Tag Archives: WNYmedia

Bauerle: Now in Life & Arts

14 Jan

That was quick. 

The Buffalo News’ scary-important follow-up story, detailing that (a) Tom Bauerle was back on the air at WBEN on Monday; and (b) the town of Amherst is denying FOIL requests seeking reports of last week’s incident, was published in the Life & Arts section. Sunday’s story, by contrast was FRONT PAGE ZOMG. It didn’t take long for this Page Six gossip column to be relegated to the section where you’ll find the Golden Globes, a psychic, the Buzz, and a plan for an art barge on the Erie Canal. 

It would seem that the information the News obtained from two unnamed police sources was likely an improper release of private personal information, and cannot be corroborated. 

Though The News filed a Freedom of Information request regarding the 2:50 a.m. incident on Jan. 8, Amherst Town Attorney Thomas E. Jones issued a denial letter Monday.

“No crimes or arrests are reported,” Jones said. “The records do contain medical and other personal information concerning the subject. It is our opinion that the release of the report would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as defined by the Public Officers Law.”

The relevant parts of the FOIL read, 

2. Each agency shall, in accordance with its published rules, make available for public inspection and copying all records, except that such agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that:

(a) are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute; 
(b) if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this article;

2. (a) The committee on open government may promulgate guidelines regarding deletion of identifying details or withholding of records otherwise available under this article to prevent unwarranted invasions of personal privacy. In the absence of such guidelines, an agency may delete identifying details when it makes records available.
(b) An unwarranted invasion of personal privacy includes, but shall not be limited to:

i. disclosure of employment, medical or credit histories or personal references of applicants for employment;
ii. disclosure of items involving the medical or personal records of a client or patient in a medical facility;
iii. sale or release of lists of names and addresses if such lists would be used for solicitation or fund-raising purposes;
iv. disclosure of information of a personal nature when disclosure would result in economic or personal hardship to the subject party and such information is not relevant to the work of the agency requesting or maintaining it;
v. disclosure of information of a personal nature reported in confidence to an agency and not relevant to the ordinary work of such agency; or
vi. information of a personal nature contained in a workers’ compensation record, except as provided by section one hundred ten-a of the workers’ compensation law.
(c) Unless otherwise provided by this article, disclosure shall not be construed to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision…

…(2) Nothing in this section shall require disclosure of: 
(a) personal information which is otherwise prohibited by law from being disclosed; 
(b) patient records concerning mental disability or medical records where such disclosure is not otherwise required by law; 
(c) personal information pertaining to the incarceration of an inmate at a state correctional facility which is evaluative in nature or which, if disclosed, could endanger the life or safety of any person, unless such disclosure is otherwise permitted by law; 

So, when I suggested in comments that the HIPAA law might apply, I was wrong. It was the FOIL itself that appears to expressly prohibit release of information concerning Bauerle’s psychotic episode. “Karma” doesn’t make it newsworthy. “Bauerle is an asshole” doesn’t make it newsworthy. The fact that his guns were confiscated under the NY SAFE Act – something with which he said he would never comply – is newsworthy, however. 

I asked you on Sunday to consider what it was that made the Buffalo News’ original Bauerle story newsworthy. I explained that Artvoice didn’t reach the same conclusion, and explained why.  Several people misinterpreted my article as a criticism of the News – it wasn’t. Many people left comments here and on Facebook, and some of them were thoughtful and persuasive. Many of you understood that I wasn’t necessarily saying the News was wrong for publishing the story, but asking people to ask themselves, or explain, why it was newsworthy. 

Some of you pointed out that Bauerle’s hatred of the NY SAFE Act, and the fact that firearms were involved in the underlying incident that led to Bauerle’s police involvement made it relevant, together with his prominence in the community. I found that to be among the most persuasive arguments. 

However, I had a lot of people pointing out this WNYMedia.net article as a good counterpoint. I didn’t find it persuasive at all. In fact, it underscored my perception that many people in favor of publication were simply happy that an enemy had been exposed, and performed some mental gymnastics to justify it. Let’s take a look. 

If your social media news feeds are anything like mine, you’re probably scratching your head a bit at this faux empathy being kicked around today surrounding Tom Bauerle.

Fortunately, we don’t share that empathy.

I’m not sure there is any site in Buffalo who has criticized Tom Bauerle and WBEN more over the last 12 years.  Today, anyone familiar and fed up with WBEN’s resident whack job finally got the small verification we’ve been waiting for :

I don’t understand how someone can so quickly determine another person’s motives (here, “faux empathy”), but WNYMedia’s Marc Odien cannot read minds. He argues that it is impossible/incompatible/inconsistent to, on the one hand, hate things that Bauerle has said; and, on the other hand, believe that he deserves some modicum of privacy with respect to a health issue. I disagree. Over the past 10 years, I’ve written more than my share of “oh my God, look at this horrible thing that Tom Bauerle said” posts. So when he has a personal crisis, that’s front page news? 

But instead of celebrating a possible final reprieve to all the hate, racism and conspiratorial nonsense Western New Yorkers have to endure on a daily basis, anyone criticizing him, including the Buffalo News, suddenly became the villain.

Police report or not, of course this is newsworthy!

1. The police have been called to his house 13 times since November 18th. Anytime public resources are used that much in a short period of time, it certainly worth scrutiny and reporting:

The “villain” crack links to a Tweet that Chris Smith posted: 

 I had a similar reaction. In fact, when we recorded this Trending Buffalo podcast on Thursday January 9th, we considered talking about the Bauerle story, and agreed not to, because there’s a difference between criticizing crazy opinions and openly mocking what appeared to be mental illness.  No one accused anyone of being a “villain”. On the contrary, I merely asked people to think about it.  Chris merely asked people to be human. You know – “Buffalo, it’s the people” and “good neighbors” and whatnot. 

So, WNYMedia.net declared that, “of course” it’s newsworthy. The first rationale is 13 police calls. No one’s seen the reports. No one’s heard the 911 tapes. One source told the News that it was 13 calls since mid-November. Not all of them from neighbors. If true, it seems like a waste of police resources, and possibly a neighborhood issue. Point taken. Does Bauerle’s celebrity make that a front-page story? 

2. Whether you listen to WBEN or not, a lot of people around here do and often relate to the nonsense spewed over WBEN airwaves. Regardless of what you think of Tom Bauerle, his ranting and raving on WBEN since 9/11 has caused irreversible damage to society and falsely influenced thousands of other WNY’ers to buy into and believe his brand of craziness.

I don’t know what this 2nd rationale is supposed to mean, except to say that Bauerle is a right wing asshole and therefore he is a right wing asshole. So, because he’s said horrible things on-air, he has forfeited all rights to privacy? That seems unreasonable. 

Linking to the audio from Bauerle’s paranoiac rant of December 30th, Odien continues, 

3. Have you heard this?  Heads should roll at WBEN as to why this was allowed to continue for 17 minutes:

Saying Mental Illness is a “serious” matter is like asking if a “bear shit’s in the woods”.  OF COURSE IT IS !!  But that doesn’t negate the newsworthy of a trusted and influential radio personality officially going off the deep end. I have people very close to me who deal with mental health issues daily and of course mental illness isn’t something to “joke” about.  (except on twitter apparently)

Since they are not reporters, our friends and colleagues at Artvoice thought reporting on the Bauerle incident amounted to joking about mental health and instead published this post claiming they “knew all about” Tom Bauerle’s recent plunge into the mental health pool, but decided to take the high road:

Should heads roll at WBEN over that clip? Maybe. I’ve complained to Entercom and WBEN numerous times about some of the horrible things I hear on that station. They love it, when they don’t ignore it. 

Odien acknowledges that mental illness is “serious”, but concludes that, here, its seriousness is outweighed by the “trusted and influential radio personality” is “going off the deep end.” But he’s been going off the “deep end” on the air for years. The only person writing regularly about those episodes? Me. Didn’t we just go through a charade about mental illness being “serious” before dismissing this episode with a throwaway euphemism for an apparent psychotic episode?  It all detracts from the underlying thesis that this all scary-important information for the public to know.  

Odien goes on to cast doubt on whether Artvoice had the story at all. We did. He quoted the second paragraph of my story and went on to say,

Please… If you believe that, then I’ve got a Tom Bauerle conspiracy theory to sell you

The moment I heard the gist of what had happened (from two completely unrelated people), I tweeted this: 

When we began looking into it, I posted this: 

After we decided that this was more TMZ than Artvoice, I concluded with one of Bauerle’s declarations from the December 30th broadcast: 

Quoting from the part in the Buffalo News article where Bauerle supposedly told a cop that Cuomo’s spies had magical shoes that left no prints in the snow, Odien writes, 

The WNYmedia archives are filled with posts, articles, funny pictures, videos and podcasts calling Tom Bauerle and his ilk “batshit crazy”.  What’s been OK for the last 12 years is now suddenly a taboo subject according to your alternative news source?

However, this is a personal medical matter and one affecting perhaps his neighbors, but not you or me.

Maybe on the surface.

But what Tom Bauerle represents to this community and tea-baggers everywhere should not be minimized.  Nor should we minimize putting mentally unstable person on public airwave spewing hate, racism and other ridiculously false political claims in order to justify a warped political agenda for more than a decade.

So, this is a matter of critical public import because Bauerle had a breakdown of some sort and he has a hateful on-air persona? (I Googled “Batshit crazy” + “Bauerle” and it’s not a common combination, and not one that I have ever used). Calling someone “batshit crazy” because he espouses opinions that are batshit crazy does not give me license to mock and expose him if it turns out that there’s a genuine psychiatric problem. There’s a difference. 

Artvoice stopped looking into it; the News canvassed the neighborhood – notice the News went to the neighbors, not vice-versa. I took to Twitter to mock the mockables – shoes with no footprints and Treebeard surveilling Williamsville radio guys.  But that was it.

A guy running around the neighborhood with a loaded gun, thinking trees are out to get him is a problem, for sure. If you’re in the immediate area. But is it one that needed front-page coverage by the Buffalo News? Is every neighborhood disturbance to be in the Buffalo News now?

As I explained, I didn’t take a shot at or criticize the News for doing their job, I wanted there to be a conversation about what people thought made the story newsworthy. 

Alan Pergament took to his blog to blast WBEN’s handling of the whole thing, and added this: 

I sympathize with Bauerle and hope he gets help.

But anyone who doesn’t think this story has journalistic merit needs to go back to Journalism 101.

The Bauerle story fits several textbook criteria of what makes news –  including prominence, conflict,  timeliness, proximity and novelty.

Additionally, Bauerle is an influential voice in the community and should be held to a higher standard. He has constantly used his daily show to oppose Gov. Cuomo’s NY SAFE Act.

However, politics is a secondary issue of this story. The primary issues are the safety of the community and how a radio station can keep a guy on the air who has exhibited such bizarre behavior without giving him enough time to recover.

Shame on WBEN management for apparently failing to realize that it crossed the line of worrying more about the bottom line than of the health and safety of its own employee, its staff and the community.

A lot of people think that Kate Middleton’s baby bump, or Kim Kardashian’s most recent pronouncements merit journalistic attention. Some think it’s important whether the separated Eliot Spitzer has a girlfriend whom he *gasp* might be sexing.  The question of journalistic merit is an interesting one; hence, Sunday’s post. 

But one unifying theme among the people defending the Buffalo News against non-existent criticisms is that it’s important because Bauerle has said crazy things on the air. Well, yes. He has. Where have you guys been

Almost exactly a year ago, for instance, Bauerle decided that the U.S. Government was a “greater enemy than al Qaeda.” There was a sitting NYS Assemblyman on the phone, who remained silent as he said it.  I wrote about it at length here. The Buffalo News didn’t deem that to be newsworthy. Neither did WNYMedia.net. 

WNYMedia and The Buffalo News did not write anything when Bauerle gleefully, but incorrectly reported that Americans now predominately fear the government. They didn’t write anything when Bauerle suggested that Islam is “not compatible” with Western Democracy

When Bauerle devoted an entire show in 2009 to the topic: are liberals “insane”, “psychotic asshats” who want to “destroy America”, the Buffalo News wrote nothing. During that same show, Bauerle  spoke approvingly of a new civil war in America, hoped for an armed, military coup against the federal government, and suggested that the military side with the “people”, rather than with the “liberals”. The Buffalo News’ newsworthiness radar was broken. WNYMedia paid attention because I wrote about it there

When the brother of blogger Mike Blake made a phony phone call to Bauerle’s show and was subsequently the target of harassing texts, the Buffalo News was silent. Nary a peep from the News about this or this or this; you get the picture.

There have been quite a few outrageous outbursts on hate radio in the last several years, and suddenly now it’s important? What Bauerle said on December 30th is downright tame compared to his earlier suggestion that al Qaeda was better than Obama. 

So, I’m not the person to lecture about the horrible things that WBEN has allowed on its air. Pergament’s criticism of WBEN management is beside the point, 

Additionally, Bauerle is an influential voice in the community and should be held to a higher standard. He has constantly used his daily show to oppose Gov. Cuomo’s NY SAFE Act.

Yes. I have acknowledged that this is a good argument in favor of disclosure. 

However, politics is a secondary issue of this story. The primary issues are the safety of the community and how a radio station can keep a guy on the air who has exhibited such bizarre behavior without giving him enough time to recover.

How can you reach this conclusion without a medical degree or an examination of the patient? Bauerle expressly addressed this on Monday, explaining that he was medically cleared to be on the air, that WBEN gave him unlimited time to get himself right, and that he was on-air of his own volition. He sounded perfectly normal. 

I don’t know. It seems to me that a lot of the arguments in favor of publication come from a base, ‘screw that guy’ place. Many other arguments are, ‘we should know because we deserve to know’. That’s not enough for me. Whatever. 

Clarifications and Corrections From The Buffalo News

14 Aug

Last Sunday, Buffalo News Political Columnist Bob McCarthy got on his high horse and wrote this:

A local blogger named Chris Smith has been downright giddy in recent days criticizing The Buffalo News for reporting that SEIU Local 1199 is paying employee Jennifer Hibit to manage Poloncarz’s campaign for county executive. Around here, something unusual and of interest to voters makes a good story.

But not over at WNY Media Network, where Smith toils. More important to the network, apparently, is the $3,750 Poloncarz paid to WNY Media Network for website design and video editing, according to state campaign finance records. In fact, the same records show WNY Media Network has handled Poloncarz’s video campaign for years.

Some local bloggers receive money from politicians. The Politics Column does not — and that says it all.

I then responded later that day with the following:

I didn’t receive any money from Mark Poloncarz nor any other politician and I never have. Not for work performed on a campaign, not for services provided to a campaign, not for content on this website, not for anything. Not once. Not a thin red cent. Neither has Alan Bedenko, Brian Castner, Chris Charvella, Tom Dolina, Gabe Armstrong, or any of our other writers. We’re simply a group of citizen journalists who add context and analysis to the evolving story of Western New York. Nothing more, nothing less.

Several other articles were written here and a bit of a firestorm developed on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. McCarthy’s column was lazy and the audience took the newspaper to task for publishing an unqualified personal attack.

On Friday, The Buffalo News published a clarification to McCarthy’s bullshit article about my being a “pay for praise” journalist.

An item in Sunday’s Politics Column may have mistakenly given the impression that blogger Chris Smith was paid by the county executive campaign of Democrat Mark Poloncarz. The article pointed out that the firm running the website to which Smith contributes blogs, WNY Media Network, was paid $3,750 by the Poloncarz campaign for website design and video editing, according to state campaign finance records.

While it’s well and good that The Buffalo News published a “clarification” on their never-read “Corrections” page, this is a half-assed clarification to an accusation, but not an apology for the insult.

As Alan pointed out in his column, The Buffalo News has received well in excess of $250,000 from political campaigns since 2000. There is no difference between their print outlet taking money from candidates and our company being paid for professional services. Especially when neither I nor Bob McCarthy are directly paid with the proceeds. I qualify that statement with “directly” because Bob is actually paid by his outlet for his writing services while I am not compensated in any way.

It’s not “may have been mistaken”, it’s “was mistaken” or “deliberately/willfully mistaken”.

Making an accusation that I am on the take is a direct assault on my integrity and credibility in the community and can and might be subject to legal proceedings. I did not and still do not take this allegation lightly.

The Buffalo News, at a minimum, should publish a full retraction in the same space as the accusation was published, in Bob McCarthy’s Sunday politics column. Earlier today, I sent an email requesting exactly that.

RE: Correction WNYMedia/Poloncarz
Chris Smith Sun, Aug 14, 2011 at 10:05 AM
To: msullivan@buffnews.com, rmccarthy@buffnews.com
Cc: Alan Bedenko

Ms. Sullivan,

I’d like to thank you for the clarification/correction to Bob McCarthy’s inaccurate statement regarding my alleged employment with the campaign of County Executive Candidate Mark Poloncarz which was published on 8/6/2011.

However, it has come to my attention that the correction has not been noted in the webpage of the actual column.

http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/columns/bob-mccarthy/article514711.ece

In the age of new media, it is important to publish your clarification/correction on the offending webpage as well as in print or on the corrections page.

Mr. McCarthy’s article is still searchable on the internet in its uncorrected format and serves to misinform readers as to my role at WNYMedia and my involvement with the Mark Poloncarz campaign.

I would appreciate the clarification being published in the Internet version of the column as soon as possible. Your organization often makes changes to an online story as it develops, I do not see why it cannot also be done for acknowledged corrections.

I thank you in advance for your expected attention to this matter.

Regards,
Chris Smith

Christopher M. Smith
327 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14201
Email: chris@wnymedia.net

If action is not taken within 72 hours, I will be moving on to other tactics in order to have my name cleared. It is unacceptable that the sole political writer at The Buffalo News be allowed to prosecute a personal agenda against another local journalist with impunity.

Buffalo For Real, Part 2, Electric Boogaloo

24 May

I thought it might be time to break up the constant NY-26 updates with something completely different.

A couple of weeks ago, Visit Buffalo Niagara (formerly known as the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau {CVB}) unveiled their new branding slogan, entitled “Buffalo. For Real.”

It was released with an accompanying video that generated lots of buzz.

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Shortly after its release, Alan Bedenko and I began a light-hearted Twitter contest to solicit suggestions for a better slogan.  That contest caught fire and dozens of parody videos started popping up on YouTube, like this one:

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In the aftermath of the story, we were dismissed as naysayers because we deigned to criticize what we saw as a fundamentally flawed marketing campaign. We thought the video was too focused on the built environment and we resented the Sarah Palin-ish conceit of “Real America”. We also opined that the video lacked an overall sense of fun.

Supporters of the marketing campaign countered by stating the video was designed to attract “bifocal cultural tourists”…much like the three previous marketing campaigns from the CVB. We thought that maybe, just maybe, they could broaden their scope a bit and appeal to people who don’t really care who H.H. Richardson was or why he is important to Buffalo.

We eagerly awaited the opinion of an impartial third party to evaluate the merits of the campaign. Clearly, any objective analyst or critic would see that this beautifully shot video and marketing campaign designed for free by volunteers was an absolute homerun. Right?

Last week, Advertising Age Magazine issued their opinion on the campaign in an article titled “Buffalo’s New Tagline Highlights The Worst of Tourism Marketing”:

Tourism slogans are reliably corny, but last week New York state took the grand prize for “Huh?” with a newly anointed slogan for its fair city to the north that’s best known for its proximity to Niagara Falls and everyone’s favorite 25-cent bar snack.

So, there’s that.

However, something that has stuck with me for over a week was an exchange on Facebook between a few WNYMedia writers and one of our readers. You know this reader as “STEEL”, a reliably liberal voice in our daily political threads. He is properly known as David Steele, a Buffalo Expatriate who lives in Chicago.  Dave is also the author of “Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land“.

Dave is a middle aged guy who likes architecture.  Unsurprisingly, he thought the “Buffalo. For Real.” video was the bees knees.

Dave operates under the illusion that the primary obstacle to progress in Buffalo is our defeatist attitude. If only we were to stop with all the complaining and negativity, we might start to make some real shit happen right here in Johnson City!  Also, he detests sprawl and people who don’t live in the City of Buffalo. Ironically, he doesn’t live here either.

However, as we have detailed over the years on this website, no matter what you think the most important problem in Buffalo is, it’s not THE problem. Sprawl, poor zoning, absentee landlords, deteriorating infrastructure, UB in Amherst, the Skyway, the 190, inaccessible waterfront, house flipping, redlining, terrible schools…no matter what, the problem is political. Each of those problems has a distinctly political cause and requires a distinctly political solution. Political leadership is required to solve any problem in Buffalo as it is a town designed by and ruled by politicians. However, that leadership is sorely lacking.

Until we change THAT problem, the private and non-profit sectors will be forced to to hoard the crumbs on the table while the rest of us wish for a distant, more prosperous past. A time when our fortunate location at the end of the Erie Canal created the economic and geographic accident that we now know as Buffalo. That past is prominently featured in that video and frankly, we’re bored with it. Dave, being the smart guy that he is, had a suggestion for us.

So, when will we be releasing that video?  When someone hires us to do it. We’ve released hundreds of videos over the years that shine a positive light on our community and those working to make it better. However, what Dave doesn’t know is that we actually made a proposal to the CVB about 18 months ago to help market Buffalo and WNY.

Prior to the hiring of Dottie Gallagher-Cohen as the CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, Drew “Wing King” Cerza served as the interim CEO. During his tenure, the CVB received increased funding from Erie County and Drew put out the word that he was looking for some cool new ideas to market the region. We approached him with a proposal marketing campaign that would begin during the World Junior Hockey Championships and continue on after the event.

We (along with a marketing partner) proposed the following:

  • An iPhone/Android App that would feature links to all Buffalo restaurants, clubs, cultural attractions along with location aware directions and maps
  • Each listing would have a basic profile page featuring some business basics, but each listing had the opportunity to upgrade their default profile with video/audio/time sensitive specials and coupons. Upgrades would be paid for with donations to the CVB.
  • A recommendation engine featuring well known locals who would give their tips on where to go and what to do.
  • A mobile trip planner that would organize a full list of activities for each day based on a chosen starting point.  “Here for a Bisons game?  Here’s five other places you might enjoy!”
  • Marketing videos for each tourism “vertical” in Buffalo and WNY.  Cultural, sports, family, shopping, dining, hotels, architecture, theater, etc.
  • An umbrella marketing video featuring outtakes from each of the “vertical” videos which presented Buffalo and WNY as a four seasons destination for everyone.

There was more to it, but you get the point

As we’re a small company that cannot perform work for free, we also presented the CVB with a pricetag for the project.  The CVB decided to wait until Ms. Gallagher-Cohen was hired to make a decision. She never got back to us. No big deal, we moved on to other clients and other projects and we’re doing quite well, thank you very much. Over the next 18 months, Ms. Cohen took the organization in a new direction and we wish her the best of luck.  She’ll need it. Especially if she is again forced to “crowdsource” regional marketing campaigns for free.

The reason for sharing this is that I’m tired of this obsessive accusation that we’re “naysayers”.  We are realists, we see this city and region for what it is, warts and all.  To simply assume that we are absolute cynics is to either be grossly misinformed…or to be nuzzled in a Chicago bungalow ignorant of the reality on the ground in a city 600 miles to the east.

We deal with the political realities around us and we love our city as much as anyone else here. We choose to live in WNY and raise our children here. We choose to pay our taxes, vote in local elections, volunteer for organizations we believe in, and organize people to support causes and politicians we believe in.  We support local business and we hire local vendors. We advocate for political solutions we think practical and assail, with malice, those who advocate for harmful policies and causes. We’re confident in our choices to live here and we’re not going anywhere. We put our skin in the game and we’re here, making a difference. It’s who we are, it’s what we do.

Because of all that, we’re entitled to some self-deprecating humor and we have a right to criticize how we are marketed.

So, don’t ever challenge me or anyone on this website about our love for this city and region. For Real.

Are Blog Comments Dead?

14 Dec

You may have noticed in recent weeks that the number of comments on the site have decreased.  However, our traffic numbers are higher than ever before in a non-election season.  So, what’s happening in the comment section?

When we started this website back in 2004, WNYMedia.net was pretty much the only online outlet for people to comment on and discuss the local news of the day.  The TV stations pretty much ignored the web and The Buffalo News updated once each morning and ignored the potential for an online community.  So, we stepped in and took advantage of the market opportunity.

We offered a cozy spot on the Internet for people to discuss issues in their community, share insights, build consensus, and bring different perspectives to stories that were often ignored by the larger outlets.  We even had a little slogan internally, the site was built for all of us to Advocate, Educate, Inform, Opinionate and Update and sometimes Yell.  We built a pretty diverse community and we were proud of what we created.

Over the ensuing years, the “news and opinion” audience fragmented into various niche websites because, well, that’s what happens on the Internet. Buffalo Rising, Buffalo Spree, SpeakUpWNY, Artvoice, BlockClub and dozens of individual blogs started to build their own communities. Through it all, our traffic numbers grew.  As the old saying goes; “A rising tide raises all boats”.  We were still bringing new readers and contributors onboard each day and, generally speaking, discussions were proactive, friendly, intelligent and productive.  Sure, we had occasional sniping and verbal slapfights, but it’s the Internet.  It’s what happens.

In early 2007, the major outlets finally got onboard with this whole “internets thing” and started asking for comments on stories and providing an outlet for people to communicate.  In their meandering and unfocused effort to add an interactive component to their news organizations, they forgot about the most important part of building an online community, moderation.   Online communities are like gardens.  They need to be watered, fed and maintained on a regular basis or bugs and weeds will overtake the flowers, ya dig?  When new readers visit, your online community cannot look like a hostile, insular and angry place or the new readers will not stay to participate.  People don’t want to be yelled at or insulted nor do they wish to hang around with a bunch of anonymous assholes.

We, however, did not forget about moderation.   About five months ago, we announced that comments would be more strictly moderated on the site to ensure they stayed on topic and stayed positive.  I think we’ve been mildly successful in that regard.

However, moderation isn’t the only factor that has resulted in less conversation on the WNYMedia.  Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps, Networked Blogs and content skimmers have also influenced the conversation, in a very big way.

Yesterday, I did a Facebook search on my Maria Whyte story to see how many people linked it on Facebook.   Interestingly, I found that 32 people in my network had posted the article on their Facebook wall and discussion about the article was happening on all of those pages, over 50 comments.  It was also shared dozens of times on Twitter (with ensuing discussion) and read a couple of hundred times on our Droid App with comments left there as well.  Content skimmers like Buffalo123 also steal our articles and comments occasionally happen on their site as well.   When we stream video, our viewers are on UStream or on their phones and they share/discuss our audio and video content on YouTube.

So, what’s a content provider to do?  Honestly, we don’t really care if the comments are here or elsewhere, our traffic numbers are the currency we care about as a business, but we want to make the readers happy with the experience.  Is it important to you for us to keep comments here or should we simply deal with the new reality that the website serves as a launching pad for content discussions across various social networks?  Should we do more to integrate social feeds into the site using Facebook Connect and Google Accounts?

You tell us, what’s important to you. I’ll be looking for your comments…everywhere.

Imagineering® Buffalo’s Waterfront: Part 1

24 Nov

It’s become a pattern.

A major public works project begins, is planned and plotted, goes through the required comment period and environmental reviews – and at the very last minute a small, usually ad-hoc interest group pipes up and demands that everything halt.  It happened with the Route 5 reconfiguration, and it’s happening now with the Canal Side process.

As happened a few years ago with Route 5, the obstructionist cadre uses outrageous and untrue hyperbole to attack the extant plan, culminating in a lawsuit when they don’t get their precise way.  Back then, we were told that the bermed Route 5 was a “wall” separating Buffalo’s waterfront from its downtown, ignoring the presence of the Skyway, the I-190, the Buffalo River, and the excruciatingly ugly brownfields on the east side of Route 5.

Now, we’re being told about the horrors of “faux canals” and perennial bogeyman, parking.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Goldman became the self-appointed leader of the Canal Side opposition, which has dubbed itself the “Canal Side Community Alliance“, made up of groups whose dedication to the waterfront is unsurpassed – groups like “Prisoners are People, Too” and Sweet_ness 7 .  Goldman organized a talk at City Honors’ auditorium where the West Side intelligentsia and its foundation benefactors let their vision for the waterfront be known.  Naturally, it eschews parking, is heavy on public art, museums, and other not-for-profit things.  Watch this video:

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1. Goldman insists that the process must be “democratic and inclusive”.

2. At around 0:58 in the video, when Goldman demands procedural inclusion, the imagery is of older white males like himself – one of whom is Goldman’s own brother. He cites a need for “more creative thinking… more imaginitive…more artistic” points of view.

3. At around 1:33, Goldman discusses a “luncheon” he held for a very carefully selected subset of the Buffalo old money and arts elites.  He invited “about thirty people” and “made sure that they represented a broad range of work and life and activities in Buffalo.”  That “broad range”?  “Artists, curators and teachers and librarians, and businesspeople…” At 1:48, the camera pans over the sea of white, privileged city residents. He goes on, “…and a whole range of men and women who are active in this community.”  He cites “wonderful ideas” like that from former Erie County Legislator Joan Bozer – that of a “solar-powered carousel” on the waterfront.  This wonderful idea works for an average kid for about 3 minutes on a sunny day; then what?  Other luncheon attendees included the Baird Foundation’s Catherine Schweitzer, (at 2:20) who understands that whatever gets built at Canal Side, “don’t do something that reflects, or is a faux treatment of our history, but do it in an authentic way”.   He mentions Tucker Curtin, a restaurateur who wants there to be food and beverage places down there, but Goldman warns, “not too many, but enough to create a nice synergy”.  Also there was an Albright-Knox curator, and someone advocating for “interactive programming”, meaning people walking around in period dress giving historical interpretation.  From 2:54 until about 3:15, Goldman again express how “broad, varied” the attendees and speakers were.  The camera shows middle aged white folk who are already connected to the arts, politics, and local old-money foundations.

4. Goldman complains that all of the above are, “people who have not been talked to”.

5. Three art pieces were specifically commissioned (by whom, for how much?) to make a statement about the waterfront.  These included an art installation made from garbage, a puppet show, and a “soundscape” showing off the sounds of the waterfront. (3:30 – 4:13).

6. The two main speakers included Fred Kent from the Project for Public Spaces, and Goldman’s brother, Tony.  Kent’s mantra: lighter, quicker, cheaper. Tony Goldman was involved with the gentrification of certain neighborhoods in New York City and Miami, where forgotten neighborhoods were revived through an influx of bargain-hunting artists.

7. Tony Goldman takes his brother and others on a tour of the abandoned grain elevators and imagines what could happen there – a mural, bleachers overlooking a light show, all projected or painted onto the elevators themselves.  The emphasis is on what people will “look at” (see, e.g., 7:09 – 7:19).  “It can be a gallery center, it can be a market”.

8. Mark Goldman envisions the inner, outer, and “middle” harbors being linked together by Ohio Street, and they “shouldn’t be developed separately.”  The inner harbor should be a “village”, the middle harbor with grain elevators should be an “arts and industry island” – a national heritage site with a “canyon of art and theater”, then to the outer harbor where Dug’s Dive will spin off with the Freezer Queen plant as a “node of waterfront recreation”.  Then “the rest will fill in”.

9. Goldman specifically thanks the Rupp Family Foundation, Baird Foundation, Citizens for Common Sense, Partners for a Livable Western New York.

Now, take another look at WNYMedia’s own video about the Canal project, made in 2007.

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There will be an ECHDC open house / meeting as follows.  I urge you to attend:

·        Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 10:00-12:00 p.m.

The sessions will be held at the offices of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, 95 Perry St., Suite 500, Buffalo, NY 14203. There is free, two-hour parking on Mississippi St. on the side of the building.

Anyone who is interested in presenting their ideas to ECHDC, but is unable to attend one of the public sessions is encouraged to contact:

Erich Weyant, Assistant Director, Communications

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.
95 Perry St., Suite 500, Buffalo, NY  14203
716.846.8258
716.846.8262 fax
eweyant@empire.state.ny.us

Read Part 2 here

WNYMedia.net & WECK 1230 Election Night Coverage & Liveblog

2 Nov

Since we haven’t promoted it enough, be sure to tune in to Hometown WECK 1230-AM (or click here for the audio feed worldwide) where Brad Riter will host our election night coverage with Chris Smith, Brian Castner, and me.  Nick Mendola may also stop in for a bit, and we’ll be joined by loads of guests.  You can also follow along on #WNYVOTES on Twitter if you can stomach hashtags, and the liveblog will be here.  We may even take some calls at 716-783-WECK.

We’re scheduled to start at 9pm when polls close, but WECK will be broadcasting a Canisius hockey game which may go long.  We’ll be on the air as soon as it’s over.

The turnout in WNY may reveal an interesting night for a lot of tight local races.

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Bass Pros and Cons

21 Jul

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