’re putting up a wall between Allon’s aspirations and our coverage of New York politics, and we’ll cover him like any other candidate – which means we’ll wait to see if he’s taken seriously before we do.
The Times, actually, gave Allon more space, and a picture too:
A strong supporter of Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Allon said in an interview that he would campaign as a pragmatic, nonideological political newcomer, emphasizing education, job creation and economic development. 

Brooklyn Standard June/July 2005

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