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Don’t Believe “The Villager’s” Gossip Column

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We were amused by this gem in “The Villager’s” gossip column:

Don’t believe the blog hype? A Lower East
Side blog charged that representatives of the Mayor’s Office recently
“ducked out” of a Community Board 3 task force meeting on the
development of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area’s remaining
development sites. However, David McWater, the task force’s
chairperson, blasted the report as false. “Nobody ducked out of
anything,” McWater scoffed in an e-mail to us. “I had the flu and gave
them the courtesy of knowing it so they wouldn’t show up and have SPURA
not discussed. They all work 9 to 5, and it’s not cool to have them
going to meetings for nothing.”

Hmmmm! Where to begin? Let’s start with the facts. We didn’t charge anyone with anything. Our story (see it here) recounted in some detail exactly what we witnessed first-hand at last month’s community board meeting. To summarize, CB3 Chair Dominic Pisciotta announced that the Economic Development Corporation (not the mayor’s office, BTW) had canceled its planned presentation. While he also said it would not be appropriate to discuss SPURA without committee chair McWater, he certainly did not indicate that anyone at the community board had played a role in the EDC’s cancellation.

In fact, he assured a sizable group of residents outraged about the last minute change of plans, that he would discuss the situation with the EDC. “This happens every
once in awhile in a lot of other committees,” he said, “where things have to be pulled off
the agenda at the last minute. I will definitely be trying to talk to them more
about this.” Another community board member, Harvey Epstein, suggested writing a letter
to the EDC saying that it’s “not really appropriate, after we advertise a
public meeting, a day before to say you can’t attend.” So, while McWater may have initiated the cancellation, his colleagues on the board apparently weren’t aware of it.

Bottom line: “The Villager’s” on very shaky ground here. Having not bothered to attend the meeting themselves, they email a guy who wasn’t even present, for “the scoop.” While we’re flattered that the editors at the West-Side centric weekly are reading The Lo-Down, we wonder whether this anonymous tidbit is “The Villager’s” idea of objective, thorough reporting.

We have made a commitment to covering Community Board 3’s meetings (8 of them every month). “The Villager” says on its masthead they serve the “West and East Village, Chelsea, SoHo, NoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown and the Lower East Side.” But since we rarely, if ever, see their reporters on the East Side, we can only conclude our neighborhood isn’t much of a priority for “The Villager” and its sister publication “The Downtown Express.”

To be fair, they did send a reporter to last night’s town hall meeting on public housing at the Grand Street Settlement. I know this because a “Villager” reporter came over to me, asking for our photos of the event.

Nice try, guys.

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  1. “”The Villager’s” idea of objective, thorough reporting”
    Ha-ha. Don’t make us laugh. All the Villager seems to care about is picayune events in the Far West Village or junkies/anarchists/degenerates/loonies in Tompkins Square Park.
    The editor should expand his parochial view. The other neighborhoods are rarely mentioned indeed.
    Fact checking is an unknown commodity. I could go on all morning how many errors they jump to conclusion on.

  2. I was at the meeting. Your report was fair and unbiased.
    As a member of the committee, I was unpleasantly surprised to see a bunch of loud protesters show up for a topic which has up until now been discussed in a respectful manner among members of the committee who represent quite a diverse set of viewpoints.

  3. Seems like Lo Down is a bit touchy on this one for some reason. The Villager followed up Lo Down’s report by calling CB 3 and was told to reach out to David McWater about what exactly happened, and why the city officials “backed out of the meeting at the last minute,” as Lo Down reports. The Villager reported what McWater had to say. Not sure what all the fuss is about, but this seems to be a case of “shooting the messenger.” Our additional reporting adds something to the story — no? — perhaps even a level of intrigue as to what really happened. Why is is wrong to make that information public? Isn’t that our job?

  4. I’m all for “adding something to the story.” However, in questioning “blog hype” and saying we were “making charges,” you suggest that our story was something less than factual and objective. We simply reported what was said at the meeting by the chairman of CB3. Is McWater’s explanation relevant? Absolutely. But this brief item offers no context, completely ignores what occurred at the meeting and leaves your readers with a false impression of what occurred. We were simply setting the record straight.

  5. Certainly, you had a more in-depth article, which was great. Our item was by nature shorter, so it didn’t have all the context of your article. You are right that the words “hype” and “charge” might have been a bit strong, thought it was actually written with question mark, as in “hype?” The Scoopy’s column is a little looser, sometimes tongue in cheek, though Seward Park is a serious issue, for certain. In short, we didn’t do a full-bore investigative report on what all the machinations were for why EDC didn’t show up. This wasn’t an item we were putting all our resources into at that particular time, as like any news organization, we have limited resources and must pick and choose what to cover each week, we only have so many staff members. But we called CB 3 and were told to call David McWater about why EDC had “backed out” of the meeting as Lo Down stated. We printed his response. Did we give readers a “false impression” (your words) to report that McWater told us he had told EDC not to come? Or was that perhaps the “truth?” No, you are right, we did not report on all the outrage voiced at the meeting — you did a good job reporting that. But did we give a “false impression?” No. We just reported a different, albeit small, part of the story. That is my take, at least.

  6. Ah, Lincoln. The title of your Scoopy piece gives away who’s touchy: “Don’t believe the blog hype?” And each of the three verbs you chose are hyped: “charged,” “blasted” and “scoffed.” Fighting words. Granted it’s just the gossip column, but would you have written it of a fellow newspaper?
    Dismissal of bloggery is as old-fashioned now as print-only journalism. Just read a few of the better EV blogs to get a sense of their quality research and reporting on what’s happening and what the local voices have to say.
    More troubling, you missed completely the real story here: that when David calls in sick, the community board puts discussion with the community on hold. Did you ask David what he thought about that? What did he say?
    I don’t blame McWater — it’s his committee; a committee chair shouldn’t want to let important matters proceed without him. And I can’t blame the City for canceling — who else should they listen to if not the committee chair who, I assume, invited them?
    But the board and the committee should not be so dependent on one person (see the Lo-Down’s coverage of funding priorities, Nov. 2). I mean, he’s smart, efficient and effective, but surely not the only capable person there. And he is, after all, one voice among many.
    For my part, I’m impressed with the Lo-Down. I like its fresh, keen eyes. I don’t see any hype. Just responsible, dedicated journalism.

  7. Lincoln,
    I think we have all had our say on this topic. We see things a bit differently. Fair enough. The Villager has been dedicated to covering community news for many decades, and I have a huge amount of respect for that.

  8. Thanks for the kind words, Rob. The neighborhood blogs, including your own, that were at it long before The Lo-Down came along, have set a high standard. As newbies, we’ve learned a ton from all of them.

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