September 4, 2007

Schrader Accident

On or about August 4th, Niagara Times learned that Lockport 4th Ward Alderman Pat Schrader was involved in an auto accident that sent a nine year-old Lockport girl to the hospital. The accident required a Mercy Flight of the girl. Fortunately, the injuries she sustained were not life threatening.

From what we have learned, a police report was filed with the Lockport Police Department(LPD), and all city policies and procedures were followed.

What we are unable to comprehend, once again, is where is the mainstream media? In a column earlier today, someone referenced the lack of "investigative journalists" in our market. Does the local media only follow stories that are spoon-fed to them?

Worse yet, did the local media know about the story and bury it? Should this be the case, every one of us should be very concerned with this self-imposed censorship of stories of interest.

The release of this story by Niagara Times a month after it occurred is by no means an attempt to impugn Mr. Schrader. He is a dedicated representative who works hard for the city. He is unopposed for re-election this year. Accidents happen and again, the girl was not very seriously hurt.

But where is the responsibility? Do the people of this community not have the right to all of the news, not just the news that the local media deems us worthy of knowing? Or do we not deserve some sort of statement from Schrader, or did he think it wasn't necessary or that we didn't deserve one?

Either way, when you are an elected official, you live your life at a different standard. There are multiple parties at fault here. We can only hope that someone comes clean.

22 comments:

Pirate's Code said...

SA -- You've hit on a long-standing (and probably unresolvable) debate...who decides what constitutes "news?"

How many dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of police items never see the light of day over a year's time? You ask (rhetorically, I assume) if we are not entitled to all the news, not just that the media deems fit to report. That is, and always has been, the conundrum that is media. Someone, somewhere, is deciding not only what gets reported, but also how it gets reported.

Even the NY Times long-standing slogan -- all the news that is fit to print -- implies that judgments are being made about what news is "fit."

We rely on the media to make such judgments because, frankly, none of us has time to hear, see or read everything that goes on all the time. What might be news to you and I could well be dreck to someone else. Your point is well-taken, though -- a 9-yr-old local kid taken away by Mercy flight would seem to be front page news in most small town markets.

I'm curious as to your definition of "investigative journalist," however.

Sail Away said...

To me, an investigative journalist is someone who actually goes out and finds news, not simply, as I stated before, has the news spoon fed to them.

Pirate's Code said...

I think the issue here is not necessarily the type of reporting that is or isn't taking place, but rather the quality.

I'm sure the folks at the Niagara Falls Reporter view themselves as "investigative journalists." I don't particularly care for their approach to the job and shutter to think what would happen if the other so-called mainstream media followed their lead all the time.

On the other hand, our most local of papers published by Niagara Newspapers are, sadly, poorly written and edited and, in my view, getting worse with each passing year. If I ran it? Bite the bullet and go to a single countywide paper. Drop the pretense of Niagara and Lockport and Tonawanda. So much of the papers are the same anyway.

The Buffalo News can be decent, but the depth of its coverage of Niagara County and local city/town/school districts is often superficial. They get most of the big stuff, but lack of space and staff means that next tier of community news simply doesn't get reported.

TV? 1970's Irv/Rick/Tom repackaged in shinier wrappers. Little substance, but loads of sparkle. Tying oh-so-hard to be trendy. "Let's go to the web center where Bob in Cheektowaga writes..." No offense to Bob in Cheektowaga, but who cares?

Radio? Also woefully understaffed, I suspect, resulting in way too much "rip and read" from the papers.

What to do about all this? Ah, a column for another time.

cg466 said...

Hey its lockport what do you expect. Another clown on the road.Did he have wet pants too?

Splendor in the Grass said...

The Lockport paper is ridiculous. I can hardly focus on the content some days because of the errors. I'm guessing they mostly just use spell check and no one reads for using the wrong "there,, their, or they're" etc. Frequently articles are not fact-based alone, but the writers' opinions are definitely in there...slanted and biased, especially on political topics. How many reporters are there? How is the paper funded? Can't they afford more journalists/ reporters? I know many people who don't even read their local Lockport paper because there is nothing in it worth reading to them. I would think that someone who went to college for journalism would have that craving for going out and searching and uncovering stories!! How 'bout you Sail Away...got time for a reporting job??

Anonymous said...

PC -- You are definitely on to something: "Someone, somewhere, is deciding not only what gets reported, but also how it gets reported." Clearly, this is dangerous. The reporting that is not taking place contradicts the "People's Right to Know".

We need to know who decides what constitutes the news.

My first guess would be the newspaper Editor. Favors!!

My second guess would be both Editors and Journalists who know what is newsworthy but for perhaps reasons of fear of repercussions (it does happen) they silence the story.

My third guess would be any political candidate with "connections" or anyone considered "privileged" who for any number of reasons would want to silence a story and is in a "perceived position of power" to silence the story.

My fourth guess would be that as a Political candidate, even though un-opposed, it is Patrick Schrader who wanted the matter "silenced".

Therefore, the question now becomes "Why would Patrick Schrader want the matter silenced?"

Scott Leffler said...

I love reading the rantings of people who have no idea how the journalism industry works. Sure, I have issues with GNN. I think they take the cheap and easy route at times ... but typically it's out of neccessity. How many of you wish your company would hire more people to help keep your work load down? When I was with GNN five years ago, they had double the staff. And the same work load. Five years before me, they had double yet. And the same work load. What you imagine to be laziness or corruption is simply the economics of the situation.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Scott!! The question is valid and WHO DECIDES has nothing to do with the "economics of the situation" unless "economics" includes the "lining of a pocket"!

Scott Leffler said...

By the question of "Who decides," you're making an assumption that the newspaper knew this tidbit and is either ignoring it or covering it up. I'm telling you that is highly unlikely to be the case. With three reporters, they can only get so much information. And none of those reporters is an "investigative journalist." It is purely economics driven.

As a rule, decisions to run news are made by the editor at the time the news comes forth. And the editor decides to run the news they think the readers will enjoy/talk about the most.

No editor would pass on a story about an alderman mowing over a 9-year-old.

You right-wingers are way to conspiratorial with the media.

Scott Leffler said...

http://www.lockportjournal.com/local/local_story_249010919.html

I think their account is pretty satisfying.

Fat Tony said...

Note to self:

If Pat Schrader and Bob LaBarbera both offer me a ride home, best to take the ride from Bob, plus he seems more fun to party with.

Anonymous said...

Scott - conspiracy exists and is not limited to the thinking of "right-wingers".

"Respect for the truth and the publics' right to know are over-riding principles for journalists."

"They should act independently and be held accountable."

"Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with a"perceived" power accountable."

Everyone on this blog will make assumptions before arriving at the TRUTH. The truth is: Some person or persons are deciding what does and does not reach the public and that conspiracy does exist in the media. There are "players" who are very skilled at drawing others into their conspiracy to oppress information that the public has a right to know. Whether or not it plays a part in the matter of Patrick Schrader remains to be told. I, for one (and again) believe it is Patrick Schrader who wanted the story silenced. The question AGAIN therefore is "Why would Patrick Schrader want the story silenced?" Now, we can also ask, "Why would the media go long with it?"

You might want to review the Code of Ethics, Society of Professional Journalists at www.spj.org. I don't think there is a newspaper in the nation that would use the words "mowing over" to describe what happened to this child.

Scott Leffler said...

Anon,

You obviously didn't read the newspaper's account before posting your drivel.

Is it ethical to lob accusations at people while remaining not only faceless, but nameless as well, Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Scott - If you are quoting you should identify it. Otherwise, the reader obviously believes it is YOUR use of language. Nevertheless, I would suggest you visit the page suggested.

Pirate's Code said...

Anonymous said...PC -- You are definitely on to something: "Someone, somewhere, is deciding not only what gets reported, but also how it gets reported." Clearly, this is dangerous. The reporting that is not taking place contradicts the "People's Right to Know".

Anon -- I fear you missed my point. Every news outlet, print or broadcast, has limitations on how much can be reported. Limitations of space, time and budget (as Scott points out vis-a-vis the staff cuts at GNN).

The fact that "news" gets edited is not dangerous, in an of itself. Editing is sometimes done by benign neglect. "Yeah, something happened on this date to so and so, but in the larger scheme of today's other news, it's not that big a deal."

What is potentially dangerous is the influencing of the editing process by outside sources. Don't know that that is the case with GNN, or WLVL, or the Buff News, but if it is it is reprehensible and unethical.

My point, though, was to point out that even the largest daily newspapers can't report everything, and that "news" in your eyes might not be news in mine. "The people's right to know" does not necessarily mean that the media is solely responsible for giving it to you. We all have an obligation to educate ourselves so, if you happen to be interested in police matters or a particularly case, your "right to know" allows you to trundle down to the police station or court house and ask to see the documents.

And, Scott, not everyone here has "no idea how the journalism industry works." Likewise, there are those in that industry who seem to have not a clue. If they did, do you think "Sound Off" would continue to survive in the Tonawanda News?

Scott Leffler said...

PC,

I would agree on both accounts.

One of my frustrations with the local political scene, though, is the thought that somehow or another, the media is in the bag. The dailies are definately respectable. They're not always GOOD ... but they're certainly not unscrupulous.

Anonymous said...

PC - with all due respect, I am not buying into the notion of "limitations of space, time and budget." Where there is a will, there is a way. You can bank on it. More later...

Pirate's Code said...

Scott -- Part of the issue, I think, is that too many people are unable or unwilling to accept that a newspaper (for instance) is a business. And, like any other business, it is entitled to its opinion on the events of the world.

The other side of that coin, unfortunately, is what I believe to be a dramatic blurring of the line between news and opinion in far too many media outlets. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I seem to remember a day when it was easy to distinguish between news reporting and opinion writing. It seems far less easy today. Journalism, as a profession, is poorer for it.

And, Anonymous, we will just have to differ on the limitations of any media outlet. It is easy to say that any newspaper, for instance, should just hire more reporters/editors and print more pages to satisfy our "right to know," but in the end someone has to pay for that. If the advertising and subscription revenue doesn't cover the cost, you won't have a newspaper for very long.

Mr. Pink said...

You also cannot neglect that today, "consumers" of news have more choices than ever before so papers need to print what they think will encourage people to plunk down 50 cents.

What I mean is that those of us on this blog are in one way or another political junkies, issue advocates, policy wonks...sadly, we are in the minority.

Many people find more value in the local paper printing the lunch schedule at school than the blow by blow account of last night's council meeting.

Scott Leffler said...

I, too, am more often irritated by what doesn't make it than by what does ... but at the same time, there's lots of feel good news that I've never cared for. I got in many-a-fight over those type of stories and wouldn't be stretching it a bit by saying that the main reason I'm no longer with GNN is becuase I fought too often with editors over the need for "hard news" over lifestyle stories - or "fuzzy bunnies" as I called them.

I sometimes see the opinions crop up in stories, but not enough to have a problem with it. Frankly, I notice it more in radio news than in print ... but that could be because that's where my focus is now.

PC, you're right about the business part of the "news business." Some would love to think that news outlets have limitless budgets. That simply is not the case ... and they go after what they think they can get. Sometimes they skip over the stories we want to see because it would take too much of their resourses to do the story justice.

I know at WLVL, we don't do investigative work. We can't afford the man hours, quite frankly. So we try to do as good a job on what we CAN cover. It's a shame, but at least I understand the economics of it.

And Pink is right to point out that it's about what consumers want. News media does studies to find out what people get excited about ... and unfortunately, people get excited about seeing a picture of their neighbor and a story about her award-winning garden. So that's where the news puts it resources.

Finally - be sure to listen to the podcast of today's Dialog if you want more background on the Schrader story. Tim Marren joined me for the first 15 minutes to talk about the newspaper's timeline on the story ...

Click for podcast.

Mr. Pink said...

I not one to get caught up on the hyperbole that we see in some of the posts on this site but.......I just listened to Leffer's podcast and it is obvious that there was a coverup of the Schrader incident. Tim Marren from the US&J was outstanding in walking through the story.

Clearly, the paper did the best they could to get this story and were stymied...the question is by who and why.

Mr. Pink said...

Scott,

Still listening to the podcast and now I'm curious about the missing 30 seconds. If anyone heard the podcast about what Scott had to edit out, please sign on as anonymous and post what got said.