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Queens Chronicle

Watching a competitor for political bias

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Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:00 pm

The Queens Chronicle is not in the business of knocking our competition, as regular readers know quite well. We’ve only done it twice.

Once it was to admonish those papers that carry ads for “massage parlors” and “escort services” that are really thinly disguised fronts for prostitution.

We do not accept such ads.

The other time it was to criticize the Queens Tribune’s blatantly biased coverage of the 2009 City Council race between Dan Halloran and Kevin Kim, with its infamous “Democratic victor vs. pagan lord” front-page headline.

We do not engage in such reporting.

Nor do we have a supposedly unrelated political consulting firm operating out of our office under the command of one of our top managers, as the Tribune does. That firm was paid $228,000 by the Kim campaign. Decide for yourself how much that may have influenced the paper’s coverage.

Now we have to again take the Tribune to task for favoritism in its coverage of a race for public office, favoritism that likely has both politics and money behind it. Coincidentally, it’s again a race that involves Halloran, the winner of that 2009 contest and now a candidate for the Congressional seat that Rep. Gary Ackerman is giving up at the end of the year.

But this time it’s not Halloran the Tribune is showing bias against — at least not yet. Instead it’s Assemblyman Rory Lancman of Fresh Meadows and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley of Middle Village. They’re the two Democrats vying for the congressional nomination against the party’s choice, Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Flushing. Whoever wins the primary will then face GOP designee Halloran.

The Meng campaign just hired Multi-Media, the consulting firm the Tribune claims acts independently of the newspaper, even though it’s headed by the paper’s associate publisher, Michael Nussbaum.

So what does she get for hiring Multi-Media? Political advice, mailers and, just maybe, last week’s Tribune front page, which focused on Meng’s “making history” with her campaign (she’s Asian, you see), and relegated her competitors to inset-style photos.

We hope the Tribune — a storied newspaper that does also produce quality journalism —will play it straight this time around and be fair to all the candidates. We’ll be watching for this, since we read the Trib, and most of our competition, on a regular basis. And if we find the paper is showing favoritism again, we’ll report on it.

Here at the Chronicle, we have no horse in this race. We don’t have a favorite. We have chatter in the newsroom and around the conference table; that’s all.

The race to succeed Ackerman is an important one. The newly reconfigured 6th Congressional District stretches all the way from the northeastern reaches of Queens — the Bayside, Oakland Gardens area — down to Glendale and Ridgewood in the southwest, cutting a broad swath across the borough. Whoever wins the contest will wind up representing a broad range of neighborhoods and constituents.

What we see so far are four able public servants vying to be that representative. If there comes a time that we choose to endorse one over the others, we will do so in a space clearly marked “endorsement.” We will continue to strive to cover the race — and all news in Queens —in a fair, objective manner, true to the ethics of our profession. That’s not to say we won’t make mistakes; we have and will. But we will not engage in underhanded campaigning disguised as journalism, and we hope none of our competitors do either.

Welcome to the discussion.