2003-08-01 / Columnists

From the

By Howard Schwach
From the Editor’s Desk By Howard Schwach

The media often gets a bum rap on the theory that the messenger caused the message, and that, if you kill the messenger, everything would be just fine.

At this point in history, the media is under attack from many sides. Some of the attacks, of course, are justified, others come with the territory. Still others come from those who do not agree with a paper’s point of view.

And, understand this, every paper has a point of view despite the journalistic creed that says that opinion has no place in a news story.

The prime example of a paper wearing its point of view on its sleeve is the venerated "Gray Lady," the New York Times.

That paper is unabashedly Liberal, having moved quickly to the left when the present publisher inherited the paper from his more conservative father (in this case, more conservative is a relative term).

Any paper that makes a hero out of a female gang leader who was forced to take over her boyfriend’s drug gang when he was sent to prison," has got to be considered to have hit the left end of the spectrum.

The majority of the local daily papers are liberal as well. The New York Post, which is glaringly conservative, is the exception.

Of course, the daily media says that it is not liberal. It says that it is only covering the day-to-day stories that need to be covered.

Take a look at Sunday’s Newsday comment pages, however, and you will see what I mean.

There were three major columns in that issue of the paper. I understand that we are talking about columns, about comment, but the slant of the comment continues in the news pages as well.

Charles Krauthammer wrote a column entitled, "Ushering In Peace." The pull quote from the column reads, "If nothing else, the American public is learning not to believe a word that falls from the lips of Donald Rumsfeld and his cohorts."

His point is that, if the American government fails to set up a coherent government in Iraq, the entire region will fall back into chaos.

Below Krauthammer’s column was one by the newspaper’s managing editor, Les Payne.

His point, made in a column entitled, "A One-Sided ‘Gunfight,’" is that the American government should be embarrassed to release the pictures of the two sons of Sassam Hussein, who were "murdered" by the government using a "tax-paid hit team."

"Such a one-sided gunfight has not been seen witnessed since the Chicago DA’s office shot its way into the Black Panther’s headquarters and killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark back in 1969," Payne writes. This from a man who once wrote in his column how he was warned of an impending bomb attack in Vietnam and walked away without warning the White soldiers in the bar, many of whom were killed in the attack.

The third column was written by a history teacher at Western Washington University, entitled "America’s Forgotten Slaves." The article speaks of the slavery of Native Americans before the American Revolutionary War.

When he writes of the fact that many Native Americans took part in the slave trade, he says, "Native peoples engaged in slaving for a variety of reasons. In exchange for captives, they received European trade goods. Many also hoped to forge closer relationships with the British. To refuse to become slave raiders, they risked becoming categorized as potential victims, with their enemies then filling the role as slavers."

Of course, the Native Americans only slaved because the devil (the Europeans) made them do it. No word here of the fact that the tribes had been slaving long before Columbus came to the new world.

The New York City dailies, of course, make a point out of saying that they are fair and balanced in their reporting and outlook, and that the only one-sided media exists on television and radio talk shows, uniformly conservative in nature.

Of course, like anything else, whether The Wave is perceived by our readers as being "fair and balanced," depends on whose ox is being gored.

City Councilman Joe Addabbo’s staff barely speaks with Wave staff any longer after a series of stories and editorials attacking him for not doing the right thing about the beach and boardwalk access rules.

After I wrote in this space that Greg Meeks did not belong in Congress, he took out a full-age ad to angrily refute what I had said.

Just today, I took a telephone call from an old friend who took me to task for not having any reminiscences from Arverne in the special 110th Anniversary issue. When I pointed out to her that nobody submitted Arverne reminiscences for publication, she said that she did not know that we were looking for such a thing, despite the fact that we asked for submissions in several issues in a row earlier in the year.

Whenever we do a crime story that took place in the east end of the peninsula, we are accused of being racist, doing stories only about "Black crime."

When we prominently featured the story about the assault on some Catholic girls by boys from an Orthodox Yeshiva, we were accused of being anti-Semitic.

When we do a plethora of crime stories, we are accused of being anti-community. When we don’t cover crime stories, we are accused of covering up crime in Rockaway.

That, however, is the way of this business. You can’t please anybody, and you shouldn’t try.

What we try to do is address the entire community in a fair and balanced way.

Sometimes, however, that goal is elusive. Often, information on a story that we know about or heard about is unavailable to us. Information is withheld by agencies, by individuals, by civic groups.

Without information, the stories fade.

And then, we get complaints about covering up stories, about being unfair to one group or another, to one section of the peninsula or another, to one race or another.

For example, there were two violent deaths of Breezy Point residents recently. One man was killed in an automobile accident, and a young man was killed when he fell off an overpass nearby Hershey Park in Pennsylvania while watching a rock concert. We did not cover either of those stories because the families involved were not forthcoming with information and everything we had was "unofficial," and therefore, from a journalistic point of view, unusable. The families did not want us printing the stories in a local paper, and we were stonewalled.

Journalistic bias exists. Everybody has a point of view and that point of view sometimes peeks into a news story, especially if one side or the other in a controversy refuses to speak out publicly.

It will always be that way, but moving into our 111th year, we pledge to do our best to keep the community informed.

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