Commerce and Community

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By Errol T. Louis
Help Find a Killer
Somebody reading this paper knows something about the murder of Chanel Petro-Nixon, the 16-year-old honor student from Bedford-Stuyvesant whose strangled body was discovered dumped on Kingston Avenue on June 23. If an innocent child can be slain in this way without a strong response from neighborhood leaders, it means nobody is safe. It means we have become a crowd and not a community.
Information on the slaying of this innocent child should be reported to the cops right away at 800-577-TIPS. If you don’t want to talk to the cops, call Our Time Press or reach me at the Daily News (212-210-2100).
Atlantic Yards and the Oder Effect
Continuing a strategy that is guaranteed to backfire, opponents of the proposed $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards Development continue to demonize anyone who won’t fall in line and join them in trying to kill the project. One of the leaders of the effort, a blogger named Norman Oder, makes a specialty of attacking journalists (including yours truly) by generating vast, tedious tomes of “analysis” that inevitably lead to the same self-serving conclusion: that nobody, but nobody – not one single member of the small army of reporters that has been following the project for years – knows as much about Atlantic Yards as Norm Oder. And therefore, nobody should write a word about it that doesn’t follow his line.
One of Oder’s most recent slash-and-burn efforts was directed at Greg David, the editor of Crain’s New York. “Crain’s editor Greg David gets it wrong,” said Oder’s headline. But the article itself, as usual, contained little substance beyond a long line -by- line nit-picking whine about Crain’s article, combined with a rehash of the talking points opponents always use: that the project will be too big; that it will bring too many people to Prospect Heights; and that the many, many groups and individuals who support the project are either ignorant of the facts or corrupt dupes of the developer.
In a typical line, Oder says: “As for the economics of the plan, why does David trust Ratner’s claims, given that the developer has been unwilling to produce his economic projections for the project?” In the world of real journalism, as opposed to Oder’s party-line manifestos, the job of the writer is to gather information, inform the readers where it comes from, then analyze it and move on.
But Greg David didn’t do the proper antiproject dance, so he got added to the Oder hit list. Oder has also gone after the Daily News, and by now has made a cottage industry out of nit-picking every word written about Atlantic Yards in the New York Times – including an especially silly minicampaign that accused the Times of deliberate bias for referring to the project’s location as Downtown Brooklyn, rather than Prospect Heights. Oder, who lives in Park Slope, probably has no idea that folks in East New York, Coney Island, Brownsville, Bed-Stuy and even Crown Heights routinely refer to Fort Greene and anything near Atlantic Terminal as downtown. Understanding that would require knowledge of the borough outside of Park Slope.
I call Oder the “Mad Overkiller”. My last article about Atlantic Yards ran 626 words; Oder wrote more than 2,300 words to attack it. Oder’s inability to form a concise argument is more than just a sign of weak writing skills: there’s also an attempt to accomplish, on a small scale, what the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did to candidate John Kerry in the 2004 presidential elections.
The Swift Boat people slimed Kerry up and down, over and over, publishing charges that were marginally true and in some cases completely false. Kerry made the mistake of not responding to each charge. That allowed the Swift Boat faction to build a mountain of damaging charges that like-minded people dutifully cited and cross-referenced through the magic of the Web. Eventually, newcomers to the debate, including members of the media, looked at the mountain of cross-references and, unable to plow through every accusation, gave the whole smear far more truth and credibility than it deserved. By the time Kerry woke up, it was too late to undo the damage.
Something similar is being attempted on the Atlantic Yards Project. Three blogs might cite a post by Oder – but when you probe his writings, half the references are to earlier Oder blog posts. The effect is like walking down a hall of mirrors with the same dubious accusations multiplied as if by magic.
But more and more journalists are getting wise to the game. The main result of the bloggers’ attacks on the media is the creation of a large and growing club of journalists (welcome, Mr. David) who dismiss the opponents as not only misguided and rude, but engaged in a fundamentally dishonest exercise.
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WBLS Hits a Home Run
According to the latest Arbitron figures, tens of thousands of listeners appear to be tuning out Hot 97 – which used to be ranked the No.1 hip-hop/R&B radio station in New York – in favor of WBLS, which beat out Hot 97 in each of the last two ratings periods.
WBLS has been on a tear for the past year, thanks to its decision to hire two powerhouse broadcasters: Steve Harvey, who hosts a morning drive time talk-and-music show, and Wendy Williams, who holds down a block from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Harvey and Williams are seasoned radio personalities who bring wit, intelligence and a positive message to a mostly black audience that is hungry for quality.
You don’t hear the B-word or N-word tossed around on WBLS; Harvey and Williams do not insult their audience that way. And listeners have responded in droves.
According to Arbitron, WBLS had 3.1% of the city’s teen and adult radio listeners last winter, but has increased its audience size over each of the last four ratings periods, building its share up to 3.9%. During the same time, Hot 97 slipped steadily from 4.5% of listeners to 3.7%.
In plain English, WBLS now draws about 30,664 more listeners than Hot 97 during any given period between 6 a.m. and midnight. That can translate into millions of advertising dollars moving from the losing station to the winner.
The numbers are a victory for community groups that called for a boycott of Hot 97 following its repeated broadcast of a sickening song parody that mocked victims of the 2004 tsunami that devastated South Asia. More negative press dogged the station thanks to three shootings in front of its office over the last few years by the entourages of rappers invited by – and sometimes incited by – station deejays.
The decline of “Shot 97” provides powerful evidence that positive, quality programming ultimately wins more listeners – and advertising dollars – than shallow shock radio.
Power 105.1, the third urban-format station, has been dropping in the rankings as well, losing to WBLS earlier this year and barely eking out a win most recently with 4% of listeners. The station’s rankings may continue to fall, thanks to the recent, career-ending tirade of Power 105.1’s ex-morning host, Troi (Star) Torain, who got a pink slip and a criminal indictment after threatening, on-air, to sexually assault the 4-year-old child of a rival deejay at (where else?) Hot 97.
“The hip-hop stations are losing audience share all over the country. How much can you hear about Jay-Z?” says Paul Porter, a media critic who runs a Web site, IndustryEars.com. “Steve Harvey’s topical; he’ll point out things you won’t get on other shows. He’s going to be the biggest voice in black radio.”