The Disappeared

And Giuliani has had an impact on coverage in other, more insidious ways. "One of the greatest problems that citizens— including reporters— have," says Steve Banks of the Legal Aid Society, "is that this administration makes it exceedingly difficult to get information for independent reporting, and has even resisted efforts in court to obtain information." The suppression of information and the choking of access to shelters and emergency centers— coupled with a state in lockstep with the city, and a federal government that has "essentially abdicated oversight"— has largely shut down a press corps, says the Urban Justice Center's Ray Brescia, "that is being led around by the nose by Giuliani."

Haberman, for one, takes exception to the notion that reporters are taking their cues from the mayor, though he grants the hobbling aspect of the administration's info squeeze. He also notes that coverage would follow government initiatives on homelessness— which have been scarce. When, for example, the federal government announced it would investigate the bureaucratic obstacles New York has put in the way of poor people applying for welfare, the story made all the papers.

And where governmental interest has met renewed activism, the homeless have burst back into view. In Toronto, homelessness is front-page news (Toronto Star coverage has quadrupled from five years ago) thanks in part to an unlikely mix of persistent, raucous activism and a mayor who had an epiphany touring homeless facilities. No similar combination appears imminent here; still, isn't the press supposed to be shining a light when something is less visible?

Meanwhile, says Coalition executive director Mary Brosnahan, New York's papers are missing a "major battle that will have profound effects on homeless New Yorkers." That's the legal fight over whether the city can throw out homeless families or adults from shelters as punishment for missing workfare assignments or violating some other regulation. If the city beats advocates in court, the administration will have successfully undercut New York's longstanding right to shelter.

None of the dailies have covered earlier skirmishes in this battle, aside from the Post, which cheered when a round went to City Hall this summer. The upshot is that on this, as on other issues concerning the poor, says Steve Banks, "the government is essentially carrying out its policies in secret."

What Did Rudy Know?

Imagine that DC 37 director Stanley Hill had been forced to resign under scandal during the Dinkins administration. Wouldn't the editorial pages have jumped all over Dinkins, wanting to know what he knew and when about the union's corrupt contract with the city? So why has only Newsday's Robert Polner asked of Rudy Giuliani: "Did He Look the Other Way?," as the tab's Wednesday front page put it.

The Times's Bob Herbert noted this weekend that back in 1996, allegations of fraud in the union's contract vote were legion, with dissident DC 37 union chiefs Charles Ensley and James Butler "running around the city telling anyone who would listen that the election had been hijacked." That makes this Rudy quote, elicited by Polner on Thursday, a whopper: "The first time I knew about these allegations, I knew about them because District Attorney Morgenthau was investigating them."


  • American coverage of the Pinochet story continues to lag behind European papers, perhaps because, as the Times put it in a headline last Thursday, "Europeans, But Not U.S., Rejoice At Ruling." That ruling, a rejection of immunity for the dictator by Britain's House of Lords, brought "muted responses from United States officials," noted the Times. Actually, "muted" doesn't quite capture it: the London-based Guardian asserted this weekend that Madeleine Albright had met "twice in the last fortnight with the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook," to urge Pinochet's return to Chile. As of Monday, neither the Times nor the Washington Post had mentioned the Albright meetings. . . .

  • After an 11-year hiatus, Cynthia Cotts will be returning to the Voice next week to break Press Clips's gender barrier. Welcome back, Cotts.

    Research: Soo-Min Oh

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