I’ve never thought it was good practice for journalists to write op-ed pieces, particularly about subjects they’re supposed to be covering. Monday's "Political Notebook" from reporter Mark Scheer only served to reinforce my belief.
The piece, aside from being laugh-out-loud funny, confirmed my suspicions about that being the more prudent course for members of the Fourth Estate. I’ll quote at length from Scheer’s piece because, well, I just don’t think I can capture the tone as well by paraphrasing:
Residents across Niagara County took a stand against racism on Friday. Elected officials denounced discrimination in all of its forms. Participants called for equality of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religious belief. I’d like to add one to the list. Admittedly, it’s not as offensive as the others, but it certainly doesn’t help Niagara County either. I’m not sure what to call this “ism” or how to define it exactly. I just know it when I hear it. I’ve noticed it more since I started covering the county Legislature.
In some circles, Niagara Falls is viewed as nothing more than a favorite joke — the pathetic sister city that gets a kick whenever lazy minds in places like Lewiston or Lockport or North Tonawanda need a reason to feel better about themselves.
That’s right. Reporter Mark Scheer thinks that voicing disdain for the corrupt political cesspool that is Niagara Falls is on par with denying Rosa Parks her seat on the bus.
Worse, though, in the same piece where he whines about people saying unkind things about the City of Niagara Falls, he assails the intellect of citizens of “places like” Lewiston, Lockport, and North Tonawanda. But Scheer’s puff piece for the Cataract City gets better:
I’ve listened many times to people from outside the city proudly exclaim that they no longer take friends and family members to the Falls because they are so embarrassed by the place. They openly mock the roads and knock the neighborhoods. They remind everyone within ear shot how Niagara Falls has made a lot of stupid decisions over the years and used to be such a beautiful place when they were kids.
I get the sense that they’ve been saying such things for so long that they aren’t even really aware of what they are doing anymore. They do realize that Niagara Falls is part of Niagara County. They must know that the Falls is the so-called “crown jewel” of the county’s tourism industry.
Hey, Mark, here’s a newsflash for you: I had to have the alignment on my car redone after spending a few hours driving in your beloved city recently. On that drive, I saw a boarded-up house advertising “No Copper Pipes.” Maybe the fact that, as journalist Mike Hudson wryly noted in the latest issue of the Niagara Falls Reporter, “I seriously doubt that drivers in Beirut, Lebanon, are forced to drive on streets as poorly maintained as those in Niagara Falls,” has something to do with it. Or that citizens of that city have given up fighting against crime and now advertise which houses have already been gutted by criminals, to save them time and effort.
Having a waterfall doesn’t change all that. The real kicker, though, in Scheer’s piece is this:
I’ve lived in the city for going on 10 years now. I’m not blind. I know all about the city’s problems. I’ve been writing about many of the same ones for years. The city has certainly done a lot on its own to earn a tarnished reputation. It’s difficult, even for me at times, to find ways to defend it. But, while it may not be much, it is home.
Way to be objective, Mark. The next time Scheer writes anything about the relationship between the city and the county, which is sure to be strained by Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte’s decision to rip the county’s pitiful share of casino revenue away from county taxpayers and divert it to her political allies in the city, we’ll be reading his reporting with a jaundiced eye. Because what Mark Scheer declared in Monday’s Gazette is pretty clear: he’s in the tank for Niagara Falls, and no amount of evidence of mismanagement by the city’s political class will change that. And he’ll keep trying to “find ways to defend it.”