All right, all right: So the Democrat and Chronicle is not the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal ("Dollars and Sense," May 4; "Following the Paper's Trail," May 11). And they recognize that people are not the readers they once were. And they seek to entertain as well as inform. Are you really that different?
In page after City page, I see movie news, theater news, dining news, music news, weird and kinky news, personals, and only a few pages of weighty news, such as the need for restroom facilities for transvestites. (Can't they just enter a stall where, I am told, there is privacy?)
Has the D&C published helpful articles (much less cover stories) on how City can better get its act together?
And as for presenting opinion pieces that balance, is that really so terrible?
Thomas Hartleib, Erie Station Road, Rush
Kudos for a well-written, balanced story on the downfall of the Democrat and Chronicle. It's about time this community began a constructive conversation about its only daily newspaper. However, I truly wonder if anyone in the publisher's office on Exchange Street or in the executive suite at Gannett headquarters is listening or even cares. The paper's quality has been declining for several years, yet its management continues on its inexorable path to mediocrity.
Although I read the D&C just about every morning, it's a deeply unsatisfying experience, and I find myself "skimming" more and more these days. The redesign of the Living section, with its confusing jumble of patchwork-quilt design, breezy items, and more and more ads, is just the most recent unfortunate misstep by the paper's editorial staff.
As for hard news, it's clear that the paper's reporting staff is stretched way too thin and its writers are unable to fully develop or follow a story from beginning to end. As the City article points out, entire beats have been eliminated, and their absence doesn't do the paper any favors. (For example, where's ongoing religion coverage, once so well-handled by Doug Mandelaro?)
To be fair, the paper has some bright points. For example, the photojournalism is often quite good, and I'm generally impressed by investigative reporter Gary Craig's efforts. Nonetheless, I admit to relying on the New York Times online and National Public Radio for the bulk of my news and information.
Those tempted to link the paper's lackluster quality to Rochester's general malaise should pick up a copy of the Buffalo News. A city in much worse straits than Rochester on its worse day, Buffalo somehow manages to support a multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning paper. It's well-written, well-edited, well-designed, engaged, and involving.
I never find myself muttering, "what?" after reading an article; it's actually possible for a reader to get from one end of a piece to the other with a clear understanding of who, what, where, when, etc. And, not to step on City Newspaper's toes, the Buffalo News' weekly arts and entertainment pull-out Gusto section is easily one of the best pieces of its kind I've ever seen.
And in case the D&C's management moans that they can't run a quality newspaper that makes money, keep this in mind: Financier Warren Buffett and his company Berkshire Hathaway have owned the Buffalo News since 1977. Although I don't have the revenue figures to prove it, I doubt that he'd allow a money-losing operation to sit on his balance sheets for long.
Kathryn Gallant, New Tudor Road, Pittsford
Thank you for your fine coverage of the Democrat and Chronicle's problems ("Dollars and Sense," May 4, and "Following the Paper's Trails," May 11). A year ago, I was fed up with the lousy news coverage in the D&C and e-mailed Editor Karen Magnuson to express my concern. She answered promptly, but her clear response was that the D&C is a "local" newspaper that covers "local" issues. I thought I had accidentally e-mailed the editor of the Messenger Post!
I criticized the poor coverage of national and international news and she responded, "The Democrat and Chronicle will continue to offer a sampling of state, national, and international news but has no plans to expand this aspect of the news report." A sampling! Clearly, that is all we get.
The sad part is that print-media readers are a dwindling lot. Too often, people are choosing instead to get their "news" from blatantly biased and, in some instances, dishonest sources. However, it concerns me greatly that people who live here and still read the D&C might think they are up on the news. (Of course, their first clue should be the fluff on the front page.)
Cindy Kindle, Rothwood Drive, Webster
"Dollars or Sense" (May 4) was interesting and timely, given the news that most newspapers have suffered readership declines. But I take alarm at the opinion that "profits are too high." Profit margin is no one's concern but Gannett's stockholders'.
The article missed several reasons the Democrat and Chronicle is losing readership. One is the editorial page. It continues to have a liberal opinion despite a readership that is not. During the 2004 election, the page was a "bash-Bush" section. Now they continually attack the Bush plan for optional private Social Security accounts. If there is an issue that benefits the "young readers" the D&C wants, this is it! But reading the editorial page, you might as well be reading dnc.org, the web site of the Democrat Party.
Look at cable and Fox News: Put on a fair and balanced newscast that offers both sides, and people will tune in. Fox gets almost the number of viewers of all other cable news combined. Channels pushing a leftist agenda are losing viewers.
The D&C's"letters to the editor" section is no better: One or two a day seem to be published to make the writers look stupid. Invariably, those are some seniors giving "Grandpa Simpson" complaints: that a Wal-Mart is too "big, for example. I should take time from my day to read that?
Shawn Duffy, LeManz Drive, Rochester
The plans for Renaissance Square have drawn a full spectrum of reactions, from zealous enthusiasm to prophesies of blight and bankruptcy. While its proponents hope that it will revitalize downtown Rochester, critics feel that spending $250 million on one public project --- placing all of our hopes for a revitalized downtown at the corner of Main and North Clinton --- is too great a risk to take.
On the contrary: The risk is not great enough.
The bus terminal component is flawed because it is too safe. Taking a bus is slower and less convenient than driving, so most people who have cars do not even consider taking the bus. Although the MCC campus and performing arts center will draw more people, most of them will drive, and the increased number of cars and buses will exacerbate traffic congestion and eventually discourage people from going downtown.
Rochester needs a visionary transit system. Renaissance Square must be complemented by a mass transit system that will bring people to and from downtown in comfort, safety, and style.
Rochester needs a monorail.
Monorails offer numerous advantages over light and heavy rail. The design of a typical monorail --- an electrically-powered train that straddles a single, elevated concrete track, or beam way --- dramatically decreases the risk of derailment and collision with automobiles. Monorail systems can be constructed quickly and inexpensively along the narrowest easement or busiest city street, with minimum disruption to residents and businesses.
Monorails can be nearly invisible; they are no noisier than cars, and the beam ways can be designed to mesh with their surroundings. Most important, monorail is the only form of rail that can make a profit; the Tokyo and Seattle monorails both make money and are not subsidized by public funds.
A monorail system could spur downtown development. While the system could initially serve existing business areas and nightspots, other areas along the line would become preferred sites for development. As these become saturated, other lines and stations could be built, creating new clusters of development. Eventually, the system could be expanded to link residential areas in both the city and the suburbs.
The biggest obstacle to a monorail is cost. Although monorail systems are cheaper than other forms of rail, a monorail would add hundreds of millions of dollars to Renaissance Square's cost if everything were built simultaneously. If the system were constructed in small stages, however, the cost could be spread across a longer time period, and the risk could be considerably lessened. Even if a monorail were too expensive initially, Renaissance Square could be designed to accommodate a monorail, which could be built later.
Let us choose a public transportation system that will carry Rochester into the future with grace and ease. The stakes may be high, but playing it safe with buses will almost certainly result in disappointment, while a monorail could result in a vibrant, modern city. Let's take a chance that can help to transform Rochester into something extraordinary.
Matthew Fox, West Elm Street, EastRochester
In the next few months, we will have the opportunity to elect several new key representatives, none more important than the mayor of Rochester. We are blessed with three very capable Democrats, and the future of our great city will be in good hands. However, one candidate is clearly more qualified than the others: Tim Mains.
Tim has a natural gift of bringing people together to make social connections. It's a combination of curiosity, self-confidence, love of people, and sheer energy. While most people are concerned with the "not in my back yard" mentality and the negative aspects of urban life, Tim is building bridges and connecting all populations for the common good. His courage, knowledge of local issues, financial acumen, leadership skills, and commitment to public service is unparalleled. These are the true markers of a great mayor.
Tim Mains is the only inclusive candidate. He lives it every day of his life. You would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated candidate with more tenacity to make things happen.
Thank you for your article "Conquering a Hodgepodge: Remaking Irondequoit" (May 11). It was an excellent evaluation of a failed administration. Mr. Schantz ran for office many years ago with a vision for Irondequoit, the crown jewel of Monroe County. Under his supervision, property values have decreased, tax rates have increased, and still there is no town center, youth recreation center, or significant sign of improved economic development.
Now Mr. Schantz would like town residents to believe that this is the only opportunity to improve Irondequoit and that he is the only one with a plan. However, for the past eight years, there has been no planning, no development, no resident input, and no synergy.
To see Mr. Schantz's vision for improvement, one needs only to drive to MacAvoyPark at Empire Boulevard and Winton Road. At one time it was a place to play and laugh in the grass, to enjoy baseball on Tuesday with a group of seniors, or swing on the swings. Now you have a $3 million testament to failed planning: a cell tower, locked fields, and a schedule with 67 games a week. There is certainly not enough parking for all those people paying to watch their teams play on Astroturf. Unfortunately, Mr. Schantz did not feel the need to notify the surrounding area of these plans. Neighbors have been surprised and overwhelmed by this takeover of their neighborhood.
Mr. Schantz should spend less time worrying about visitors feeling comfortable and pay more attention to the needs of the people who already pay taxes here. Listen to our concerns, meet our needs, and improve our neighborhoods. Town government has been unresponsive to residents' needs under Mr. Schantz's supervision. You cannot change eight years of ineffective leadership six months before an election to protect your job and the jobs of your friends.
There are many issues which face Irondequoit. Over the next six months, there will be opportunity to talk about them. Then town residents will make a choice on their vision and who they want to carry it out. This November there will be an opportunity for Irondequoit to move ahead, and our residents will decide how.
Mary Ellen Heyman, Stonehenge Road, Irondequoit(Heyman is a Democratic candidate for Irondequoit Town Supervisor.)
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