August: From Black To Blue

Whoops – it’s another month now, isn’t it? And I picked a bad month to miss the calendar turning over, given that July was jam-packed with action on the byline front.

Let’s start off with my Exclusive with a capital E (as it appeared on the cover of the Village Voice, anyway): The news that the New York Yankees, under a lease clause allowing them to deduct “stadium planning” costs from their city rent, had billed the city treasury for the lobbyists they hired to push for public stadium funding, as well as the salaries of their own top executives. The documents proving this had been sitting around in city Parks Department files for years, but no one bothered to look at them – apparently, checking to make sure that your high-powered tenants aren’t ripping you off isn’t in the job description of anyone in city government these days.

It was also the month that the Yankees reaped the rewards of all that lobbying, as the National Park Service and Internal Revenue Service signed off on the use of federally funded parkland and federally subsidized tax-exempt bonds, respectively, clearing the last two bureaucratic hurdles facing the stadium project. Unless lawyers for Bronx residents manage to get a last-second court injunction, the trees are expected to begin falling in Macombs Dam Park later this month, with the House That Ruth Built to follow in the spring of 2008. The monuments to Lou Gehrig et al. will be relocated to the ersatz Stadium; no word on the fate of the plaque honoring the soon-to-be-landfilled seat of Ali Ramirez.

With the Mets also about to break ground on their new stadium, attention is set to turn to the New Jersey Nets, whose owner developer Bruce Ratner wants to build a new arena for them in Brooklyn, accompanied, incidentally, by a huge passel of butt-ugly condo skyscrapers. Will he succeed? Not if noted Brooklyn poet Steve Buscemi has anything to say about it.

And enough about all that. On a different topic, the new July/August issue of Extra! is out, with my analysis, as the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, of how the news media lived up to promises that it would pay more attention to pervasive poverty now that the hurricane and its aftermath had brought it to light. In a nutshell:

On CNN’s Reliable Sources (9/18/05), Newsweek contributing editor Ellis Cose was asked how much longer “the underclass” would remain in the news after Katrina. He replied: “I think it’s going to be a story for a long time, and a long time meaning at least six months or more. And I think these issues are going to be finally examined.”

Contrary to Cose’s predictions, “a long time” turned out to be a matter of weeks. An Extra! analysis of media coverage since Katrina – of the hurricane’s aftermath along the Gulf Coast and of poverty issues in general – found that with few exceptions, the media’s rediscovery of impoverished Americans lasted barely a month. While occasional individual journalists did follow up on how New Orleans’ poorest residents were faring in the months after the hurricane, these seldom went beyond tales of individual tragedy, examining neither the systemic causes of their destitution, nor what could be done to alleviate their woes.

The article isn’t up on FAIR’s website yet [okay, now it is] – in fact, I haven’t even gotten my copy of the magazine yet, though others have. In the meantime, you can hear me discuss post-Katrina coverage, as well as how the media mishandled the recent welfare law changes, on the July 7 edition of FAIR’s radio show, CounterSpin.

Thanks to everyone who showed up at my Philadelphia talk with Dave Zirin, and for my Baseball Prospectus chat (transcript here). If you’re looking to meet me live and in person, your best bet is either to pester BP to hold a New York pizza feed, or attend the sure-to-be-a-blast Yo La Tengo show at the Landmark Loews Jersey Theatre on September 29, part of the tour for their rumored-to-be-their-best-in-a-decade long-player (and even longer-namer) “I Am Not Afraid Of
You And I Will Beat Your Ass
.” Look for me in Row P.

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