For the last eight years, every time the subject of newspapers in Buffalo arose, someone waxed nostalgic about the old Courier Express, or said something about how they used to get the News, or that the News is just too conservative, or just too liberal, or just too comfortable in our one newspaper town.
Monopoly Dailies, The Alternative Press, and Fox News
There are important differences between newspapers and magazines, just as there are important differences between dailies and weeklies. The tabloidization of the news media has pushed everything further in the direction of a magazine format. If a style of writing or graphic layout arises that is popular and helps sell the product, it is appropriated by the major dailies.
Ms. Green seems incapable of grasping this fact because the first person, editorial-as -news style utilized in the alternative papers over the last twenty to thirty years is so completely ingrained in her style that she appears to be unaware that she is even employing it. Consider the first words of her essay, For the last eight years
Of course, people in Buffalo have been waxing nostalgic for the Courier Express before its doors were even closed. Its just a guess but the last eight years Ms. Green refers to seems to coincide with her career as a writer in alternative papers in Buffalo. She then employs a favorite technique of Fox News by using the mysterious attribution of someone in a bizarre context: someone waxed nostalgic Whats wrong with saying friends, or even the majority of people I talked to ? After all, this is just an editorial essay.
The movie Outfoxed, demonstrates the creeping takeover over of tabloid attribution style by showing Fox news personalities using the phrase, Some people say , as a tool to promote an editorial viewpoint in what is supposedly a fair and balanced news segment. Apparently the generic someone attribute is acceptable to Green in lieu of an actual man in the street story. As formulaic as the man in the street story is, its still a lot more interesting than someone said or in this case, someone waxed nostalgic. Who the hell is this someone and why should I care about their nostalgia?
In all fairness to The Buffalo News, it seems that most people complain about a perceived bias because they dont read. When we say that Buffalo is a one newspaper town, we mean that it is the only daily. This has created a cottage industry of critics in which the Buffalo Examiner is only the latest entry. Declaring Buffalo a two newspaper town, as Green does with more than a little measure of self-aggrandizement, does not make it so.
Settling Old Scores Vs Conservative Feminism
The How does it feel? portion of the headline sounds like a quote from Dylans classic, Like a Rolling Stone. This falls under the heading of gratuitous classic rock reference, another hallmark of alternative press excess. Who is the person this come-uppance is directed at? The evidence points to Jamie Moses. Mr. Moses must be quaking in his motorcycle boots.
Mr. Moses has been accused of a lot of things, but to my recollection Ive never heard him described as fat. However, his publication Artvoice was castigated in a Buffalo News article for running ads that were connected with a prostitution ring, as I recall. So while in the following passage, Ms. Green seems to speak in general terms of the state of the alternative press, it certainly seems to apply to Artvoice, specifically.
free alternative weeklies have grown fat and, well, a bit lazy, resting on their knee-jerk (Big L) Liberal values, and advertising for restaurants, plastic surgery, and prostitutes. The sex trade, whatever you think of it subsidizes a great deal of that independent journalism, which is unfortunate, since marketing prostitution isnt a very solid ethical foundation for those calling for progress.
The Buffalo Examiner is a publication that has, in its infancy, taken pro-feminist, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage editorial positions. How its publisher can pen a screed slamming knee-jerk (Big L) Liberals is a pretty amusing question. Who are these Big L Liberals? Apparently, the big L here doesnt stand for lesbians. Maybe it refers to those limousine liberals were always hearing about on Fox News?
If you read carefully, however, you see that Ms. Green appears to have an issue with organized labor. Unions are as convenient a target as any in the finger-pointing aftermath of the 2004 election. In Greens article on the Control Board, she takes issue with the Taylor Laws, stating that, these laws have everything to do with why it matters who we elected for State Senate and Assembly.
She also depicts the control board as something heroic: In comes a group of New York State Governor George Patakis friends and supporters, finally, to straighten out the wayward children who in this case are the city of Buffalo and its, covered organizations.
Finally, indeed. Its about time Daddy Pataki came home with his pals and took us all over their collective knees. Can you get any more paternalistic and authoritarian than that, really? This is straight out of the playbook of The Buffalo News. Desperate times call for desperate measures. In her worldview unionized workers are greedy, lazy and in need of some good old-fashioned discipline. She never questions the specifics of the hostile, corporate takeover that the control board represents, never questions why two lifelong political flunkies like Masiello and Giambra have found a home on the control board, and never questions why some covered organizations (a term she uses with heavy-handed sarcasm) have been exempted from control board scrutiny, despite massive problems (i.e the Buffalo Sewer Authority).
Happy News, Advertising and Tonys Cronies
There is another journalistic trend that Green still seems to follow: If you dont have anything nice to say, dont say anything at all. Emphasize happy news!!! As a result, we can expect plenty of boosterism out of the Buffalo Examiner. Lots of Chamber of Commerce type stories about what a great job our local powerbrokers are doing. On the other hand, if theres a group of people who are unpopular or theres a business thats not interested in advertising, we might find them to be tempting targets for Greens independent journalism. In the meantime, sucking up to Masiello cronies appears to be the order of the day.
As you may recall Ms. Green was the editor of Buffalo Beat, a free weekly which carried on an often bitter rivalry with Artvoice. Both papers occasionally accused the other of throwing out their papers and thereby defrauding their advertisers.
Speaking of advertisers, it never seemed to bother Green that the back pages of Buffalo Beat were generally filled with salacious ads when she was editor. The way she groups restaurants, plastic surgery and prostitutes together in the same sentence is truly remarkable. Is it really a small restaurant owners fault that he cannot afford to pay the exorbitant advertising rates of The Buffalo News? Is plastic surgery still a seedy, morally dubious profession and do these businesses deserve to be held up for public ridicule for advertising in a paper that fails to check on the legality of other advertisers businesses? Thats what Ms. Green seems to be saying here.
Ms. Green does not, however, make a pledge to her readers to police the legitimacy of her own papers advertisers. So we dont really know how her paper will be different from the unwashed masses of alternative papers which are so much pulp in her eyes.
Unlike the usual free alternative paper offerings, the Examiner is charging a rather steep newsstand price of one dollar. Considering the fact that the Examiner is only slightly larger than Alt, this is a big leap of faith. Their website currently offers no free content, whatsoever. Given the fact that the editorial positions of the Examiner more or less mirror those of the big, bad Buffalo News: pro-Pataki, pro-choice, what do readers get from the Examiner that they cannot get from The News?
More Usual Suspects
Green has brought some familiar pen names to the Examiner, including former Buffalo Beat staffer, Suzanne Taylor. While having a woman write a hockey column certainly provides an alternative perspective. It doesnt help much that were in the middle of the NHLs lockout season, does it?
Also on board, is Nancy Parisi, the Artvoice photographer who successfully ran the Whathashappened page, documenting society happenings in the Buffalo area. The fact that The Buffalo News has apparently not offered Parisi a job is puzzling. What could be better for a Sunday edition than a contemporary society section chronicling the comings and goings of rich and beautiful people in photographs? Apparently, theres little more to living in our society than weddings and obituaries.
Recently, the controversial Richard Kern was also added to the Examiner roster. While we can agree that Kerns surveillance tactics earned him unwarranted scrutiny from Erie County District Attorney Frank Clarks office, there are reasons why Kern was asked to leave Alt, not the least of which was his association with Mike Kuzma and Common Council President Dave Franczyk. We regret that these friendships appear to sometimes cloud Mr. Kerns judgment.
Weve seen nothing that would convince us that the white fist on Kuzmas political campaign posters were anything but an appeal to white power enthusiasts. Franczyks ability to live down his race-based campaign literature is, of course, a testament to the public relations prowess of The Buffalo News.
While we wish Mr. Kern luck in his new endeavor and we appreciate the efforts that some times accompany his indignant attacks on the endemic corruption in East Side housing policies, we would prefer that he and his friends keep their distance from Alt and would like to take this opportunity to remind readers that Mr. Kern has had NO association with the Buffalo Alternative Press for the last seven years.
Beating A Beat Paper
In terms of ethics, there are still some questions lingering over Greens role at Buffalo Beat. She attacks alternative weeklies in the editorial we discuss here, but while at Buffalo Beat she actively campaigned to join the Association of Alternative Weeklies. Theres nothing wrong with that, except that in her application she claimed that Buffalo Beat broke the story of how Masiellos Chief of Police, Rocco Diina was running for Erie County Sheriff, while his private security firm was doing business with the County. Great scoop! Unfortunately, that story was broken by a retired Buffalo Police Officer, Bill Logal, in The Buffalo Alternative Press.
Buffalo Beat ended its run when its publisher Mark Mausner, ran afoul of the IRS, but Green was on the outs prior to that debacle. We cant speculate on what could have been, but under Green, the paper was certainly competitive. While in this essay, we focus on the early faults we see with her new endeavor, Green deserves some respect for her efforts. We cant accuse her of lacking chutzpah but in terms of our response to the question her editorial poses, How does it feel our answer would have to be, it feels like Buffalo Beat has returned to the land of the living and now costs one dollar more than its worth.
Building an alternative paper through a subscription base is a tough assignment, but it is one that may ultimately prove successful. If Ms. Green and company are up to the task they can rant and rail about the Buffalo News all they want, despite the fact that they may +be fighting on the same side as The News in Buffalos culture war. By John McMahon
The former editor of the now defunct, alternative weekly Buffalo Beat has started a new paper called The Buffalo Examiner. While we welcome a diversity of voices, the Examiners Publisher Natalie Green-Tessier has, in the past, presented us with a voice that betrays something of a tin ear for political expression.
Were hopeful that her latest foray into the demimonde of local alternative/vanity presses will improve upon this occasional tone-deafness. However, the Examiners first issues dont give us much basis to believe that our hopes are anything but forlorn.