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We’re Not Your Source

To the Editor:

Thank you for exposing the ever-righteous spin given by the Times Union, the local poster child of an allegedly liberal corporate media, to news reports out of Iraq. [“History in the Making,” Comment, March 3] I cringe, as you do, each time I read the TU’s headlines, systematically sugarcoated with pretense of democracy for easier digestion by a public craving for good news. I love this country, and it is painful to watch it being led blindly to the abyss by its own media.

As you note, one of the more sinister ways mainstream newspapers mislead their readers is by the stories not told. Ever wonder why the TU rarely reported on the four-year-long community opposition to a proposal by Besicorp to construct a giant newsprint manufacturing plant in Rensselaer? Could it be that it may benefit, due to its proximity to the plant, from lower-priced newsprint and from a higher price for its old newspaper sold as recyclables? If you can spell “conflict of interest,” here is one of the most undercovered local stories for your annual Project Censored.

There is, however, a more insidious way by which the local press controls our destiny, and that’s in its role as kingmaker, deciding who in the community is a leader, and who is not. Thus, a couple of years ago, a dozen community organizers in Rensselaer County reached out to County Executive Kathy Jimino, offering our help and expertise to create a task force that would address proactively issues of sprawl, historic preservation, environmental conservation, and economic development. We were frustrated and tired of fighting endlessly against unwanted development and wanted the county to develop and implement, in the spirit of the Smart Growth Communities legislation, a master plan that would establish growth boundaries, identify resources, and develop guidelines. Nothing radical about it; this was all under the guidance of legislation passed by Gov. Pataki.

We met with an aide to Jimino (she would not meet with us in person) and offered a 12-point plan. We never heard back from her. She knew we did not have enough political clout to make demands, and simply ignored us. Why? Because the mainstream press had never given us the recognition that would compel elected officials to invite us to the negotiation table in order to gain broad support, or else pay the price politically. Indeed, on the few occasions when the media chooses to acknowledge our existence, it refers to us as nimbys and greenies, naysayers with an anti- economic development agenda, belittling us to the eyes of the community, thus disqualifying us as reasonable parties with standing and expertise. Eventually, we become disillusioned, exhausted and broke, and are forced to drop out. Who gets invited to an editorial board or a governmental task force? Soft-spoken professors and polite heads of environmental organizations and lobbying groups whose acceptance depends on being noncritical, so-called experts who have never set foot in the community they claim to know so well, never written a flier and gone door to door, never spoken to locals or at town-board meetings.

In this case, no task force was ever created, and the Smart Growth legislation still has not been implemented in Rensselaer County. So if you wonder why sprawl continues to plague our communities, you may lay part of the blame on the editorial board of your local newspapers. Intuitively, we know we are being lied to. Still, it is not a futile exercise to reveal the opaque ways it is being played out, as you courageously did in your commentary. It reminds us that simply replacing our representatives, election after election, out of frustration, is only part of the solution. First, we need to replace those news media that disenfranchise the very community they profess to serve.

Eric Daillie

Rensselaer County Greens/Historic Action Network


One More for the Kitties

To the Editor:

I found Dr. Paul Barrows’ utopian response [“Look What the Cat Dragged In,” Letters, March 3] to Darryl McGrath’s sensitive and balanced article [“Go Forth, But Don’t Multiply,” Feb. 24] both deeply disturbing and extremely patronizing. If it was unfortunate enough to have his views aired originally, then to extend his tractarian doctrine for the complete letters section in last week’s edition was beyond the pale. Of course in a perfect world, cats (or any other animals) would not be abandoned by a well-informed public, but, hello! Wake up and smell the cat litter.

Dr. Barrows seeks to demonize these unfortunate creatures as “alien predators,” and even more so as “reservoirs” for disease and parasites. Continuing in this fine tradition of demonizing a helpless and unenfranchised population, they are free to be exploited at will. I find it deeply sinister that Dr. Barrows wishes to definitively “mark” this marginalized population and then declare a program of trapping, medical experiments, and “euthanising.” Sound familiar? Take care, for if these were people, not cats, we are but a feline step from fascist Europe in the 1930’s.

We also have to fully confront the veiled threats of litigation, and criticisms of the futility of the effort. These defenseless creatures like all the weak and huddled masses need our compassionate help, and I for one will defiantly continue to advocate on their behalf. Frankly, if this is the best advice we can get from the profession that avows to care for animals, then as a people, we are in a far sadder state of affairs than we realize.

Nigel D. Johnson



In the layout of a recent feature on the closing of the Bavarian Chalet restaurant (“Time Is Up,” Jan. 13), we included a full-page photograph of a drawing (reproduced above), which was hanging on a restaurant wall, featuring a likeness of restaurant family patriarch Franz Zwicklbauer and information on his soccer club’s exploits. In our layout, the author’s signature was cropped out of the photo; we would like to belatedly acknowledge that the work was drawn by Hy Rosen, local artist and sculptor and longtime editorial cartoonist for the Albany Times Union. Rosen estimates that the drawing was done 30 or so years ago as part of a regular TU feature called Sports Spotlight.




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