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But he doesn't really expect to halt progress with his blog. "It has no impact on the Bloomberg administration," he says, "on the decisions made by real estate developers, or the people who drunkenly flood the streets of the East Village to scream and yell and watch football games in sports bars. It doesn't stop Sex and the City tourists from coming, and it can't bring Howard Johnson's back to Times Square."
Then why bother? "I don't want to downplay the importance of making people feel less alone in their emotions," he says. "The feelings of sadness and powerlessness that hyper-gentrification evokes can be overwhelming. And knowing that there are others out there, that you're not the crazy person ranting on the street corner alone, is significant." —EDROSO
What does a big-time network news producer do when his job starts to lose its allure? Ed Litvak confronted that very question last year and opted to start a blog—not on national news, or even TV gossip, but on a more intimate and real subject: the Lower East Side, where he lives with his wife, Traven Rice.
Litvak, 43, was previously the executive producer of CNN's American Morning, the network's major a.m. show. Before that, he helped the network win a Peabody Award for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Rice, 36, is a filmmaker.
What they do now couldn't be any more local. The Lo-Down is a multimedia compendium of news and cultural info about the diverse, historic Lower East Side. It wasn't a bad idea, when you consider that well over 100,000 people live in the LES and surrounding area. The couple runs the website out of their one-bedroom apartment, which has come, since their April 2009 launch, to increasingly resemble a newsroom.
"We found information on the neighborhood to be extremely thin," Litvak says. "In a town where every neighborhood has 1,000 stories, the newspapers can't do much more than graze the surface. There's so much here you wonder about. It's a bit like peeling away the layers of an onion."
The couple's other goal, Litvak says, was "to be able to help define what community news online will become." He already knew what network news had become: He covered many of the big stories of the past decade for NBC and CNN, but by 2008, the job had begun to wear thin. "I had been in TV news for a long time, and increasingly, I didn't find it very fulfilling," he says. "I was a manager, and I didn't find that I was able to do the things that motivated me: being a journalist, doing stories and writing."
He adds, "In between the big stories, there were a lot of missing blonde girls and Britney Spears. It's not very interesting, and I think that it did get me down after a while."
The site costs them very little to maintain; friends did the technical stuff, designed the logo, and help with photos and other material. The couple live off their savings, plus what they say is very modest ad income. Over the next few months, they hope to attract advertisers who want a media outlet but don't want to pay the high rates charged by the major dailies.
In the meantime, Litvak says, he has been impressed with the resourcefulness of bloggers. "These people who have blogs go out with their cameras and find stuff," he says. "I think they prove that you don't have to be a brain surgeon to be a journalist." —GRAHAM RAYMAN
Proprietor: "Queens Crapper"
The proprietor of Queens Crap wouldn't send us a picture, saying, "That kind of defeats the purpose of having an anonymous blog, doesn't it?" If you read the blog, you'll understand why the author wants to keep a low profile.
QC slashes hard at borough (and city) politicians, some of whom earn the name "Tweeder," a reference to the rapacious ward-heelers of Tammany Hall days. QC sometimes runs—along with selected, damning news bites—brief commentary, like this message to Mike Bloomberg: "Term limits were good enough to remove Giuliani after 9/11 (what got your ass in office in the first place), and it's good enough to get rid of you now." Mostly, these days, QC is content to run satirical headlines ("JFK Clusterfuck Coming") or pictures, like Congressman Gary Ackerman with his hand in a cookie jar. The blog's commenters are lively, and sometimes borderline racist, obscene, or unkind (one on former Beep Claire Shulman: "Shulman is a backstabbing pig who puts on kneepads for the Mayor"). Vox populi!
And that's just what you see on the site. Though mum about it, the Queens Crapper is a public-spirited citizen who goes to the meetings and has learned how to work the system. "The website is only about half of what the Queens Crapper does," QC tells us. "I get private e-mails asking for advice about how to tackle certain issues, and I respond privately."
That was a surprise to us—from the tone of the blog, we said, it seemed like QC doesn't expect things to change at all. "Oh, that's where you're wrong," QC says. "I do expect things to change. I think the era of complacency is about to come to an abrupt end, and I hope to document it." In fact, the blogger adds, "there are many talented unsung mid-level city employees that go out of their way to help their fellow citizens on a daily basis and are not just there to collect a paycheck. I would give them kudos on my site, but it might get them fired."