Saturday, November 05, 2011

An ODd View Of Our Region . . .

"The greatest power of the mass media is the power to ignore. The worst thing about this power is that you may not even know you're using it." --Sam Smith 

A free people cannot wisely exercise their democratic voting rights without access to essential information on the issues which confront them.

Although several sources of information on local issues are available to Greater Utica, by far most people (including this blogger) depend on what is in the Observer-Dispatch to be aware of local issues and to form opinions on them.  Apart from its editorials, the OD strongly influences what people talk about each day, what is considered important or unimportant to them, and what they may or may not do, merely on the basis of what information the OD chooses to publish.  

As information's gatekeeper, a newspaper bears an enormous responsibility for what becomes local public policy.  A newspaper must wisely choose which issues to inform upon, present all sides of the issues to allow people to make up their own minds, and leave opinions to the editorial pages. This is a difficult job because reporters, editors, and publishers are people, too, and people's opinions color what issues they consider important and unimportant, and even what they perceive to be the "side" of an issue. Issues reported upon, and how they are reported, can shape, for better or worse, the public policy that comes out of local governmental bodies.  Policy on issues that are totally ignored by the press can be expected to be for the worse because it is usually uninformed. 
How well has the Observer-Dispatch carried out its responsibilities lately?  

The items below seem to reveal either an inability (perhaps through budget or personnel limitations) to properly cover certain issues, or an intent to advance particular policy outcomes, perhaps desired by those who may be socially connected with the newspaper's decision makers, by withholding information. You be the judge.

1) The lack of a story on the passage of Mr. Zecca's resolution on the Arterial as noted on this blog's last post.   (This would seem to violate the OD's own standard of separating what is important from what is unimportant, since it previously editorialized on the issue.)

2) The lack of a story on the New Hartford Town Library Board's meeting this past week, where the subject of discussion was either separating the Library from Town government and making it part of the New Hartford School District, or forming some sort of Regional library -- as if one is needed with the Utica library only 4-5 miles away.  (The OD was invited to attend this meeting but chose to stay away.)

3) The lack of a story on how New Hartford sewer users have been taxed more than is needed, "loaned" $1.5 million from their New Hartford Consolidated Sewer Fund to other town funds, and have yet to be paid back, as uncovered by a NYS audit and reported by New Hartford Online.

4) Publication of a guest editorial promoting the Utica Master Plan, but failing to publish an opposing perspective (even though one was sent by someone on the planning committee).

5) A general and fairly consistent failure to report on the activities of the Oneida County Legislature as opposed to what can be read in the Rome Sentinel. (Perhaps this explains why Oneida County's policies are often contrary to Utica's needs.)

Lack of resources? Intentional withholding? Whichever it is, the Observer-Dispatch needs to do a better job.  Look around . . . The results of poor public policy are palpable. 


Anonymous said...

The O-D is an embarrassment to the greater Utica area.It does not deserve being called a NEWSpaper. It is no wonder this area is in such a depressed condition when the only newspaper is nothing more than a daily Pennysaver.

Anonymous said...

The OD downplays a newspaper's traditional role as a "watchdog" of the public purse and political issues for two basic reasons. The first is most alarming as their internal polling and marketing shows that the public is not all that concerned. It seems as though our readers are more of the social/picture, isn't that cute type. Second, it costs more to hire true investigative reporters.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that we have no investigative journalism. The OD staff is beholden to the local political leaders and they drive the agenda and the narative. The OD willingly goes along and does not advance an alternative view. The result is that the public is largely uninformed on most major issues other than a sound bite here or there. There is no objective analysis. The OD also takes great pride in sabotaging certain people who may pose a threat to the status quo. It is too bad for this community that the advertisers and businesses allowed this to happen.

Strikeslip said...

I have to disagree with you a bit Anonymouses 2 & 3. I do not think that the public is unconcerned. Listening to the call-ins on the local talk shows, it seems quite the opposite. People are very concerned about what is going on around them.

While we do not seem to be getting the information that we need, the OD has some very good reporters who are capable of doing what has to be done. I have met several over the years that I hold in high regard.

I think the issue is more allocation of personnel to appropriate beats, what they are permitted to delve into, and what is allowed to wind up in print.

To me, the OD reflects the interests and political viewpoints of the elite who have run the region for the last 30 + years.

The OD cannot do its job properly if it is not a disinterested party.

Anonymous said...

OK Strike. I think we agree. There are one or two decent reporters at the OD. I didn't say great. Often, the good work they do is edited out of the published pieces.

Anonymous said...

here is your article, and it appears the resolution was white washed and will do nothing to stop the walls


UTICA – It didn’t have the strong language ini­tially envisioned, but the city’s Common Council has passed a resolution urging the state to consid­er the future of the North-South Arterial project.

Common Councilman James Zecca, D-2, initially proposed a resolution urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Trans­portation to immediately halt its current recon­struction plan for the North-South Arterial through West Utica.

But after several meet­ings, Zecca said it became clear the state is proceed­ing with the $62.5 million plan, which will include replacing the aging bridge over Columbia Street.

Instead, the council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday urging the state to put together a long-term plan for the rest of the Arterial after the current project is finished.

Zecca and other offi­cials and members of the community have been vocal in their desire to see a multi-way boulevard concept instead of the cur­rent high-speed Arterial.

He said the hopes are that the state will put together a plan address­ing parts of the Arterial not affected by the cur­rent project – such as the former Bossert Manufac­turing site in West Utica and several intersections with traffic lights – and said the council is “strongly leaning toward a multi-way boulevard concept.”

Zecca is running for an at-large council seat in Tuesday’s election. Frank Meola and incumbent Edward Bucciero and Frank Meola also will appear on the Democratic line, while Republicans Timothy Doyle and David Caruso are also running. Jerry Kraus, an incum­bent, is running on the Working Families line.

Strikeslip said...

I could not find this article, Anonymous, but if it is true, then Mr. Zecca, and the entire council, are guilty of Bait and Switch.

Anonymous said...

it is in print only in today's OD

Anonymous said...

"To me, the OD reflects the interests and political viewpoints of the elite who have run the region for the last 30 + years." I agree, absolutely, with one further observation. The OD publishes the viewpoints of the publisher. They are either blessed or damned by her highness when they are presented to her and each and ever one is sent to her, by her decree, for her nod. If she hates you or your politics, the OD follows likewise, and if you want to stay employed there, you had better agree with that foul princess or she will delight in giving you the
ax. I have watched this for too many years.

Anonymous said...

The OD is a disgrace, & an insult to journalists who care about the truth.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has worked at the OD knows of the Publisher's stamp of influence concerning what is covered or not and of editorial opinion.That is one major reason why good reporters and editors leave.