By Gary Tilzer
In 2009, Village Voice reporter Tom Robbins wrote about the important role that strong newspaper business historically played in running the city. “When NYC enjoyed fat daily newspapers, (NYC had over a dozen in the 1950’s) editors clamored for a strong, tough copy to fill them. Whenever one broke a scandal, the others scrambled after the story. Local TV news, which at that time got its morning bearings from the dailies, gleefully joined the hunt as well. This happy combination produced many full-strength competitive news pile-on and visible shivers in City Hall. Mass coverage on issues by the newspaper does not exist today, Robbins said. Educating the public about important issues, were our eyes of what the government was really doing. A few years later Robbins said smaller, weaker, and fewer newspapers caused by the internet taking advertising revenues away from the papers, left a news hole, issues and campaigns not being covered. The media has stopped the tradition started by journalist John Peter Zenger in 1734 when he was arrested for telling New Yorkers what the Colonial Governor William Cosby government was doing to them.
Today’s newspapers and TV news outlets cut their staff, closed newsrooms, and hired young inexperienced reporters to save money. Cuts in the workforce and experience means investigative reporting with streetwise knowledge have been replaced by reporters using press releases as their news source. Press releases are written by consultants for elected officials, candidates for office, government agencies to make them look good. Media organizations that only cover news that fit their political narrative, have not only limited news coverage further, they are destroying journalism with a new type of McCarthyism. Sadly, there is no Edward R. Murrow to expose this political cancer that has made our broken media even worse.
Gone are opinionated street-smart reporters who understood and explained politics to the city’s newspaper readers. Journalists who were not afraid to call out politicians by name, and expose their corruption, like Jack Newfield, Wayne Barrett, Pete Hamill, Andy Cooper, Juan González, and Jimmy Breslin are all gone. Reporters are now hired for their ability to rewrite copy or look and speak good on TV. In other words, today’s reporters are more actors and stenographers who write news stories and read scripts based on press releases. They have no institutional memory that city journalists of the past had. The new reporters are not connected to the city’s neighborhoods and in love with them like Pete Hamill was with the old working-class Park Slope or Jimmy Breslin the guy from Queens. “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.” – Gabe Pressman.
These same public relations consultants whose press releases have replaced real news in today’s media, run campaigns, and create poll driven manufactured issues positions, for their client political candidates to put in flyers or video commercials, to win votes. Lobbyist Hank Sheinkopf who ran too many campaigns in his day, told the late Village Voice reporter Wayne Barrett that lobbyists “Elect Kings so They Can Eat the King’s Meat,” pay to play in slang. Very little has been written about the danger of replacing investigating reporting and real news with press release copy on our government and election system.
Broken Journalism has Broken the NY Election System and Government
The weakened newspaper only covers the made-up spins or hits on opponents written by consultants being paid to win campaigns if they cover election races at all. In an interview on NY1 congressional candidate de Blasio said we need a new approach to gun safety, Errol Lewis did not ask him in a ten-minute interview how his mayoral campaign promise in 2013 of a new approach to homelessness, affordable housing and fixing bad schools, went. With almost all the other candidates the public is in the dark about what those running for office really believe, who they are, and are clueless on what special interests behind the candidates they vote for. Uncertainty on who to vote for, and lack of coverage on opposing candidates by the media (Albanese vs de Blasio, 2017), has driven voter participation to record lows during the last two decades as the newspapers weakened allowing special interest lobbyists to take control of campaigns and government. Public understands that the special interests control NY elections, that their vote has become meaningless. Albany one-party bandits did not stop with unconstitutional redistricting to protect incumbents, they also helped lower the turnout numbers, by suppressing two million registered voters. Non-democrats are blocked from voting in the democratic primary that elected 95% of NY elected officials.
The Failed Newspaper Business Has Caused Insiders & Left-Wingers to Gain More Control of NY’s Government
AOC has created The Courage to Change Politico Action Committee (PAC) that has hooked up with dozens of progressive PACs and other left-wing political issue-oriented nonprofits to help progressive left-wing candidates win. Only The Jewish Voice investigated how AOC’s machine won a large number of races last year, “AOC & the Progressives’ Interlocking Directorates are the New Bosses of Brooklyn & the 2022 City Council.”
Paul Starr, the distinguished Princeton scholar, maintains that the failure of the newspaper business has fragmented the public’s understanding of politics and government. Star believes that strong newspapers of the past, provided the public a powerful means of leverage over politicians and the state, and that this leverage is now gone. If the newspapers are considered as the fourth branch of government, the end of the age of newspapers implies a change in our political system itself, where insiders and left-wing activists will gain more control.
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the Working Families Party (WFP) are left-wing political parties that back candidates that want to defund the police and push other socialists liberal policies. The members they have elected have no small business experience or not a clue how NYC’s economic engine works. The same engine that pays for their social programs. Since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) won in 2018, DSA together with AOC are increasingly winning campaigns in districts that want more police on the streets and oppose defunding the police. AOC and DSA win because they run better campaigns and the media does not cover the radical candidates’ position in the local elections.
WFP, de Blasio, and AOC have built left-wing political machines that pull out progressive voters, electing dozens of candidates, including Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams and Tiffany Cabán. The de Blasio/WFP machine is powered by pay to play shadow government lobbyists like Berlin Rosen, Advance Group and Red Horse, that work for developers or other special interests looking for favors from City Hall and Albany. The WFP, de Blasio and many of the lobbyists were investigated more than once for corruption, but they were never indicted. In 2010, NY lobbyists pulled in $49.3 million, that amount grew to $113.2 million in 2020, as de Blasio and the WFP built their left-wing party using shadow government lobbyists who double as campaign consultants. The Pew Research Center reports that failure of newspaper business depresses average citizens’ engagement in state and local politics, leading to left wing activists dominating increasing political power beyond their numbers. The NY media never mentions the name of the lobbyists, even when they are reading their press releases. We know elected office serves as a farm team for future lobbyists, sadly today’s low paying reporters are also leaving the profession to become lobbyists or public relations consultants. Many of today’s reporters do not go after politicians, never name consultants because they are looking for higher paid jobs that lobbyists pay their workers.
Because of lack of media attention, these lobbyists get away with working on both sides of important city issues. Lobbyist Red Horse Strategies helped elect the mayor win, at the same time many of the legislative candidates they elect are blocking Adams’ crime fighting bail reforms in Albany. Red Horse worked to elect Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou who fiercely opposed any changes to the bail law. Yuh-Lin even tweeted out an anti-cop post comparing NYPD to Nazis, during the funeral for slain NYPD Officer Jason Rivera.
Lobbyist Berlin Rosen worked for left-wing progressives like de Blasio, Comptroller Lander, and Public Advocate Williams, at the same time they worked for gentrifying developers pushing the poor and minorities out of their neighborhoods, destroying affordable housing and low rents. The Project for Excellence in Journalism from the Pew Research Center states the decline in newspapers in the last two decades, means that more politics will occur in shadows which will create more government corruption and hypocrisy (talking out of both sides of their mouths) from elected officials and the powers behind them. The AOC candidates are even supported by a Jewish left-wing PAC called “The Jewish Vote” to help the progressives win office. They describe themselves as follows:
The Jewish Vote is a home for New York Jews seeking to secure a pluralistic city that works for all of us through the power of the Jewish vote. We are intellectuals, day school kids, bubbes, queers, geeks, resistance moms, carpenters, bartenders, lawyers, nurses, farmers — deeply rooted cosmopolitans and proud members of the diaspora. We are Black and Brown, Latino/a/x and Asian, Mizrahi, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, immigrant and US-born.
The media has ignored political groups like The Jewish Vote and how DSA, WFP and AOC are able to raise millions to elect and influence almost a majority of the members of the City Council, the City Comptroller, the Brooklyn Borough President, and possibly a majority of the Brooklyn District Leaders this year. The candidates they have already elected in Albany are the heart of the opposition to any bail reform.
The Clueless Media Spin Coverage of Crime Fighting in Albany is Delusional and Ignores the Real Politics That Blocks Bail Reform
On June 4th Politico wrote: “Albany to Adams: You can’t always get what you want.” Politico wrote Adams high-profile losses in Albany were sealed by unrealistic expectations and outreach from the mayor. Adams, with his eight years’ experience in that very legislative body, was supposed to know better. Politico reported that the mayor left without two of his biggest asks: The Legislature declined to alter the law to give judges more discretion to set bail and to give the new mayor control of the city’s schools for four years. Michael Gianaris, the deputy majority leader of the State Senate, who was in charge of Albany’s unconstitutional redistricting attempt to protect incumbents, complained that Mr. Adams did not work closely enough with state lawmakers who represent the city. Can you imagine what Jimmy Breslin would do to Gianaris if he were able to write a column about his attempts to steal NY’s democracy by creating unconstitutional districts to help Albany incumbents win easier?
Politico was used by Albany leaders to spin blaming Adams, who did not want to take on the progressives to change the bail laws. Albany leaders created a made-up spin copied by most of the media to blame Adam’s attitude for the lack of real bail reform. New Yorkers do not understand that the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. are afraid to oppose the progressives or the UFT in the schools, because keeping these leadership positions is most important to them. The Albany gang is so protected from blame for the rising crime rates by the media, that they can ignore the needs of the voters in their districts that are the victims of the rising crime rates and others who fear they will be the next one stabbed or shot. What Politico wrote about crime and the bail news was disinformation, whose was only successful because the voters have been dumb down by the media to notice.
Adams says that he feels that “some lawmakers are just not dealing in reality. Idealism can’t displace realism.” Adams also needs to say that the media not doing its job of informing the public about the broken politics behind keeping the bail law, is also not dealing with reality. Adams needs to get some buses and fill them with voters in progressive districts and pay Albany another visit.
Why was Senator Gianaris not asked by Politico in its “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” story or any other members of the Albany press core the following question? “How is Albany going to prevent another homeless man like Martial Simon who had a history of going in and out of jails and mental hospitals, from pushing another Michelle Go off the platform into an oncoming train?” Since Albany refused to give judges the power to use the “dangerousness” standard that every other state already has, to commit a sick man like Simon to a mental hospital before they kill someone.
It is puzzling why the Partnership and other big business leaders do not use their vast amounts of resources to put pressure on the media to force Gianaris and his Albany one-party gang to allow judges to use the dangerous standard to protect New Yorkers. Why didn’t the Partnership Kathryn Wylde or any member of the media ask Senator Gianaris, the terminator of the Long Island City Amazon Headquarters, why over 100,000 city residents left for Florida this year? Does Wylde believe that tourists and business workers will return to their offices, if NYC does not reduce crime? Only 8% of the city’s office workers have returned to Manhattan five days a week, over 19.5 billion of wealth has moved out of the city this year. What will it take for the Partnership and other business interests to understand that NYC’s elections system is broken and their failed attempts in the last two years to support moderate candidates has not worked? They have to fix NYC’s broken media to fix the city’s broken politics. If they don’t act now their members will relocate to other states, and those left will face the same sorry challenges that the poor citizens of Baltimore face every day.
Politico and the rest of the media, instead of playing who won or lost with the bail issues, and who ahead in campaign polls, needs to interview progressive members of the Assembly, State Senate, and candidates, and tell the voters what they stand for. The NY Daily News should ask the progressive elected officials what should be done with the mentally ill homeless who rom our streets and subway? If their answer is to hire more social workers and build more mental hospitals, ask them a Tim Russert rapid follow-up question. Like, to build more mental hospitals and provide more outreach programs, what city services do you want to cut to pay for them? If they say that higher taxes on the rich will pay for the increased mental health services. Ask them if they will tax the former NY taxpayers who have already moved to Florida or other states with their businesses.
UFT is Powerful Campaign Resource to Albany Incumbents and Runs Education Policy in the State Capital
On June 4th Politico also wrote: Albany gave the mayor a two-year extension of mayoral control of city schools — half of the four years Adams sought — while passing legislation mandating smaller class sizes that has raised alarm over costs (it’s another unfunded state mandate) with the city schools, claimed Schools Chancellor David Banks. The Chancellor said the $500 multibillion dollar unfunded mandate would force school leaders to shift resources away from programs such as dyslexia screenings, school nurses and summer programming. Politico left out the UFT was behind the delay in granting the mayor extension of his control of the schools. The UFT wanted to slow down Adams’ street fighter Chancellor Banks who is rocking the Tweed Court House with change, by creating strings in Albany to limit his ability to reform the Tweed Court House and the schools. The UFT, which spends millions to elect and reelect legislators in Albany, also wanted to keep their teachers and school aids employed in light of the 8% to 12% cut in public school enrollment. The UFT pushed Albany to cut class sizes without the funding to do it. Even the progressive City Council reacted to falling public school enrollment by cutting next year’s education budget by $250 million.
Flushing’s John Liu, Chair of the State Senate Education Committee, is the UFT leading attack dog in Albany. Besides pushing the lower-class size mandate, he tried to neuter SUNY and give the Board of Regents, where teachers union influence looms large, ultimate power on charter approval. Many of New York City’s best charter schools — which is to say, many of its very best public schools — were approved by the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, including: Achievement First, Harlem Village Academy, Icahn Charter Schools, KIPP schools, and Success Academies. Liu has not been asked by Politico or the media to explain why Charter Schools have higher reading and math scores while spending $16,000 for each student’s education, why do the regular public schools need $30,000 for each student, who does a poorer job?
Princeton Professor Starr maintains that NYC lost leadership with the dying of the newspaper business. He said that city newspapers used to set the public agenda, served as the focal point of controversy, incompetently run government, and credibly represented themselves as symbolizing speaking for the average New Yorker. The power to govern, which should be in the hands of New Yorkers and used to be in the hands of what the late reporter Jack Newfield called the city’s “permanent government,” is not anymore. Even the big business organization The Partnership does not have the power or understanding of how to defeat the progressives in Albany to control crime. Political power today is in the hands of the special interests gangs of New York, including left-wing progressives looking for their cut in the $105 billion-dollar city budget. Nobody is left in the city’s political class to look at how double-digit inflations and the coming recession that NY Magazine wrote about can sink the city’s already damaged economy? Katie bar the door.