Monday, March 24, 2008

How To Ensure You're An Also-Ran Paper In The Big Apple

New York Sun Makes Thud Instead of Splash Hyping Stories That Don't Deliver

I want to root for The New York Sun, really I do.
Its neo-con editorial page may be cretinous, but I'm all about having as many media voices in the city as possible. Besides, the arts coverage is often laudable, as is Paul Adams's trenchant observations on the restaurant scene. And the paper's shoestring of a sports section features some intriguing columnists, including basketball writer John Hollinger and Tom Perrotta on tennis.
So, even if it's a distant fourth in the newspaper wars -- assuming you believe the slim broadsheet is even in the skirmish -- you want it do well, or at least well enough to survive.
But the Sun does nothing to help its cause when it prints -- at disturbingly frequent intervals -- news that really isn't. In an effort to do more than parrot the other N.Y. papers, the Sun will lead with some kind of analysis or news feature. Good approach, but be careful what you wish for.
Friday's edition led with a story headlined "Albany Starts To Wonder At Paterson," which sought to keep alive the New York's newest governor's revelations days before about how he and his wife cheated on each other.

The story from Jacob Gershman led off:

Concern is growing in Albany over the prospect that, even as Governor Paterson races to get on top of the budget crisis, the disclosures of his private sexual affairs have damaged — perhaps irreparably — his capacity to execute the state's highest office.

Says who? Apparently, attribution's not a strong suit at the Sun, and we'll soon see why. Two grafs down is a quote from Baruch College political science professor Doug Muzzio about how Paterson's already damaged goods. Muzzio puts in an appearance later in the story.
But that's it.
Nowhere else is anyone quoted to back up the lead, let alone find someone in Albany, where concern is allegedly growing. Muzzio's office is on Manhattan's East Side.
Instead, Gershman -- a little too pleased with himself, but with the apparent blessing of his editors -- sounds more like a columnist than a reporter. To wit:

Mr. Paterson finds himself lumped together with two disgraced former state leaders, Eliot Spitzer and James McGreevey, as charter members of the "Governors Gone Wild" club.
Albany lawmakers are now questioning the political wisdom of his decision to hold a press conference on Tuesday, at which he invited the Albany press corps to quiz him on his sex life for half an hour.

It should be noted it was Gershman, who generated a scintilla of buzz, when he asked Paterson (watch clip) at his first news conference after being sworn in if he had ever patronized a prostitute.
So, it's not that he's clueless or connected. Gershman's been in and around Albany long enough to develop sources. And judging by other newspapers' blogs that quote him, he is read by his peers.
The answer is the Sun's limited resources mean it couldn't afford a Chinese wall between news and editorial. Which means it really can't be taken seriously as a news outlet except by those who are like-minded, in other words venemous Democrat-bashers.
That allows you to be a writer and not a reporter, thereby allowing you to quote a professor who just happens to agree with your preconceived notions.
And if you think it's just a matter of Gershman being lazy rather than having an agenda, then ask why he and his managing editor, Ira Stoll, penned a piece in neocon bible Commentary in November evaluating Spitzer's first term.
Which means that Paterson's peccadilloes are prime fodder for Gershman & Co. He may be smelling blood. But I smell something else emanating from articles like these.

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