For the first time since sustaining deep staffing cutbacks late last month, the Post-Star has reassigned reporting beats to fill the gaps in its lineup. In the process, the troubled newspaper has officially abandoned Saratoga Springs as an anchorage for its southern reporting.
• Primary responsibility for reporting news for Washington County—the beat covered by recently laid-off reporters Jamie Munks, David Taube, and (in part) Tom Dimopoulos—now falls to Jon Alexander, who will continue to cover Northern Warren County as well as the rest of the Adirondacks. It is an utterly insane beat divided in the north by the length of Lake George—by far the largest coverage map of any of the remaining Post-Star reporters. • Dave Canfield, who shared the Saratoga Springs bureau with Dimopoulos, will now be principle principal correspondent for the Saratoga County Hudson River communities of Moreau, South Glens Falls, Fort Edward and Hudson Falls
• Business reporter Blake Jones will now add the Village and Town of Lake George to her portfolio.
• Crime and Public Safety reporter Don Lehman will also take on Warren County government in the shift.
• Both Omar Aquije and Maury Thompson will keep their beats covering Education issues and Glens Falls /Queensbury respectively.
The move away from on-the-spot Saratoga Springs coverage marks a significant departure for the Post-Star. With great fanfare the newspaper opened a collaborative bureau in the spa city with television station WNYT-News Channel 13 in March 2004. As reported by then Post-Star business reporter Dan Higgins, Saratoga Springs was a key battlefield in the regional circulation wars before the recession: the Post-Star the Daily Gazette of Schenectady, and the Times Union all staffed bureaus there in hopes of finding new readers among the booming population. The Gazette Saratoga Springs office has since closed (though they still have a bureau in nearby Ballston Spa) and the Times Union shuttered its bureau in March of last year.
In other personnel shifts at the Post-Star, Donna Smith has joined the advertising department replacing Matthew Gonroff, and Christine Scrivner has joined the paper in the newly created position of Circulation Sales Manager. The new position might prove to be a hot seat as the region’s newspapers brace for the semi-annual Audit Bureau circulations reports due out next week.
New York State keeps detailed motor vehicle accident statistics, compiling them year-to-year and county-by-county. Those data as well as the aggregate state figures compiled since 2001 are available online at safeNY.gov. The standards for data collecting and reporting have remained consistent since 2003, the year New York lowered the blood alcohol content standard for drunk driving, and the year the Glens Falls Post-Star initiated its policy on publishing names of teenagers busted for drinking. Data in the following comparison are derived from police-reported accidents—collisions resulting in fatalities, personal injury or property damage. These records are more uniform within each region and over time than DWI ticketing, for example (another standard measure), which varies regionally and seasonally, skewed by periodic local crack-downs, check points, etc.
To get a sense of how the Glens Falls region’s statistics for underage drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents stacked up against the average statistics across New York, we set the number of alcohol-related-accident drivers aged twenty and younger both regionally and statewide against the number of alcohol-related-accident drivers from all age groups and compared the resulting percentages. A consistent drop in the regional percentage against the statewide percentage would suggest that the campaign was influencing underage drinking trends favorably.
The Results While eight years of data form no solid basis for statistical analysis, the regional numbers—despite countervailing swings in the middle years of the range—seem to track overall with the statewide norms (even to the point of convergence with state figures in 2009 and 2010, the most recent years evaluated). While this may not be enough of a statistical sample to determine failure of the Post-Star’s policy and overall campaign, there is nothing here to encourage their advocates, either.
Not surprisingly Post-Star editors have not brought statistical analysis to bear on their policy of shaming teenage drinkers. Nor have they cited the statistics in their periodic recommitment to the campaign. If anything they seem to be spurred onward by their own often overheated editorial rhetoric on the subject: “Underage drinking is dangerous and if you don’t believe me, I will show you the headstones.”
Ken Tingley publicly declared his own immeasurable standard for continuing the crusade:
“If there is one young person who learns the lesson, if there is one young person who gets grounded for life for embarrassing their parents, if there is one young person who pauses to consider whether to accept a beer at the next party because they don’t want to see their name in the newspaper, then it is worth it.”
There is little doubt, given the power and range of the Post-Star’s editorial voice, that the shaming policy and Mr. Tingley’s angry bluster have successfully reached any number of kids (and/or their parents). On the same token, given the contrary nature of so many adolescents, can anyone doubt that as many kids may have reacted (sadly) predictably to Mr. Tingley’s bullying and ignored the grim statistics, or worse, headed defiantly in the opposite direction?
The lack of movement of the underage drunk driving numbers against the backdrop of statewide figures suggests, at the very least, that some neutralizing backlash may be at work here.
The Broader Picture One of the more troubling aspects of the Post-Star policy is its selective and asymmetric targeting of underage drinkers for the sake of reducing the deaths of young people in motor vehicle accidents.
In 2010 alcohol was the primary cause of 30.5% of all motor vehicle fatalities throughout all upstate counties across all age groups. Speed, by comparison, was the primary cause of 29.2%. The statistics in the three counties served by the Post-Star were quite different: In Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties alcohol was responsible for 20.6% of motor vehicle fatalities, claiming seven lives, while speeding was responsible for 35.3% of motor vehicle fatalities claiming twelve lives. Moreover, in 2010 speed caused 439 injuries across the three counties (31.9%), while alcohol caused only 174 (11.3%).
When you add to that the fact that teenagers are far less likely to drive drunk (accounting for 9.3% of all drivers in alcohol-related accidents statewide) and far more likely to speed (accounting for 22% of all speeding-caused accidents statewide), the math becomes clear: speeding—and not drinking—is by far the deadliest behavior by drivers young and old on our roadways. It comes as no surprise that the Post-Star is devoting none of its diminishing resources to publishing the names of speeders in an effort to embarrass them and their families in a misguided effort—no matter how well-intentioned—to alter their behavior.
Two final thoughts on this subject This challenge to (and argument against) the Post-Star’s policy of publishing names of teenagers fined for drinking should not be interpreted in any way as condoning the behavior. While it may be a rite of passage—as even Ken Tingley concedes—it remains reckless as it ever was. When combined with driving it has abundant potential to be life-destroying. The sole concern of this post is that the approach undertaken nine years ago by the editor of the Post-Star to combat the issue may simply have made matters worse.
The Post-Star is in many respects a fine newspaper. It is, to be sure, a troubled newspaper belonging to a troubled corporation in a troubled industry in a weak economy. The last thing the editors and publisher of the paper should be doing at this stage is alienating its future readers and subscribers in a way that from any angle looks like a double standard. The Post-Star needs to descend from the bully pulpit and get back to its number one responsibility to the community: reporting news.
Ken Tingley is back in his bully pulpit. Two Sundays ago in his weekly column, the Editor of the Post-Star defended his newspaper’s policy of publishing the names of teenagers ticketed for violating underage drinking laws. In blunt and patronizing language, the crusading editor took on a recent South Glens Falls High graduate who had dared to leave a comment on the Post-Star‘s Facebook page objecting to the policy:
Mr. Mumblo was probably playing video games and reading comics when we reported the death of 17-year-old Jason Daniels in Warrensburg on May 18, 2003, and four months later, the death of 19-year-old Adam Baker, also in Warrensburg. The policy was best described in a harsh editorial that ran on June 12, 2011, nearly eight years into the campaign:
Underage drinkers get their names in the paper. We publish the names of all kids arrested for consuming alcohol. We hope the embarrassment factor helps serve as a deterrent to parents and their kids. Not only does the kid’s name go in the paper, it goes on our website. And the Internet is permanent. So whatever they get caught doing today will follow them the rest of their lives.
From this it is hard to tell if the editorial board is angrier at the kids or their parents. The editorial proceeds to insult the children it hopes to protect:
Kids fib… Kids are lightweights… Kids are reckless… Kids are terrible drivers.
The final line of the editorial—A dead child is gone forever—reveals that the true target of the editorial (and the policy for that matter) is the parents; the humiliation of the children is merely a baseball bat to the gut to get their parents to pay closer attention.
Some History On June 15, 2003, as New York State prepared to drop the DWI blood alcohol content standard from .1 to .08 percent, and after a succession of fatal underage drunk driving accidents in the region surrounding Glens Falls, Ken Tingley wrote a column outlining the Post-Star‘s policy on reporting crimes:
Here is what are (sic) policies are now:
• We don’t use the name of the child under age 16 charged with any offense – even if it is a felony – but we include the age, sex and town of residence. One exception: We will publish the name of any minor who is being prosecuted as an adult.
• We don’t use the name of the child age 16, 17 and 18 if they are only charged with misdemeanors or violations, but we include their age, sex and town of residence.
• We do use the name of minors age 16, 17 and 18 if they are charged with felonies.
• We do use the name of anyone 19 or older charged with any offense if the crime is deemed newsworthy because of unusual or interesting circumstances.
• We’ve also left it up to the discretion of the editor to print the name of a minor if major crimes or unusual circumstances are involved.
The column concluded with hints of transition:
With the recent debate over underage drinking in our communities, we debated recently whether it might do some good to start listing the names of teens arrested for underage drinking. We currently do not print those names unless there is a felony charge.One of our editors suggested that we should print the name of all teens arrested, that the embarrassment of arrest might be an appropriate deterrent for a young person, that it might even bring a weightier meaning to some parents who don’t seem to take the issue that seriously.It is something we will probably be looking at in the future.
The future arrived less than five weeks later when the Post-Star published the names and ages of six minors from Corinth who were charged with “the noncriminal violation of possession of alcohol by someone under 21.” The policy has remained in effect ever since.
According to data compiled by New York State, in 2003 the number of underage drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties stood at 19. The number rose to 25 the following year and dropped to 17 in 2004. In both 2005 and 2006 the number of underage drunk drivers involved in accidents shot up to 42 and has been declining steadily toward the 2004 level since. 2010 is the latest year for which the state has compiled statistics.
In June 2008 after another cluster of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involving minors, the Post-Star ran an exasperated editorial under the headline “Message is not getting through.” It began:
We give up.
No one seems to be listening anyway.
Sanctimonious and preachy? Out of touch with reality? OK, we concede. You’re right. Underage drinking is a rite of passage. A tradition. We all did it as kids. There’s nothing that can be done to stop it. Kids are gonna do what kids are gonna do.So have it your way.
Naturally, the editorial does not give up and charges once more unto the breach to deliver the message. It ends with a poignant appeal to the reader not to let the newspaper abandon the crusade.
By this point, nearly five years along, the policy of outing teenagers charged with non-criminal alcohol violations —despite the absence of any evidence that it was doing any good— was so conflated with the broader cause of stopping underage DWI as to be inseparable. For all practical purposes, under guard of the sharp hyperbole of the Post-Star’s editorial position, unquestionable.
If you live in Hamilton County you better pack your bags. At least that’s the message from the Glens Falls Post-Star. “Hamilton County might not survive the next century,” reporter Jon Alexander opined recently is a story labeled “analysis” that seriously argued that by 2040, only 28 men and 24 women between the ages of 25 and 29 will live in Hamilton County – an 85 percent decline for that age group between 1990 and 2040.
According to Alexander’s unnamed “local officials,” “If things don’t change in Hamilton County, in about 25 years, there won’t be anyone left to respond to fires, drive ambulances or plow the roads.” “It’s scary,” Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board, told Alexander. » Continue Reading.
Nathan Brown, reporter at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (ADE), longtime friend of the Adirondack Almanack, and son of Almanack contributor Phil Brown, is headed to a new job at the Middletown Times-Herald-Record in Orange County. Nathan (shown at left) has been at the ADE just short of four years, most recently covering Lake Placid, Essex County, and politics. The ADE was his first journalism job after graduating form SUNY Albany in 2007.
Taking over Brown’s spot at the ADE will be Chris Morris, who has left his job as WNBZ‘s News Director. Morris will continue to contribute to North Country Public Radio. At the ADE he’ll be covering Lake Placid, North Elba, and Essex County, including the political scene. Chris Morris was born and raised in Saranac Lake and got his start in journalism as a stringer for the ADE’s sports department. After graduating from St. Lawrence University he covered the Malone beat for the Malone Telegram. Morris later served as editor at the weekly Vermont Times Sentinel (Chittenden County). From there, he went on to take the news editor position at Denton Publications and later joined Chris Knight at Mountain Communications as assistant news director of WNBZ. When Chris Knight left WNBZ to join the ADE in June 2009, Morris took over as news director.
The latest media moves follow other recent local media changes. Also in June of 2009, Andy Flynn left his position as the Senior Public Information Specialist at the NYS Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Centers and has since taken the position of Assistant Managing Editor at Denton Publications. Another Denton and WNBZ alumni, Jon Alexander, now covers Northern Warren County for the Glens Falls Post-Star.
WNBZ is in transition according to a statement on their webpage. Bob LaRue, News Director at WMSA in Massena, who provides play by play for WNBZ‘s coverage of Saranac Lake Football, is providing regional news updates and the station is currently looking for a new News Director. Meanwhile, Josh Clement has been manning the studio every morning to keep the news on the air. Freelancer George Earl continues to contribute to WNBZ‘s Adirondack Regional Report.
A small group of the usual opponents of smart development have raised another ruckus with the help of some local media. It was reported in the local daily press (“APA hears citizens’ rage“, “APA critics blast board“), and followed up by Denton Publications, (including video!). It was one of a regular stream of media campaigns orchestrated and carried out by some of the same folks who have opposed smart development planning for the Adirondack Park since it began 40 years ago.
As if on cue, the Glens Falls Post-Star then launched another of its – this time particularly vicious – attacks on the Adirondack Park’s regional planning board, the Adirondack park Agency (APA). That nasty editorial ran on the same day some 120 people from all perspectives and sectors of the Adirondacks were meeting in Long Lake to find ways to set aside their differences and work together for a better Adirondacks. It started July 15th with what appears to have been an organized protest at an APA business meeting, and may have been result of leaked information that APA Chairman Curt Stiles would step down the next day. The usual suspects were on hand, including Salim “Sandy” Lewis, Carol LaGrasse, Frank Casier, Mike Vilegi, Howard Aubin, and Bob Schulz. Insults were hurled at the “un-American”; cries for “liberty” and an end to “tyranny” and “repression and fear” were heard – Lewis and his entourage stormed out. Here’s a quick look at those who were there:
Salim “Sandy” Lewis is the former Wall Street trader who recently won a $71,600 settlement from state taxpayers after arguing that the APA had no jurisdiction over farms (he had sought close to a quarter million). “You are hated by a significant portion of this community,” he told the APA’s commissioners. Lewis believes the APA restricts local farming operations, despite the fact that local farming is up considerably amid a national decline (1, 2). [He believes there are two kind of farmers: “real farmers” who have capital to invest in their farms, and “phony farmers” who don’t]. Apparently, Lewis’s Wall Street experience has led him to believe that no none should have a say in the impacts large businesses have in the Adirondack Park. During a litany of threats against a variety of enemies, Lewis claimed he was asked to attend the APA meeting by the Governor’s Office. “I’ve been asked to name five new board members to this group by the Governor’s office,” he said.
Carol LaGrasse is the leader of the one-woman Property Rights Foundation who has called the APA “anti-family”. Among her more ridiculous assertions was the prediction that massive forest fires would follow the blowdown of 1995 if the state didn’t allow logging on Forest Preserve land (1). She was wrong then, but continues to appear regularly in local media reports whenever they need to trot out a rabid anti-environmentalist, Adirondack Park or Forest Preserve opponent.
Frank Casier is a former real estate developer. Now 92, Casier was a co-founder of Tony D’Elia’s Adirondack Defense League, described by Kim Smith Dedam as “an early order of resistance to the institution of the APA Act in 1973.” Casier, who said “The APA destroyed three of my housing projects,” was on hand with a 12-page pamphlet entitled The Theft of the Adirondacks. According to LaGrasse, Casier hasn’t been to an APA meeting in decades, but he said he has a new anti-APA book forthcoming. Casier was once the publisher of the anti-APA Adirondack Defender, funded by Alpo Dog Foods founder and Lake Placid summer resident (now deceased) Robert F. Hunsicker. The first Adirondack Defender was published as an supplement insert in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (then led by Will Doolittle‘s dad), and subsequently run in the Tupper Lake Free Press, Ticonderoga Sentinel, and Malone Telegram. The Denton newspapers, then numbering ten weeklies and owned by William Denton, refused to run the Defender.
Mike Vilegi was a passenger in the truck James McCulley drove down Old Mountain Road in an effort to have the long-abandoned wilderness road reopened to motorized vehicles. Vilegi is a Lake Placid builder who was leader of the “Adirondack Porn Agency” effort to taint the reputations of APA staff and commissioners. According to the Press-Republican, Vilegi once attended an APA meeting “wearing a T-shirt with the words ‘Adirondack Porn Agency’ written across the chest and a less polite phrase written on the back”. Vilegi has a flair for the dramatic; he’s a producer of YouTube videos showing how damaging hikers are.
Howard Aubin is a businessman who found his way to the Big Tupper Resort hearings to proclaim that 100 percent of Tupper Lakers support building the Adirondack Club and Resort, the largest residential development ever proposed in the Adirondacks. In an affidavit in support of the Lewis case, Aubin claimed “There is a general fear among the Bar in the North Country that participation in a dispute against the Agency will harm their practices.” Twenty years ago Aubin helped organize the Adirondack Solidarity Alliance, the folks who brought us the 1990 “freedom drive” which attempted to block Northway traffic between exits 20 and 28.
Bob Schulz, now in his 70s, is the Queensbury founder of We the People Foundation who launched the “Revolution Project” in 2008. Schulz is a longstanding proponent of the idea that Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Before that, he was the subject of several federal investigations, including his alleged failure to file Federal income tax returns for years 2001 through 2004. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice successfully sued Schulz to stop the sale “of an alleged tax fraud scheme reported to have cost the U.S. Treasury more than 21 million dollars.” Last year the Internal Revenue Service revoked We the People’s tax exempt status.
Trying to force logging of the Forest Preserve, subverting the APA Act for financial gain, blocking traffic, wearing obscene t-shirts to public meetings, promoting the refusal to pay taxes – these are the folks who enjoy standing with the local media.
Meanwhile, 120 private citizens, business, education, and nonprofit leaders, environmentalists, state and local economic development professionals and government leaders, and anti-APA property rights advocates were joining together in Long Lake to try and foster a sense that we’re all in this together. What coverage did that get? None that I can find.
Instead, we’re treated to a malicious anti-APA diatribe by the Glens Falls Post-Star that includes a number of personal attacks on APA staff and commissioners, all civil servants doing their job to help protect the Adirondack Park, a park for all the people of the state.
Unfortunately we need to constantly rehash the wrong-headed arguments expressed by the Post-Star‘s editorial board, even though they’ve been shown time and again to have no basis in fact. They claim, for example, “In its zeal to crack down on every potential encroachment of civilization, real or imagined, the agency has tipped the balance against the interests of individual rights and against economic development.” How any reasonable person can make that claim is beyond me – but they repeat it again and again.
First, the APA regulates about 40% of new buildings and 20% of total development activities. Second, the APA has declined just .8% of the projects that have been brought before it since 1973. And while we’re at it, there is also no basis whatsoever for the argument that the APA somehow coerces people to withdraw their applications – there simply aren’t that many withdrawn applications. There is no need to withdraw an application because the APA approves nearly all of them. This is what the Post-Star calls a “zeal to crack down on every potential encroachment of civilization”.
It is simply ludicrous to continue to argue that an agency that has power over just 20% of development activities and only 40% of new buildings, and has blocked only the tiniest fraction of those, is responsible for “overzealous enforcement of state regulations and an unwavering support of restrictive environmentalist policies over reasonable economic growth and development in the Adirondacks.”
The Post-Star‘s editorial board, which includes Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney and citizen representative Carol Merchant, should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to divide Adirondackers, especially on the same day those of us with an actual stake here were trying to make efforts to come together.
One final issue which really gets to the heart of the Post-Star‘s project to discredit reasonable environmental protections and smart growth planning in the Adirondack Park. The entire tone of their editorial is couched in terms of government openness, yet they don’t expect the same from the Local Government Review Board (LGRB). To my knowledge the paper has never once investigated the LGRB despite the fact that the APA-funded body is headed by Fred Monroe (and its one employee, his wife), who until very recently collected a paycheck from New York State, Warren County, and the Town of Chester (more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded salary).
The LGRB, which frequently meets at private restaurants on the public’s dime, issues no notices that a meeting is being held, no agendas before the meeting, no meeting minutes, and no online audio or video recordings of meetings. I signed up for the LGRB’s e-mail newsletter several years ago, I’m still on the list, but I’ve never received any information from them whatsoever. By the way, the APA does all these things and more.
When was the last time anyone had a say in who is on the LGRB? They are county backroom appointments, not elected, and there is no public discussion whatsoever. At a meeting I attended recently it was not even clear who was on the board and who wasn’t. They have never held a public forum or public hearing that I’m aware of. And despite the LGRB’s budget of over $110,000, it appears they haven’t produced anything in a full year.
It’s time these folks stop constantly disrupting our mutual progress for their own personal gain. As Adirondack Daily Enterprise Publisher Catherine Moore and Managing Editor Peter Crowley wrote this week in an editorial about their community’s recent division over the Adirondack Club and Resort:
“We all love nature and people, and we all want a balance between economic viability and environmental protection. It shouldn’t be shocking that people differ on where the balance point should be. Be realistic and grounded, be respectful, and don’t go looking for enemies – that’s our advice.”
Despite undeniable proof that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) almost never denies a permit, the usual anti-APA folks are currently rallying once again for another push against the regional planning and zoning board that has kept the Adirondacks from looking like a suburb of the Northeast megalopolis for more than 30 years. It’s time for those who support reasonable and responsible development in the Adirondack Park to step forward and let their voice be heard.
In case you went to the lobby during intermission, here’s a review of the cast of leading characters: Maynard Baker: Despite his failed leadership that left Warrensburg perhaps the most poorly developed village in the Park – a virtual wreck of its former self – Maynard Baker persists in his angry denunciations of anything even approaching planning, zoning and smart development. Baker is the scariest of the cast, having once started a fistfight during the Battle of Crane Pond. His latest approach has been lawsuits, and threats of lawsuits. Most recently he is attempting to argue in court that veterans cannot access the Park. On Monday, Baker called the APA “terrorists” securing for all time that this guy is a dangerous demagogue.
Will Doolittle: Despite serious questions about his motives with regards to his reporting about the APA (detailed here, here, and here), Will Doolittle has started another campaign in the pages of the Glens Falls Post Star. That’s the same Post Star that called for the abolition of the APA in an editorial during Doolittle’s last round of APA attacks. You’d think that when your motives are questioned so seriously regarding your reporting of a particular subject, you’d leave those stories to someone else. Not Doolittle, apparently he and his bosses think it’s entirely appropriate to continue to put an anti-APA reporter on the job to cover the APA.
Kim Smith Dedam: One of only two women in the cast (Carol LaGrasse and her one-woman Property Rights Foundation of America is the other), Kim Smith Dedam is the Plattsburgh Press Republican‘s answer to accurate and judicious reporting of the APA and smart development in the Adirondacks. Her outright false claims, apparently designed to foster her agenda, are awful legend. Kim Smith Dedam can always be counted on to tell the story of development in the Adirondacks to the benefit of her handlers. Check out two stories that read like press releases: “Tupper Lake project projected to create 584 jobs” and “Veterans sue for seaplane access to Adirondack lakes.” Floatplane ban supporters? Kim Smith Dedam doesn’t think they’re necessary in a story about the ban on floatplanes, but that’s just one in what seems an unending litany of slanted stories about development issues in the Adirondacks.
Fred Monroe: When it comes to one-man bands, Fred Monroe plays the loudest. Overseeing the demise and awful strip development of Chestertown as the Supervisor of the Town Chester is not enough for Monroe, so he also collects a paycheck as the Chair of the economically challenged Warren County Board of Supervisors and a paycheck from bankrupt New York State as the voice of the anti-APA Local Government Review Board. That’s right, Monroe is paid by the Town, County, and State government – after a raise he gave himself last year, that’s more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded salary. It’s no wonder that while he’s content to serve as a mouth-piece around the state for anti-APA activities and as the go-to guy for his media buddies, he came out last year to say that no, he doesn’t want the APA dissolved. And why would he? He’d be out of a job heading a one man (and one wife) tax supported board whose main focus has been to fight another tax funded board. That is the goose that laid the $100,000 egg.
Last week, The Post-Star announced that its free weekly publication ADK Talk would cease publication (naturally, the blurb was buried in the middle of its local section).
This was the Glens Falls daily’s latest failed attempt to compete with the region’s independent weekly The Chronicle. ADK Talk had replaced two separate but nearly identical Post-Star weeklies called The Glens Falls Leader and The Queensbury Citizen, an experiment which also failed. The Lee Enterprises-owned paper announced that it had abandoned the weekly experiment to “pursue initiatives online” with its website. The demise of ADK Talk and its predecessors revealed some interesting lessons about the local media landscape.
Identity Matters The Chronicle is celebrating its 30th birthday because it’s distinctive. The independent weekly has a very strong identity in the community. Many people swear by it. Some people people swear at it. But everyone knows what The Chronicle is all about. Personally, I used to view it with disdain but have to come appreciate the value of a venue for independent voices in a corporate media dominated culture; and a lot of other people apparently do too.
ADK Talk and its predecessors were never able to develop that identity because they were seen as just another Post-Star/Lee Enterprises vehicle. It’s certainly reassuring for outlets like Adirondack Almanack that people still place value on the concept of locally-driven, independent media. Content Matters ADK Talk and its predecessors ran almost exclusively light feature stories. Sources tell me that the purpose of The Post-Star‘s weeklies was to entice non-subscribers to purchase the daily product.
But stories about middle school kids going on field trips and the like may be mildly interesting but are a poor hook to convince the undecided that the daily product would provide information essential to their lives. The structure of the weeklies seemed poorly thought out.
Free Isn’t Evil Newspaper pooh-bahs are possibly the only business people who go out of their way to publicly insult their customers. People who want/expect their news for free are regularly treated as leeches by newspaper big wigs.
“How can newspapers make money (survive) if the end user refuses to pay for the content?” they sniff, ignoring the fact that the terrestrial broadcast media (over the air radio and television) make money even though the content is free to the end user. Most weeklies are for profit businesses and are also free to the reader. Websites like Pro Publica are offering top quality journalism free to the end user.
ADK Talk and its predecessors were not merely distributed (free to the end user) at places like supermarkets and libraries. They were also mailed to thousands of local households that didn’t subscribe to the daily product. So Lee Enterprises put forth the significant expense of not only publishing the weeklies and having them trucked to public venues but also the postage of having them sent via the USPS.
When you spend that much time, energy and money to give your product away, how can you criticize or be surprised at the expectation that news be free?
Ultimately, the region will barely notice the disappearance of this advertising vehicle. Lee Enterprises was recently ranked as the most inefficient company in the publishing industry. One can only hope that the trend will be bucked here and that the money formerly poured into ADK Talk will be used to slow the precipitous demise of quality in The Post-Star‘s main product: the daily newspaper itself.
Smaller party and independent candidates like Green gubernatorial nominee Howie Hawkins feel like they hit the lottery if their names are mentioned even as a footnote in the mainstream press. It’s not surprising, but still enraging, that the corporate media has a bias in favor of the candidates of the two corporate parties.
The common rationalization for such bias is the self-serving claim that people aren’t interested in candidates deemed “fringe” by the media pooh bahs… a catch-22 if there ever was one. When I’ve pointed out this bias of ignoring non-major party candidates to media elites, a typical response has been: “when have we been biased?” Here’s a little educational lesson: if you ignore candidates because they don’t belong to a major party, then you are, by definition, biased against non-major parties. Justify this slant if you think you can, but don’t insult our intelligence by pretending it’s not bias. » Continue Reading.
This year, the Glens Falls Post-Star has published several pieces detailing activities of the Adirondack Park Agency deemed dubious. All of these investigative works were written by Projects’ Editor Will Doolittle, a controversial choice since he’s been outspoken against the APA for years.
The paper’s agenda has been clear from the beginning, made all the more explicit by their January editorial calling for the abolition of the Agency. After all the deluge of anti-APA articles and editorials, it was a bit of a surprise that the daily finally got around to providing a little balance by admitting publicly that the Agency has its defenders. Sunday’s paper ran a front page article entitled APA has critics, but also many compliments; it was written by Drew Kerr, not Doolittle.
“Discussion” of the online article was filled with the usual overheated rhetoric, including several who made the obligatory, but still pathetic, comparison of the APA to the Nazis.
But beyond the venom, one-off anecdotes and cheap Hitler references, what stood out for me was that item all too rare in public discourse: actual facts.
According to the report:
Since 1973, the APA has issued nearly 16,808 permits and denied only 136 projects… In addition, agency staff say that 95 percent of permit applications are completed before they are required to do so by law. The agency has between 15 and 90 days to rule on a permit, depending on the nature of the application.
For all the talk of power hungry bureaucrats oppressing the people and single-handedly stifling the Adirondacks’ economy for the mere joy of it, the fact is that the APA has rejected a mere 0.8 percent of proposed projects in the last 37 years.
This doesn’t mean that the APA is perfect, nor that it shouldn’t be required to show increased transparency, streamlined procedures or be subjected to more checks and balances.
What it does mean is that discussion of the APA’s future direction and policies should be based more on the big picture and actual data and less on outliers and “gut feelings.”
Two investigative reports purporting to reveal dubious practices by the Adirondack Park Agency and environmental groups have been called into question themselves. The pieces, which ran on January 9 and 10, were written by Post-Star features’ editor Will Doolittle. Doolittle has written numerous columns expressing hostility to the APA and green groups. Why a journalist who was openly and vehemently hostile to the APA and green groups was assigned to do a purportedly objective investigation into the APA and green groups is something the paper never felt the need to explain. And my skepticism appears to have been validated. (Note: Part one of the series is available online here. Part two is here) » Continue Reading.
Why, in a time of newspaper shrinkage — in circulation, ads, staff, content — are local papers creating new vehicles for fluff? The Adirondack Daily Enterprise this month launched an outdoor-oriented bimonthy (it’s possible some stories were missed by one, two, three or four of the park’s other outdoor-oriented bi/monthlies). The 16-page tabloid is called Embark. Now we hear that around Memorial Day the Glens Falls Post-Star will begin publishing a new weekly called the Edge, for the Lake George area. Here’s what an Edge staffer blogged that the thing (not magazine, not quite shopper, not newspaper) will be covering: “It will be around 16 pages of light-hearted feature stories such as weekly Q and As with bartenders.” The dailies are not hiring new reporters or investing in high production values for these throw-away publications. They take staff away from covering issues and redirect them to hike Mount Marcy or flab about how crazy their friends got at Lemon Peel the other night. That’s not news. It’s killing trees to put the most trivial of blog content to paper.
Admittedly blogs should have better things to do than dogpile on print media in a time of hardship (here, here, here and here are some of the dailies’ own accounts of budget cuts). I don’t aim to join that pack. Most online news sources would be nothing without the hustle and dig that real reporters give them to link and amplify; herein should be the strength and future of newspapers. Anyone with an opinion and a laptop can have a blog, but it takes a business plan, structure and a good staff to provide timely, well-edited coverage of courts, cops, public policy and yes sports on a multicounty level.
I subscribe to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and depend on it for a lot of information. It needn’t care what I think, but the fact that only two out of sixteen pages of Embark are covered with ads while the front page of the paper has been filling space with photographs of tree branches and worms should tell the publisher something.
I also like the Post-Star. It has some of the best journalists in the North Country and Capital Region and did especially solid reporting on the Lake George Ethan Allen tragedy. The paper gets competition from the alternately interesting and weird weekly the Chronicle, whose publisher’s personality comes through loud and clear, giving it kind of a bloggy voice. But the Chronicle is nowhere near as informative. It’s unfortunate to see the Post-Star moving in that direction. Edge, a crayon-font attempt to take ad share away from the excellent but shoestring real community newspaper Lake George Mirror, seems ill-advised at best, mercenary at worst, wasteful either way. If the Post-Star will be editorializing about how important the existence of newspapers is to our democracy, I hope it will then explain why it’s squandering diminishing resources to cannibalize a colleague.
This week’s Pulitzer Prize to the Glens Falls Post-Star is not sitting as comfortably as it should. At the risk of being called a sour grape (the P-S published my editorial cartoons for a few years until Editor Ken Tingley and I had a disagreement in 2002), I compared the juror lists from this year and last. Ken Tingley, who sits on the Post-Star editorial board, served as a Pulitzer juror this year (for editorial cartooning) and last year (for commentary). One of his co-jurors on last year’s panel was among the five jurors who awarded Mark Mahoney the prize for editorial writing this year.
Tingley recently told the paper, “When I was a judge last year, I came back and said to Mark, ‘We can play in this league. You can win this thing.’”
No one should diminish editorial page editor Mark Mahoney’s well-deserved honor. It’s just too bad that there was not a little more daylight between the award and Mr. Tingley.
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