Follow Roosevelt Islander On:

Facebook

And

Twitter

Friday, January 14, 2011

Old Roosevelt Island Print Media Attacks New Media Roosevelt Island Blog And Distorts Story On RIRA Censorship Motion - Does Email Count As Letter To The Editor?

Image of Printing Press From Compass Rose via Library Of Congress

 Roosevelt Island's local newspaper, the Main Street WIRE, reappears after more than a month's absence this weekend with an article (sorry, only a PDF File of the January 15 issue of the entire paper is available online) involving this blog which is full of material omissions, inacuracies and distortions.The WIRE article concerns the recent Roosevelt Island Resident's Association (RIRA) resolution, reported earlier here, censoring RIRA Committe Reports from being made available to the Roosevelt Island community at the same time that they are presented to the full RIRA Common Council, as has been the practice for almost the last two years, unless a 2/3 majority vote of that committee permit the Report to be made public.

Briefly, here is how the whole mess got started.
  • I received the January 2011 RIRA Common Council Package, including Agenda and Committee Reports from RIRA President Matt Katz and then published them. I have been receiving and publishing these materials for almost two years without any objections. 
  • RIRA Delegate Joyce Mincheff and then Matt Katz asked me to delete the Public Safety Committee Report from Blog. I refused for reasons stated below.
  • Public Safety Committee Chief Keith Guerra asked me to remove paragraph about Officer. Instead I offered to redact name. I believed him to be satisfied with my response.
  • At Ms. Mincheff's request, RIRA Passes Censorship Resolution by a vote of 17-12 failing to distinguish between Committee Reports, Work Product and Preliminary Minutes.
  • Publish Housing Committee Report And RIRA Southtown RIRA Representative's response.
  • Main Street WIRE publishes (PDF File) misleading report on incident.
Earlier this morning, after reading the WIRE's description of the events leading up to the RIRA censorship resolution, I sent the following email message to the WIRE's editor:

I just read your January 15 WIRE article on the RIRA Censorship resolution and quite frankly I am saddened and disappointed with your lack of balance, blatant partiality and disregard of significant facts known to you.

Your failure to state in this so-called "news article" the fact that what I published were final RIRA Committee Reports from both the Public Safety and Housing Committee Chairs submitted to the RIRA Common Council in the ordinary course of their procedures and not what you label as 'working papers" or "minutes" (page 1 para 3) makes a mockery of your editorial claims in the same issue as holding some sort of exclusive "responsibility" and "good-sense judgment" in Roosevelt Island reporting for your newspaper and you as a "seasoned professional".

Your failure to include the below statement from Ms. Mincheff, which you had a copy of, thanking me for the way in which I handled the Public Safety information demonstrates the intent of this article, together with your editorial, was really designed to be a personal attack against me as a competitive news outlet on Roosevelt Island
If he's okay with redacting his name- it works for me. Keep in mind, there may be responses you've received that mention his name as well.


Thanks for dealing with the problem in a humane manner.


Joyce
You also failed to mention that the Public Safety and Housing Committee reports were provided to me by RIRA President Matt Katz and that the Public Safety Committee Chair Erin Feely-Nahem told me that she had no problem with my publishing the material. She did have a problem that Matt Katz failed to forward a subsequent report that provided additional context to the published Public Safety Report which had it been sent, I would have added to the post. Did you not think that was an important part of the story or did it not fit into your personal agenda of attacking me?

You asked me to comment on this situation and I provided a full response expecting you to be fair and accurate. By failing to correctly represent my side of this story, you have badly misinformed the Roosevelt Island community.

Also, the condescending tone of your article and editorial, including these remarks:
... The technologies of the 21st century have put those megaphones into inexperienced and irresponsible hands. It’s no longer a news organization’s community of professionals making a disciplined, careful decision about what gets re- peated by publication. Now, it can be just one person, answerable only to himself, free of traditional constraints, with no particular responsibility to standards of right and reason...
is self serving and just plain wrong. I may not be a member of what you consider to be the journalism profession but will put the Roosevelt Islander Blog's news judgement and ethics besides the WIRE's any day of the week and come out ahead. I strive to be fair, accurate and provide as many different sides of a story that exist without claiming my own personal opinion to be a fact. When I do give my personal opinion it is stated to be so and not disguised as fact as you have done in this article in an attempt to discredit your competition in the world of Roosevelt Island news and information. I believe you have only hurt yourself and the WIRE.

Again, I am very disappointed that you have chosen this path.
The Editor's response to me was to write a letter to the editor - which I thought I just did - unless the WIRE editor meant for me to send an actual physical letter in an envelope with a stamp through the mail and that an email message somehow does not count.

Here's how the latest in the ongoing saga of the Roosevelt Island media wars began. Earlier in the week, the WIRE Editor contacted me and asked if I wanted to comment on the RIRA resolution restricting media access. I asked the WIRE Editor:
Are there specific questions or charges involving me or are you looking  for general policy comment.
The WIRE Editor replied that I might want to respond to the charge that I was irresponsible in publishing the RIRA Report and a general policy comment as well.

I responded:
OK, I will have a full response for you tomorrow.

If you have not done so already, you may want to consider asking Vini Fortuna, Ava Dawson, Frank Farance and other members of RIRA who opposed this resolution for their views on subject.

FYI - In regard to redacting the Police Officer's name, I never refused to do that but, in fact, I suggested redacting the officer's name to Keith Guerra and he was satisfied with my offer. Ask Keith about that.  I did refuse to delete post from Roosevelt Islander Blog when asked to by Joyce Mincheff, Matt Katz and Chief Guerra.


RIRA Common Council Packages have been sent to me and posted on the blog prior to RIRA Monthly Meetings many times before without any objection. To be clear, none of the material sent to me or posted was "work product" or "preliminary minutes" but were the RIRA Committee reports submitted to the Common Council in the regular course of RIRA business and similar Committee Reports have been posted many times in the past.


Below are two emails I sent to Joyce Mincheff and Matt Katz on January 5 in response to their emails asking me to remove the post of the RIRA Common Council  Package sent to me by Matt. You have my permission to print these emails in full if you wish. First
Joyce & Matt,

I understand your concern but this is news obtained lawfully and is not defamatory towards anyone.

I do not intend on deleting the material.

I think there has been much criticism in the past of RIOC's lack of transparency and keeping information from the public. I don't think it is wise for the Roosevelt Island Residents Association to follow down that path which seems to be the suggestion. It is the right thing to do for RIRA Committee reports to be made available to the public and not just for the select few in the know.

If anyone feels that Officer {Name Redacted} has been unfairly criticized, the solution is not to delete information but rather to add more information explaining why the criticism is wrong or incomplete which I am always willing to do.

I am happy to discuss this with any of you further if you wish.

Regards,

Rick

and second:

Joyce

I just got off the phone with Keith Guerra and I think he is satisfied with my redacting the officer's name but leaving the rest of the post. I also told Keith that I am happy to post additional information that counters the view expressed about the Officer.

I am not going to delete the post.

Rick

Joyce responded later that same day.

If he's okay with redacting his name- it works for me. Keep in mind, there may be responses you've received that mention his name as well.

Thanks for dealing with the problem in a humane manner.

Joyce

Dick, If you wish to print Joyce's response, you should ask her permission to do so. I will have a chronological statement of the events for you tomorrow. I think that the above emails I am sharing with you provide the context for what occurred.

Also, Erin Feely-Nahem who wrote the Public Safety Committee report told me that she had no problem with my publishing the report. In addition to the Public Safety Report controversy, some RIRA members were embarrassed by the contents of the Housing Committee report submitted and want to prevent similar embarrassments from occurring again by prohibiting the distribution of these reports.

I am happy to respond to any specific follow up questions you may have.

The next day, I sent these comments to the WIRE Editor most of which were ignored and left out of the article.
Since April, 2009, the Roosevelt Islander Blog has been regularly publishing the RIRA monthly meeting Agenda and those Committee Reports provided by RIRA representatives, unedited and in their entirety, without any objections.  In fact, the material was made available with RIRA official's approval and encouragement.

Last week, continuing such practice, RIRA President Matt Katz provided me with the Agenda and Committee Reports for the January 2011 RIRA Common Council Meeting, which the Roosevelt Islander Blog published in full in the ordinary course, as was customary. The next day, I received an email message from Joyce Mincheff and Matt Katz, requesting that I remove from the Blog, the post which contained RIRA’s Public Safety Committee report about the NYPD officer assigned to Roosevelt Island because of certain critical comments made about the officer in the Committee Report.
I declined such request to remove this post, for the following reasons which were provided to Ms. Mincheff and Mr. Katz in an email:
“I understand your concern but this is news obtained lawfully and is not defamatory towards anyone.

I do not intend on deleting the material.

I think there has been much criticism in the past of RIOC's lack of transparency and keeping information from the public. I don't think it is wise for the Roosevelt Island Residents Association to follow down that path which seems to be the suggestion. It is the right thing to do for RIRA Committee reports to be made available to the public and not just for the select few in the know.

If anyone feels that {Name Redacted} has been unfairly criticized, the solution is not to delete information but rather to add more information explaining why the criticism is wrong or incomplete which I am always willing to do.

I am happy to discuss this with any of you further if you wish.”

Later that day, Public Safety Director, Keith Guerra, called me and also requested that the post be removed. He explained that criticism of the NYPD officer would make it difficult for the officer to do his job effectively, and that if the officer was removed from Roosevelt Island by his superiors, another officer probably would not be assigned to Roosevelt Island. I told Mr. Guerra that I would not remove the post for the reasons stated above but offered to redact the officer's name from the post. Mr. Guerra understood the reasons why I would not remove the post, and was satisfied with my redacting the officer's name.

The information published on the Roosevelt Islander Blog, which some RIRA members are now objecting to, was contained within formal RIRA Committee reports submitted by such Committees to the RIRA Common Council in the ordinary course of their business. These Committee reports were not "work product", " preliminary notes" or "unofficial minutes".

RIRA should not be preventing the Roosevelt Island public from reading the same Committee reports that are available to the Common Council Delegates which represent them.  These Common Council Delegates were elected to serve all Roosevelt Island residents, in a responsible and transparent manner, not behind an opaque and arbitrary wall preventing the free exchange of information to the public.

The effort by a majority of RIRA members to censor these Committee reports is an attempt to prevent individual members and the Council itself from being embarrassed or looking foolish. In my opinion, that is not a reason to censor information from the Roosevelt Island public."
After I read the WIRE article this morning, I called Roosevelt Island Public Safety Director Keith Guerra to inquire if I misrepresented his position. Mr. Guerra replied that he did not say he was "satisfied" with my redacting the officer's name but that he was "OK" with it. To my mind, there is not much difference between being "satisfied" and "OK". Mr. Guerra did repeat that he would have preferred the entire paragraph concerning the officer be removed but fully understood my position of reporting a news story.

In my opinion, it's too bad the WIRE Editor, in this case and for his own particular reasons, does not understand the difference between a news story and a hatchet job. The WIRE Editor is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts!!!!!!

18 comments :

michelle baker said...

I commend the time and energy Rick puts into creating a blog for roosevelt island. It is accurate, unbiased, covers all issues big and small, and has the most helpful links and resources for anyone living here on RI. Instead of being attacked, he should be given the "roosevelt island citizen of the year" award! Keep typing , Rick !!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michelle! Rick's blog is the go-to news source for RI news! It's clear and well-written and covers the entire range of island news as well as offering an open forum for every point of view.

Dick states that islanders who disclose inconvenient truths about law enforcement or social policy should be stifled and considered "insane". This sort of thing - name-calling on a childish level - is indicative of desperation on Dick's part. In smearing his competitor, the blog, he also smears *all* concerned people on RI who may wish to express their opinion about the reality of living conditions on RI. And there are *many* of us that believe our and our family's lives on RI are far from perfect!

Dick has truly become a sad old man.

Anonymous said...

This is sad to read- the Wire Editor, Dick Lutz going after the Roosevelt Island Blogger.

I just saw the front page of the Wire and just shook my head..

I have lived on Roosevelt Island for 28.5 years and I don't even read "The Wire" anymore- I just scan it, as there is nothing much in most issues.

I have come to rely on Rick's great reporting of ALL Events and issues regarding this Island-Community, he does an outstanding, comprehenshive, unbiased job..

Dick Lutz, for me -does NOT.

We cannot let RIRA, The Wire, or any other body on this silence try to dampen the intensive, comprehensive-Transparent reporting that the Roosevelt Island Blogger- Rick tries to do.

JMS
WV-28.5 years.

Don't give up Rick, you have lots of supporters in this community!

George said...

I agree with the posters above. This blog is the only real news source this island has. The WIRE is a joke and the only reason why I open it is because of the letters to the editor. They are quite amusing. The rest is just advertisement more or less.

Rick, keep on blogging. You did not do anything wrong. I will keep reading you.

ROOSEVELT ISLANDER said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. They are greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

The Wire is a RAG - - controlled by a bunch of public housing malcontents.

Roosevelt Islander is the only source for real time facts and information concerning the island.

The island needs you Rick - - keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one concerned that this attack on Rick in the WIRE was a "news" article and not just an editorial or op-ed piece? Talk about "professional" journalism.

ROOSEVELT ISLANDER said...

Strange that the Wire's professional journalist did not include the name of the Roosevelt Islander blog in the WIRE's so called "news article" criticizing the blog's content.

I wonder why?

David Kraut said...

Years ago when I was president of RIRA I pulled us into executive session one night because we had to discuss a personnel matter. Jim Bowser was editor of the WIRE at that time and he gave us holy hell for it in print. I don't recall his exact words but the gist of it was that a citizens' association had no reason in the world to be conducting any of its business in secret.

Boy has the WIRE changed.

And boy has the "old pro" journalist betrayed the most fundamental tenets of his profession. A newspaper that supports the notion of censorship of any kind, ever, is no damned newspaper at all.

Note, I understand why the editor did it. He feels hurt that the RIOC president allows her President's Column to be published here as well as in the WIRE. But that is hardly sufficient reason to overthrow the basic principles of good journalism.

He shouldna done it.

Anonymous said...

I'm through with the WIRE at this point. Far from an impartial observer, that publication has revealed itself to be in bed with an institution it reports on.

The tone of the series of articles and op-eds (none of which were adequately labeled to distinguish between news reporting and editorializing) was catty and immature.

I much prefer this blog for information about the Island, and will continue to come here for news I feel I can trust.

As a side note, while the WIRE accepts advertising as a means to raise revenue and support its publication, Roosevelt Islander has no ads. Rick is providing a service to the community and asking for nothing in return, except the respect his high-quality work deserves.

ROOSEVELT ISLANDER said...

To 1:28 - I have accepted ads in the past and have no objection to doing so in the future.

I don't think acceptance of ads detracts from the level of service or information and news provided by the blog.

I hope that plans for future advertising would provide greater service and benefits to readers.

Anonymous said...

Not saying that accepting ads would be detrimental to the content of the blog at all (and I agree that it could be very beneficial). I think the fact that you still run the blog without even when there are no ads speaks to your commitment to the project.

Ava Dawson said...

I wish that Dick had reached out to the Communications Committee on this issue when writing this article. However, he made no attempt to contact me, despite prior conversations in the past about similar issues.

Anonymous said...

Rick,
I love your blog and your professional style. While I do feel that the RIRA President should have been more careful in what he gave you, I also think you should have redacted those minutes, once he figured out that they were not the right ones. I'm sure you could have replaced them with the correct ones.

As for Dick, he's jealous of the fact that you are now the "go to" source for news. The WIRE is an outdated periodical with the same old stuff in it each edition. It is directly tied to RIRA and does not give all sides to a story as you do.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I made the effort to read the WIRE back to back today. In the future I will go back to the letters to the editor only. The editorial was so bad.... a reference to FOX news. Etc. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that the WIRE's editor has no bad feelings for the RIRA to vote for restricting the release of reports etc. He blames everything squarely on this blog and none whatsoever on the RIRA. What newspaper would even have sympathy for censorship? This is bizarre. Is the WIRE a one-man kind of thing? Everything seem to come from Dick Lutz.

As my kids would say: "This blog rules... the WIRE drools."

Anonymous said...

rira was upset that the radical views of some of their members finally got out in print. Anyone that has ever attended these rira meetings knows that those reports are not unusual opinions of one individual. Its the agenda of the old guard and thats why the President who read it sought it fit to give to the blog to publish. Only after realizing that people were angry did rira backtrack and say that wasnt the full report.

The wire is angry because its not calling the shots and cant censor riras real views. The good thing is most of the island doesnt feel this way because we are too busy going to work and living our life.

Anonymous said...

The Wire should print those "embarrassing" reports in full - just like the blog did. Then let the residents of RI decide if the reports represent their views or not, especially about PSD. It's clear the Wire cannot do this as it's just a megaphone for the real estate moguls, paid to uphold the squeaky-clean, Disneyfied image of RI the moguls want to project. It lacks independence, credibility, and judgment. By contrast, the blog prints everything and lets the reader decide.

Anonymous said...

As I said in another post...
The WIRE is good for two things: my puppy training and the bottom of my birdcage.