Monday, July 28, 2003


One Neighborhood, Two Newspapers, Two WorldsBy JULIAN E. BARNES New York Times, October 17, 1999, Sunday

Ever since a new community newspaper printed its first issue last month, Bushwick has had two publications cover-ing one neighborhood. But the two papers present such contrasting views that it appears they cover two different places.
The People's Voice, the new paper, writes of a neighborhood where Spanish translation services are scarce, schools are failing and politicians spurn debate. The Bushwick Observer, founded in 1995, writes about a neighborhood with new housing, renovated parks, plenty of block parties and attentive politicians.
The People's Voice, published by members of three community organizations, has a crusading tone. In the first is-sue, for example, it called on the Board of Education to dismiss the local school superintendent.
The publishers of The People's Voice claim that The Observer is little more than a tool to promote Assemblyman Vito Lopez. The current, 20-page issue features Mr. Lopez in four articles and 18 photos.
"The Bushwick Observer is asking people to come together and support one politician," said Andrew Friedman, co-director of Make the Road by Walking, an organizing group and one of the three supporting the paper. "Our paper is asking people to come together and make changes important to our community."
Mr. Lopez angrily denied that The Bushwick Observer exists to promote him and said he does not tell the paper what to print. "I do not dictate the policy of the newspaper," he said. "If you attend every activity, you get in every photo."
Shivaun Prendergast, editor in chief of The Observer, said that her paper did not promote any politicians and that the September paper was not representative. The June issue ran six photos of Mr. Lopez, and the July issue ran five.
Both papers, which are nonprofit, say they have no staff writers and rely on community members to donate articles. The Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, which publishes The Observer, prints 10,000 copies a month, Ms. Prendergast said. The People's Voice, which is scheduled to appear every other month, is published by Make the Road, the El Puente Bushwick Center and St. Barbara's Roman Catholic Church. The Rev. John Powis, the pastor of St. Barbara's, said 5,000 copies of the first issue were printed.
Mr. Lopez called Make the Road "destructive" and said The People's Voice "says nothing positive."
"The neighborhood needs positive reinforcement," Mr. Lopez said.
But Father Powis said The Bushwick Observer glossed over problems. "It's an unreal world when you read through this paper," he said. "I go to bed listening to all the shooting, but meanwhile the paper says everything is fine."

No comments: