Daily News

Daily writers garner AP awards

By Howard Owens
Aug 22, 2009, 12:42pm

Congratulations to Scott DeSmit, Tom Rivers and Joanne Beck of the Batavia Daily News for their Associated Press writing awards.

DeSmit won a first place award for three of his columns.

Rivers won three awards. He will receive a second-place award for his columns, a second place for beat reporting, and an honorable mention for his series on farm labor.

Beck receives a second-place award for columns and a third-place for continuing coverage of the city ambulance service issue.

The awards will be presented Sept. 23 in Syracuse.

Partisanship in local media

By Howard Owens
May 2, 2009, 10:48am

Our friend Russ thinks the Batavia Daily News is pushing a Republican agenda, largely because the paper didn't publish a recent letter he wrote.

After more than two decades in journalism, I tend to take all such charges with a grain of salt. Every paper I've ever been associated with has been blasted by both sides for either its liberal agenda or its conservative agenda - at the same time.

People tend to think the local media is pushing whatever agenda they don't happen to agree with.  I think newspaper journalism has its inherent faults, and it no longer serves readers well, but overt partisan bias is rarely one of them.

The Batavian gets accused of pushing political agendas, too. To this day many local Republicans think this is a Democratic site, yet recently I've been hearing from Democrats who think we've shifted to the right.

Either charge is ludicrous. I've been open from the beginning about my own political positions -- I'm not registered with any political party and haven't been for at least a decade. I identify myself as libertarian, and I dispise partisanship in governing. 

Both Republicans and Democrats have an equal opportunity to use The Batavian to promote, if you will, their positions, policies and candidates.  If one side takes more advantage of that opportunity than the other, that is going to lead the other side to think The Batavian has taken up residence in the opposing camp. But for the partisan side holding that perception, it really has nobody to blame but itself. It simply failed to take the opportunity to be equally heard.

I believe in robust debate. All sides should be heard -- just don't get into personal attacks. On The Batavian, the rules are simple: Use your real name and don't get personal. Otherwise, you're free to pursue whatever agenda you wish. If community members don't think you're being truthful, accurate or are drawing illogical conclusions, expect disagreement (as they say, we should disagree without being disagreeable).

If Russ had submitted his letter as a blog post to The Batavian, it likely would have wound up on the home page -- not because I agree with his politics. (In fact, there are a couple of key points in his article that I disagree with.) But because it's a local opinion of local importance.

Republicans have the same opportunity to be heard, and there have been times recently where Republicans got a chance to be heard on The Batavian even though I disagreed with the particular positions taken.

In other words, the weight here isn't whether you're a Republican or Democrat, whether I agree or disagree with you a particular position, but rather is what you have to say relevant to our local audience and is your position is presented civilly.

I've been told numerous times that there is an unwritten rule among local Republicans: Don't participate in The Batavian. Why? "Because it's a Democratic site." It's a foolish mandate. The only people Republicans are hurting are Republicans. 

The perception that this is a Democratic site arose early because Democrats discovered it first. Why? Because at the time, Democrats where much more organized online and more wired, even at the local level.  When blogging first started, it was nearly exclusively a Republican/liberatarian activity, and then guys like Markos Moulitsas Zúniga  came along and recognized progressives needed to be heard in this new medium. He was aggressive about promoting a progressive agenda online and nearly all by himself created what is called the Netroots movement. You could make the case that Obama would not be president today without it.

It was the local Netroots community that found The Batavian first. Thus, their voices were more often heard than Republican voices, but it is a complete misconception to conclude that the outcome was intentional. And in those early days, we were quite happy, honestly, to have any audience.

Now, I'm told, there's this notion among some Democrats that The Batavian has become more of a Republican site, but mainly because we publish so many press releases from Chris Lee, Ranzenhofer and Hawley.

Folks, they're our elected representatives, and if they send out press releases that seem relevant to Genesee County, I'm going to publish them.

When the local Democrats send out local press releases, and I've received a couple, I'll publish those, too. 

Though in both cases, I wish more often people would just create a user profile and post under their own names. I recently rejected an op-ed piece from Steve Hawley's office because I thought it should be published under Hawley's name, not mine. It's one thing for me to write up a little summary of a press release under my name and link to the whole document verbatim, but it wouldn't be right to publish somebody else's entire opinion piece under my name.

Two days ago, Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley hosted a press conference about pending anti-gun legislation. I covered the press conference not because I favor Republicans, but because it was held in Genesee County.

Why was a press conference opposing possible anti-gun legislation being held in a basically pro-gun county? The perception might be that that's a bit like "preaching to the choir."

Without publicity beyond Genesee County, wouldn't the legislators' voices be muted, thereby limiting their ability to sway voters? But Ranzenhofer made the valid point that with digital media, their views can be known to voters statewide.

In other words, they picked Genesee County for the press conference because we have robust online media. If they had gone to Erie or Orleans, The Batavian wouldn't have covered it. We care most about what happens in Genesee County, without partisan considerations.

If we have any overt agenda, it's to promote localism, to promote the local community. We're all about Genesee County. We're parochial and proud of it.  

Daily News makes Reader's Digest feature

By Howard Owens
Mar 25, 2009, 5:27pm

The Batavia Daily News got a little attention from the April edition of Reader's Digest, but maybe not in the way editors might appreciate.

In a feature called "Hold the Presses!" the Digest lists five headlines, with one of them being from the satirical publication The Onion.

Among such gems as "Smokers asked to keep butts off beach" and "Volunteers needed to hep abuse victims" is the Daily's surely unintended contribution: "Orleans seeks tenants for new jail."

(This item brought to The Batavian by an alert reader.)

Daily News article stirs some online debate over city employee salaries

By philip.anselmo
Feb 25, 2009, 4:45pm

Another Daily News article by Joanne Beck that takes up the issue of the assistant city manager's salary has got tempers flaring on the newspaper's Web site. Beck authored an article a couple weeks back in which she was accused of sexism for questioning why Sally Kuzon is being paid $24,000 more per year than past assistants.

In today's article, Beck writes:

City Councilmen Bob Bialkowski, Bill Cox and Rose Mary Christian say they want answers about how the assistant manager's salary was established. The total of about $84,000 includes a $2,820 car allowance, according to information provided to The Daily News.

There has never been a car allowance for an assistant manager before, Christian said. She questions why there's one for Assistant Manager Sally Kuzon, a Williamsville resident who was granted a residency waiver.

The article, which is interesting and well-written, has already garnered more than a dozen comments (and climbing) on the site.

We have still not received the information we requested from the city two weeks ago, when we filed a Freedom of Information Law request to view the salaries for all city employees for the current year, the project year and the past year. We were informed that it would take until March 30 to compile the information.

News roundup: Genesee Co. native among four dead in weekend murders

By philip.anselmo
Feb 16, 2009, 7:35am

One of four people murdered over the weekend was a Batavia native, WBTA's Dan Fischer said. Former Lakeside Hospital worker Frank Garcia is accused of shooting five people Saturday, killing four of them. One of the victims, 23-year-old Mary Silliman was born in Batavia, according to Fischer.

Daily News reports reference Silliman as a Corfu native.

The rampage began about 5 a.m. when the suspect drove to Lakeside on Route 31 and found Mary Silliman, a nursing assistant at Lakeside's long-term care facility, outside, apparently on a break, law enforcement sources familiar with the case said. Silliman, 23, lived in Albion and was a former Corfu resident.

Police are still unclear on all the details of the alleged murders. Garcia is also suspected of murdering a Canandaigua couple in their home execution-style later that day.

From the Democrat & Chronicle:

Police have not released several details surrounding Saturday's killing spree, including how the suspected killer knew the slain Canandaigua couple or how he spent the nine hours between the first killing and his arrest.

[...]

Garcia, a registered nurse, started working as a per-diem nursing supervisor at Lakeside's Beikirch Care Center in late October or early November, said interim Chief Executive Officer Michael Stapleton. Beikirch Care Center is also where Sillman worked. Garcia's employment was officially terminated last week, though he had not worked a shift "in several weeks," Stapleton said.

Silliman attended Pembroke Central and Batavia High schools, according to Fischer. Check back with that site later for a full obituary on Silliman.

News roundup: City poised to scrap county-wide ambulance service

By philip.anselmo
Jan 23, 2009, 8:26am

Batavia is ready to get out of the ambulance business. City Council said last night that it would vote Monday to terminate its agreement with the rest of the county to provide ambulance service throughout the county, according to an article this morning in the Daily News. Joanne Beck writes: "That will mean no more city ambulance service for all residents of Genesee County, including the city."

"No more city ambulance." Flat out.

WBTA's Dan Fischer is quick to point, however, that the void will not remain empty for long. "If council votes to close down the ambulance service, expect a deal to be struck with a private ambulance service out of Rochester or Buffalo," he says.

Beck put together a fine article, replete with colorful quotes from Council, such as this one from Frank Ferrando:

“If we’re making money, none of us would want to give it up.... I think we want to provide this service, and it’s an excellent service, we just can’t foot the bill. We can’t foot the bill for the whole damn county.”

As for the rest of "the whole damn county"—they're not so willing to give up the service. Beck writes:

Seventeen of 18 Genesee County municipalities have indicated they’d like to extend the current ambulance service agreement another year, City Manager Jason Molino said. Pembroke opted out. The city must first “execute an extension and modification agreement” to continue offering the service before it can then notify those municipalities of the city’s termination clause, Molino said.

Genesee Fire Wire photo gets nod in international Media Awards Contest

By philip.anselmo
Jan 22, 2009, 10:24am

Hats off to Jay Lynch and the Genesee County Fire Wire for picking up a second place grab in the International Association of Fire Fighters Media Awards Contest. Lynch won in the category of "Fire service photo on a Web site" for this shot of city of "Batavia Fire Department Lieutenant Mark Mikolajczyk pulling down the ceiling during overhaul operations at 39 Washington Avenue."

From the press release:

Each year the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) holds their “Media Awards Contest”. The Media Awards Contest honors communications, reporting and photography that best portray the professional and dangerous work of fire fighters and emergency medical personnel in the United States and Canada.

These awards recognize the exceptional work by IAFF affiliates who serve a vital role in their communities while generating public awareness for fire fighters. The stories and photos entered also bring to light important issues that affect the welfare of fire fighters throughout North America.

The 2008 Media Awards Contest entries are made up of many categories including print, internet, and video media. City of Batavia IAFF Local 896 entered several photos in following categories:  “News Photo With A Circulation Under 100,000” and “Fire Service Photo On A Web Site”.

That seems like quite an honor for Lynch and the Fire Wire. Congratulations!

The Daily News also picked up a nod. A photo of fire fighters tackling a blaze at Pauly's Pizza received honorable mention.

Honorable mentions ... are used in the IAFF’s Burn Foundation Calendar. The Burn Foundation is dedicated to burn prevention and education, burn research and improving the quality of life for burn survivors. It was created in 1982 and is the largest non-government source for burn research grants and the sponsor of the annual IAFF National Children’s Burn Camp, held each fall in Washington, DC. The Batavia local of the IAFF is proud to have the Daily News photo included for the 2009 IAFF Burn Foundation Fundraising Calendar.

You can purchase a calendar at the IAFF Web store.

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