As Times cuts ties with N.Y.U., local bloggers sound off

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  It’s lasted for more than two years — but, as they say, all ’hood things must come to an end.

The New York Times announced in June that, by the end of the year, it will terminate its partnership with New York University’s journalism school on The Local East Village Blog, which allowed students to dig into the stories generally covered by established community newspapers and neighborhood bloggers.

The site was founded in September 2010, and has featured articles from dozens of N.Y.U. students and community members. The Times is pulling out because hyperlocal news is “not an area of investment at the present time,” a spokesperson for the newspaper said, adding that The Times’s efforts are currently focused on global and digital expansion.

“Our collaboration with The Times was always intended as an experiment,” said Daniel Maurer, editor of The Local East Village and a faculty member at N.Y.U.’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

That experiment paid off for budding N.Y.U. journos, Maurer added — if not for The Times — because his students were challenged to rise to the paper’s editorial standards, and were motivated by having to produce at the level of a professional news organization.

But amidst all the boons for the university — which many East Village residents believe is systemically destroying their neighborhood — there’s been no love lost between The Local and some of the area’s most beloved blogs.

“[The Local] wasn’t about understanding hyperlocal journalism. It was about testing what scholars and a huge news organization thought it should be,” said Dave Gustav, co-founder of Bowery Boogie, which covers the Lower East Side.

Gustav, who graduated from N.Y.U., went on to say that, while the relationship may have had practical benefits for both The Times and his alma mater, it lacked a vital sense of neighborhood legitimacy.

“An example that might put this into better perspective would be to imagine if a culinary institute partnered with Chipotle to open a restaurant,” he explained. “Chipotle might have the same ingredients, but the traditional style and authenticity is lost.”

When asked about how he perceived the blogosphere’s response to The Local, Maurer stressed that at least one good relationship was formed, since the two co-founders of The Lo-Down, which also covers the Lower East Side, actually made time to speak to N.Y.U. students about their work.

The Lo-Down couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.

In addition, the late Bob Arihood, who blogged at Neither More Nor Less, also addressed the N.Y.U. students about how he found his stories.

Without naming any names, Maurer added that there was some notably unfriendly backlash.

“While some sites have been collegial and have appreciated another source of news in the neighborhood, others have accused us of ‘gentrification of the blogosphere,’ as one of them put it when I tried to get a beer with him,” he said. “Personally I think that — like the neighborhood sites we link to daily — we’re working hard to tell important stories, of which there are a countless number in the East Village; and to equate journalism with gentrification is a disservice to everyone who’s hungry for a wide variety of news about their neighborhood.”

The active, albeit somewhat mysterious, East Village blogger who identifies himself only as EV Grieve — and who runs a site of the same name — explained that while he was originally turned off by the “arrogance” of the N.Y.U. staff behind The Local, he doesn’t feel that way anymore.

Why? Because he hasn’t read enough of the articles to form an opinion.

“I really haven’t followed their work too closely,” said EV Grieve. “Or at all, to be honest.”

In what seemed like a thinly disguised dig, Bowery Boogie’s Gustav echoed that sentiment by saying that The Local’s end seemed inevitable because of a perceived lack of readership.

“Based on the traffic we got from The Local compared to other local blogs, I’m not sure if anyone was actually reading it,” he said. “Their name rarely came up in conversations about local blogs.”

Gustav added that he believed there was not enough positive outreach on the part of N.Y.U. students who were writing for The Local. More attempts to interact with his and other neighborhood blogs, he claimed, would have given the student journos a better knowledge of how real hyperlocal sites operate, in addition to gaining the lessons taught in their university programs.

“The few e-mails we received from student writers were usually requests for us to link to their stories,” Gustav said. “It came across as real desperate.”

With that idea of blogosphere engagement in mind, he added that Bowery Boogie would be happy to take on student interns if N.Y.U. decides to continue producing The Local on its own.

Maurer stressed that The Local East Village Blog will definitely continue, solely under the auspices of N.Y.U., and will evolve into “something still more ambitious and exciting.” He declined to elaborate, but said that the university would be ready to reveal more details in the near future.

The Times will also end its partnership at the end of the year with another The Local blog, which covered the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill in collaboration with the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

A Times reporter or editor was not made available for comment. A spokesperson for the 161-year-old newspaper said that it had “learned a great deal from these collaborations,” but he only specifically referenced a lesson about reader engagement.

Jim Schachter, who was The Times’s associate managing editor until July, told Harvard’s Neiman Journalism Lab that The Local blogs taught him, among other things, that hyperlocal coverage becomes better and more hard-hitting when it’s done by “professionals” rather than neighborhood bloggers.

“If you want to get really good content that gets hard questions answered,” Schachter said, “you need a fair amount of professional journalism.”

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15 Responses to As Times cuts ties with N.Y.U., local bloggers sound off

  1. I like to check out a VARIETY of local news/hope they stick around. F the Times.

  2. An NYU student reporter for the Washington Square News, their daily student newspaper, contacted me recently regarding a story the student was doing. He was on deadline.

    I never returned the call. Why help an institution that is systematically destroying downtown?

    We should all refuse to cooperate with any of their student journalists. There are at least two other journalism schools in the city we can work with. Let the word go out that NYU is anathema and watch kids avoid enrolling there.

    As for the Times and its symbiotic relationship with NYU: remember how strongly the Old Gray Lady from midtown defended and shilled for NYU's Plan 2030. Partners in Crime. Good riddance to both.

    • Yikes, really? Punish the students for decisions that are largely out of their control? How do you know this student isn't against 2030? Giving people the silent treatment is not the proper way to get the word out. They won't know your reasons for not responding. Rather, respond and educate them about what the school is doing and show them that the Village is a neighborhood they should want to save and be a real part of… An alliance WITH the students would be much stronger than one that is against them.

      Right now all this misguided and passive aggressive NYU student hate is just leading students to believe that they are not welcome in the village, that is is not their community. That it is filled with vengeful and misguided asshats. Given all this, how do you expect them to care?

      • Decisions out of their control? Are you mad? You willingly choose to come to NYU. No one forced you.

        Not a singe NYU student came to a single hearing, meeting or rally opposing 2030, despite all the publicity in the local and regional press, and the involvement of NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan.
        Did you come to a single event regarding the plan? Let me guess. No!

        In fact, I have never seen an NYU student involved in ANY local community issue, although it may affect them as much as permanent residents. That's just the nature of student life. Students rarely, if ever, get involved intimately with the community in which they are mere 4-year transients.

        And if you think we have nothing better to do than educate the multitude of NYU students we encounter on a one-on-one basis about Plan 2030, YOU are the misguided asshat, whatever an asshat is.
        Did you learn that word in American Lit 101?

        • If you go back through our 22 stories about N.Y.U. 2031 — most of them written by student reporters — you'll see that students did attend, and speak at, meetings.

          • The student reporters were there for a class assignment, isn't that right,, not because they cared about the implications of the plan?

            So, of some 40,000 students, please tell us how many actually spoke out against the plan.

        • The assumptions you make here are absolutely ridiculous. If anything, it should be assumed from my response that I am involved with anti-2030 movement and that I have attended meetings. Which I have, along with choosing 2030 as my subject matter for several reports (not for journalism, I am not a journalism student) last year, when it was never brought up or suggested by the professor.

          Also, depends what you mean by choice. NYU was not my top choice, but no other school offered me the level of financial aid (scholarships and a grant) that NYU did. So, fight off student debt for a good portion of my life or not? Come on. It is a choice, but not in the sense that you seem to believe it is.

          I am not arguing that NYU is not doing evil things or that every student at NYU is aware and fighting against them. Of course that's not true.

          I am arguing against this notion of generalizing a massive student population and making them the enemy. The students here are young. New York is an overwhelming place. Geographically, it can be hard to know which community is really your community, especially when you are moving each year. Many students do not live in Greenwich Village. They "work" there. Do you, or many people, fight for the neighborhood you work in? Not many people I know do, unless they live there too.

          Even adults I know don't start becoming truly involved in their community until they have lived there a few years. Good for you if within your first couple weeks of arriving in Greenwich Village (or if you grew up there, throughout your childhood, by your own will) you immediately began fighting its battles.

          You have never seen an NYU student involved in ANY local community issue? Something tells me you didn't involve yourself in EVERY local issue and attend EVERY meeting and make note of EVERY club at NYU. After all, you're the righteous one here. So you wouldn't make a severely accusatory statement merely based on your own limited observations, right?

          You have to give students time. Like you said, I think most college students anywhere are unaware of the issues that surround their campus, especially in their first couple years. Activism, awareness, critical thought… these are things that a college education can bring a student. As does growing up and out of immaturity. Maybe it is unfortunate that it doesn't build fast enough to feed positively into the community, but it will go elsewhere, and others will come to you.

          You did not cite a lack of time as a reason for not responding to NYU students. You made it clear it was a lack of desire to engage with them. That they were part of an institution that you detest. Given that, it makes it seem that you should jump on a chance to educate those you deem are responsible for it. For heaven's sake, they are coming to you and practically asking you to do it. But if it is the former, fair enough.

          All that being said, if everyone makes as many assumptions and is as self-aggrandizing as you, perhaps being petty is not something that people grow out of over time. In which case, we're all doomed.

          • First, never assume anything, lest you be presumptuous.

            Second: "(my) choosing 2030 as my subject matter for several reports" = Exactly my point = You attended only as a homework assignment, not from personal motivation based on community concern and activism.

            Third, "making (the nyu students) the enemy."
            I, no one in fact, never, ever said or implied that. Stop with your presumptions already.

            Fourth, "Something tells me you didn't involve yourself in EVERY local issue and attend EVERY meeting and make note of EVERY club at NYU. "
            Again, more presumptions.
            However, your debating skills are not keen. Do not try to turn the tables. I asked YOU to name ONE student out of 40,000 who is selflessly involved in community issues locally. You were unable! Your weak response was to interrogate my attendance records.

            You wanna assume something? Assume I know what i am talking about. Not a single student in NYU has ever involved her/himself with community issues for the sake of the Village community in which student lives. It's all about them, never about the collective "us". Capice?

            Fifth: "but it will go elsewhere, and others will come to you" You may assume that, History proves otherwise.

            Sixth, "Given that, it makes it seem that you should jump on a chance to educate"
            Not only presumptuous, but arrogant as well, with a poor memory.

            I stated already that I have no desire to educate 40,000 NYU students on a one-on-one basis.
            Nor am I paid handsomely, or paid at all, for engaging a student journalist, who eventually will gain a degree for life, partially as a result of my participation. The student gets a degree, the professor gets paid, NYU gets $60K a year in tuition.
            Everyone makes out but the people you interview. Do you think, like Sexton does, that we are idiots?
            If I want to volunteer my time for a good cause, I'll volunteer at the Red Cross, not in getting clueless students a valuable journalism degree.

            We used to cooperate with the NYU journalists, their teachers and nyu. No longer, while they seek to destroy our neighborhood, homes and livelihood, will we cooperate. Spread the word.

            Attention all NYU students, faculty and administrators: You want to destroy our Village? Don't expect us to cooperate with you any longer in that destruction.

            NYU = Persona non grata

          • Never said I attended meetings specifically for the report. I did the report because of a previous interest and previous knowledge of the matter. Also, you may have also noticed the use of the present tense ("I AM involved…") meaning that since the report, I have remained involved. So, does it really matter how or why my interest evolved if it is something I am still involving myself in? Your determination to undermine my involvement makes it appear that you don't want there to be any NYU students who care, so as to strengthen your notion that every student has no care for the community.

            Also never cited you directly as saying you were making NYU students the enemy. I admit no one has said it directly, but it is implicated in many, many statements both from you and others. Of course, it is just my own interpretation and may be far from the writer/speaker's intention.

            Looking back, you actually did not ask me to name students who were involved in the community, so no tables were turned. I responded to a statement you made, not a question. And I did name one student: myself. I admit I made a presumption in thinking that you have not involved yourself every local matter and that you have not made yourself aware of every organization at NYU. But given that there is so much easy-to-access evidence against the things you have said, it seemed like a fair assumption to make.

            Anyways, since I am now aware you wanted me to name examples, I'll take this opportunity to do so.

            The NYU Civics Club, one of the most popular clubs at the school. The Civics Club has partnerships with volunteer organizations all throughout the city, including many in or near the NYU neighborhood. To name a few: The Washington Iriving High School-School-Day and After-School Programs (NYU students tutor local HS students), Caring Community (a Greenwich Village organization that helps care for the community's elderly), Peer Health Exchange (trained college students educate teens on how to maintain sexual health)… the list goes on. You can visit the club's page on NYU's website for more information.

            Each year, the freshman dorms (and probably others, but I have not lived in those) present community volunteer opportunities to the students. I suppose there is no immediate way for me to prove it to you, but I have seen that many students take these opportunities. They pick up trash in parks and streets, help out at local kitchens, etc.

            You, it seems, will respond by saying they only do it to somehow advance themselves. It is possible, but since neither of us have actual proof on the students' motivations, I refuse to assume you know what you are talking about. I can only speak for myself, but I know when I have done it I have not receive, or desire, any sort of acknowledgement or school credit. What I did receive was a better understanding of the neighborhood and the many types of people who live in it (a better idea of "us"). I would have received this understanding even if I had gained some other reward from the experience.

            We could, of course, have a debate on to what degree anyone does anything entirely selflessly. I have doubts that it is possible, but I have no proof so I will not claim to know what I am talking about.

            Yes, yes. I know you already stated you have no desire to educate NYU students. My own statement comes not from a lack of memory, but a lack of disbelief. I can't imagine being so disgusted by something and complaining about it so much and yet not doing a thing to remedy it, even if in a minor way. Particularly when presented with such an easy opportunity to do so.

            Lastly, I will argue that you DO get something out of the interview if you really are as concerned about all this as you seem. It may not be an immediate payoff, but by giving an interview and letting your opinions be published, the students (both the writer and the readers) are exposed to the issue and opinions about it. For free and without struggle you are given a direct opportunity to shame, educate, ridicule, or whatever NYU and its community. A huge part of activism, especially of this sort, is being heard. If the other side offers you a chance to voice your opinion to their people, you take it. You can choose to remain cynical, refuse, and truly get nothing out of the situation, or you can give a good interview and hope that at least one member of this other side becomes aware of the issue and tries to do something to stop it. The most you have lost is a relatively small portion of your time, but since it is for a cause you care about, that should not cause you too much grief.

  3. deal with it.

  4. I have to correct you, Gustav: The Local's student reporters have interacted quite a bit with neighborhood chroniclers like Clayton Patterson, who was nice enough to speak to them in class, had them over to his gallery and, despite his reservations about NYU, helped them out with stories such as our video profile of reformed gang member Jose Quiles. They've gone to him freely because he has been generous with his time and knowledge. Others, not so much.

  5. Fuck all you NYU rich kid douchebags. Nobody cares about the opinion of spoiled trust fund babies. Good Ridance.

  6. There is no passive aggressive hate, I really will smack you in the mouth just for going to NYU

  7. The Times announced it was pulling its affiliation with the Local in June. How is this "news"? Hard to criticize the Local's journalists when it took The Villager literally four months to piece together this drivel.

  8. Why don't we just ship all the rent controlled freeloaders to Queens retirement homes. Then there will be plenty of room for NYU expansion.

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