The fascinating thing about newspapers is that they all lie; the good ones, however, do it only when it matters. This line, as paraphrased from the novel “Lacuna” by Barbara Kingsolver, is made true to us today by the series of articles that parrot each other in their coverage of Brooklyn’s “Williamsburg Walks.” I have a hard time not typing something along the lines of “Hipster Walks vs. Hipster Balks: Do the Hipster Thing,” as re-imagined by some screechy Spike Lee-type remake based on this story. It does seem that anything related to transportation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, tends to get to a pretty high-pitched tone. We had and sort of still have the Hasidic population vs. the bicyclists drama on Bedford Ave., (south of Broadway for the moment). Now it’s on to the walking.
Photo via BrandonLeeTenney.com
Williamsburg Walks is a community-building action that closes down parts of Bedford Avenue to car traffic to attempt to create a more European city: a relaxed, chatting atmosphere for pedestrians. This was a cursor for the street closings around the more pedestrian areas of Manhattan, and the general motion toward getting the hell away from dodging cars on our narrow city streets.
A local newspaper had decided to conduct a survey of the businesses that were affected by the street closings and this is where the mire of language became apparent to me. Our own Madeline Virbasius was quoted, then misquoted, then unquotedly taken advantage of, and then an avalanche began to build.
This is the timeline.
The first article from the Brooklyn Courier, dated March 24, 2010, mentions the results of a survey conducted from some of the businesses in the neighborhood. The article mentioned many different businesses and their concerns, as well as suggestions on how the event will be improved for everyone’s benefit. This is the quote that was published:
“Madeline Virbasiuis [sic], the manager of Jumelle boutique, also endorses the idea of a one-day event, as long as it involves more participation from local businesses. “Shops should participate in a way that draws people into the businesses instead of having a fair in the street,” said Virbasius.”
This is an update article from the Brooklyn Courier that is dated April 6, 2010 on this topic. It uses a quote the reporter solicited as a response to the updated street closing schedule. This is the quote that was published:
“For Jumelle’s Madeline Vibrasius, who runs a clothing boutique on Bedford Avenue near N. Eighth Street, the revised schedule is a “fair compromise” between the merchants and Williamsburg Walks.”
This article in the Brooklyn Paper picked up the story, also on April 6, 2010, but did not solicit a comment. Instead they ran their own editorial comment, passing it off as originating from the business by placing it underneath a photograph of Madeline Virbasius (the photograph was also taken from Brooklyn Courier): “and she got her wish now that the pedestrian mall has been cut to just two days instead of six.” However, that was never expressed by the business nor the person who appeared in the photograph above the quote.
Next are the blogs, like this one in FreeWilliamsburg, which make the editorial comment that appeared in Brooklyn Paper seem even more like a direct quote by the use of quotes. Yes, the quotes mean that the content is quoted from Brooklyn Paper, however observing the comments on the post, it looks that it’s suggestive enough to sway the opinion of readers into thinking that it is indeed the quote of the person who appears in the photograph. It is not. The quote was from some unnamed hack at the Brooklyn Paper, who, to save their internship, decided to reprint another paper’s article. To give credit to FreeWilliamsburg, they have attributed the information properly, only however, to repeat the mistake of the Brooklyn Paper. Neither of the publications sought a direct comment, satisfying the desire for shitformation and for pitchfork manufacturers who are sharpening their pencils for new torch orders.–Zabatay
Yes/No/Those Fat Cats Took My Monies, I think this piece should read, and as readers you should all vote in this simple poll: