December 6, 2012

How not to run a newspaper


A handy chart indicating the progress in journalistic ethics at the Niagara Falls Reporter over the course of the past year.

The news coming out about the Niagara Falls Reporter continues to get head-bangingly worse. I first ran across its current woes in Roger Ebert’s column in the Chicago Sun-Times in mid-November, when Ebert posted a letter that the now-ex-movie reviewer for the paper, Michael Calleri, wrote to the new owner, Frank Parlato, a real-estate developer who bought the Reporter back in April. Calleri had originally written to Parlato wondering why some of his reviews were running and some weren’t, and the response he got will make your jaw drop, coming from someone who’s running a newspaper in 2012. Parlato wrote that:

I don’t want to publish reviews of films where women are alpha and men are beta. where women are heroes and villains and men are just lesser versions or shadows of females.

i believe in manliness.

not even on the web would i want to attach my name to snow white and the huntsman except to deconstruct its moral rot and its appeal to unmanly perfidious creeps.

If you care to write reviews where men act like good strong men and have a heroic inspiring influence on young people to build up their character (if there are such movies being made) i will be glad to publish these.

Now Sara Morrison at the Columbia Journalism Review has posted a new piece (exceedingly temperate, I have to say) about Parlato and the other Niagara Falls follies, which include stealing content, lifting material straight from press releases, using photos without permission or credit, paying prostitutes and drug dealers for interviews Parlato used in moody and newsless cover stories, and generally being cagey and defiant about all of the above.

In fact, everything about Parlato is disturbing, including his announcement that, with all the press the Reporter has been getting, he’s looking to hire “guys — or girls — with real intrepidity.” Who knew a dash could do so much to freak you the fuck out?

But perhaps the most irritating part of all this is Parlato’s attitude. He excuses himself and all of his obviously misguided decisions by saying things like “I don’t pretend to be an experienced journalist in all the traditional ways” and “We learn as we grow,” when it is blindingly obvious that Parlato is not an experienced journalist in any traditional or nontraditional way, and he is obviously not learning while growing, or growing while learning, or any combination thereof.

Nor, for all of Parlato’s phony apologies, do I get the impression that he’s genuinely interested in learning anything about journalism: in fact, I get the overwhelmingly strong impression that he’s a rich dude who bought a newspaper and now thinks he can play around with it however he likes, flattering himself for his own ideas and completely ignoring the experience and standards that real journalists bring to the table. He isn’t the first. But it doesn’t make it any less depressing.




Sal Robinson is a former Melville House editor. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.