Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Amsterdam Recorder Responds To Upstream.

Apparently my comments about The Amsterdam Recorder got under someone’s skin because I got a response from a guy named Kevin. It’s obvious that Kevin works for The Recorder and is either the General Manager, Kevin McClary, or the Executive Editor, Kevin Mattison. Here are his comments.

Kevin said...

Your comment about editors being lazy is off the mark. At the very least, it shows you're uninformed. Do you know what the staffing is now, compared to Tony Benjamin's tenure? If not, then you're not qualified to make comments like that.

Here is my response:

Dear Kevin,

As someone who has read The Recorder since 1977, I feel very qualified to comment on its quality or lack thereof. Because I don’t know what the staffing is now compared to what it was when Tony Benjamin was in charge of the paper does not disqualify me from making comments about the paper.

Adding staff to a newspaper does not necessarily mean that the newspaper will automatically be better for it. While Tony Benjamin could get on my nerves sometimes, The Recorder was a much more interesting and exciting newspaper when he was editing it.

The Recorder may not lack staff now, but it lacks fire.

Instead of making poorly thought out remarks about my comments on your newspaper, why not take my criticism constructively and do something to make The Recorder a more interesting paper.

If you do, I may subscribe to it again.


Dan Weaver

P.S. Although your comments about my post are not to the point, they do not disqualify you from commenting on my blog.


  • I guess what people say about bloggers not worrying about facts is true. I do not work for and do not represent The Recorder.

    The reason I mentioned the staffing is that the staffing level is drastically reduced from where it was given the circulation slide of the last decade. Do you want local editorials or do you want local news? That's the choice an editor there would have to make (there are half as many editors there than the Leader-Herald, which is practically the same size). As a Recorder reader, I'll take the news over the editorials. I really don't need someone telling me how to think and, I assume by reading this site, neither do you.

    You could add local editorials if you added an editorial page editor, or had another editor handle some of the executive editor's duties (the executive editor at The Recorder does grunt work that no executive editor at any other paper would have to do) and allowed him the time. But you can only do that by adding staff, and you can only add staff if the top management frees up the funds. And that's not happening. The Recorder is a poorly run organization. Why do you think staff is abandoning ship left and right, going to New Jersey, Gloversville or wherevever they can find safe harbor?

    All I'm saying is don't accuse the editors of laziness. They put in more than an honest day's work doing the best they could. With a staff that small, there's little room for improvement.

    By Anonymous Kevin, at 6:08 PM  

  • I am not convinced that you don't work for The Recorder. Your passionate defense of The Recorder is certainly not that of the typical reader.

    Speaking of facts, you say the staff of the paper has been drastically reduced, but you don't support your statement with facts.

    As far as what I want from a newspaper, I want news, investigative journalism and opinion. That is why I subscribe to The Gazette. Tony Benjamin also gave us all of the above.

    I don't care how hard an editor works, if he doesn't write his own editorials, he is still lazy. It doesn't take that much time to write editorials. Besides I notice that The Recorder editors often write first person pieces with a lot of fluff in them and enough words to have written a week's worth of editorials.

    The Recorder has never been managed well, staff has always come and gone; nevertheless, under Tony Benjamin's leadership, the paper was still a better paper than it is today.

    By Blogger Dan Weaver, at 11:25 PM  

  • I am not passionate about The Recorder. I don't even read The Record. But I am passionate about fairness and accuracy, and I'm passionate about good journalism, and you aren't being fair or accurate. You dont have to practice good journalism, of course, but that doesn't stop you from going off half-cocked without the facts.

    My only problem was that you attributed the lack of editorials to laziness, when it's an issue of staffing. There were seven other editors working under Tony Benjamin. There are three working for Kevin Mattison. All the while, the newshole has grown, as have the production needs of editors
    (editors are their own composing rooms). So you have half the number of people doing more work in more space. You have to have a tradeoff somewhere. In this case, they've chosen to omit local editorials.

    Do I agree? No. But it's not because of laziness. It's because of workload and the demands of putting out a newspaper. Perhaps you'd be happy with five blank pages in exchange for an editorial.

    You know, if you have questions about how the newspaper is put together, I'd suggest you talk to the editor there now. I'm sure he'd be happy to explain.

    As for not proving to you that I'm not Kevin Mattison or Kevin McClary, I'd suggest looking at how many Kevins live in Montgomery County and ponder, for just a second, that maybe there are more than two of them. (Actually, one. Kevin Mattison doesn't live in Montgomery County. And I don't know Kevin McClary at all.)

    (P.S. A more responsible person probably would have tried to authenticate the post before attributing it. Did you call The Recorder and ask if they responded? Did you call Kevin Mattison or Kevin McClary?)

    By Anonymous kevin, at 12:45 AM  

  • You could have solved the Kevin problem by simply giving your last name. However, like so many people who comment on blogs, you like to hide behind anonymity. This is why so many bloggers refuse to allow people to comment who don't have the courage to give out their last name.

    No matter what you say, I think there is a strong possibility that you are Kevin Mattison.

    Anyway, you can have the last word if you want. I think this dialogue or lack thereof has gone as about as far as it can go and still remain constructive.

    I like your use of the word "newshole" because that seems to describe The Recorder under the current administration.

    At least Tony Benjamin lived in Montgomery County when he was editor. He was not a carpetbagger.

    By Blogger Dan Weaver, at 7:07 AM  

  • And you could have solved the Kevin problem by calling one of the Kevins to have them confirm it's them. It's your blog. It's your responsibility to check the accuracy of your information, not mine.

    By Anonymous Kevin, at 11:05 AM  

  • I agree with Dan on this one, the Recorder used to have far more interesting, local and controversial editorials. Now, if there is any at all, they are more Dave Barry like humor essays or (with all due respect to your fellow blogger) farm chronicles that have nothing to do with us city folk. In both cases, the authors come across as truly talented writers, but they need to be complemented by hard hitting city editorials. And, yes, this should be one of the most important sections of a local paper, especially when the weekend editions never have a story on the city. As an aside, Kevin obviously has an insider's view of what's going on at the Recorder- I guess I wouldn't blame him (her?) for not divulging identity if he wants to speak his mind about the problems there.

    By Anonymous w murphy, at 11:26 AM  

  • Well said. My overall point remains this: blame the institution, not the editor. There is only so much a skeleton crew can do. A week's worth of quality, well-researched editorials should take about 30 hours a week (seven editorials, four to six hours per -- and if you don't like that number, Dan, you get in the business and you see how long it takes to do it right). If the editor also is responsible for handling four to six pages (two hours per page), doing both is impossible. (And again, Dan, if you don't believe it, get a job in the business and you try it.)

    I blame The Recorder top management for not making the editorial part of their paper a priority, but I don't attribute the lack of editorials to laziness. Anyone who thinks so hasn't done his or her homework and obviously doesn't care to get the facts right.

    By Anonymous Kevin, at 10:06 PM  

  • Like the city it represents, the Amsterdam Recorder is a flailing visionless publication that, as this blog opines, has a staff lacking even a hint of fire or taste for journalism. The responder Kevin seems to think that these shortcomings in staffing should allow the paper’s top journalist, the editor, to shirk some of his duties. Well, I can say from a reader’s perspective, Kevin Mattison has failed to fulfill even an ounce of his duties as the main steward of this publication. If the waning interest in advertisement continues along with the daily drubbing by competing newspapers, the Recorder will go the way of the dinosaurs, along with its wayward sister paper, the Courier-Standard-Enterprise.

    First off, any editor worth his or her salt would actually edit the paper, rather than taking a happenstance approach to running a newspaper. There are frequent grammatical errors, which are often compounded by misleading headlines and articles that simply miss the mark altogether. If not for that, then one would assume that a managing editor, after watching his staff be routinely trounced by a competing newspaper with only a bureau in the city of Amsterdam, would shake things up a bit, maybe charge his reporters –many of them news veterans –to find the news before it ends up in someone else’s headlines.

    Well, in my one year reading the paper, it doesn’t appear as though Mattison possesses those abilities as a leader. The local page is dominated by police briefs and feature art, seldom do all the reporters at the paper have a by-line, and, more often than not, the articles that do make it to press are either disorganized prattling stories or of such miniscule interest there’s little since in reading them. Simply put, this paper is a news buff’s nightmare.

    But why criticize when there’s a simple solution? It’s called getting a leader in the newsroom to take a step forward and create a vision for the paper before dips in circulation drop it off the face of the earth. First, fire the editor. Second, hire a motivated chief, who will tell the reporters to clean it up or ship out. Third, abandon all Fulton County Coverage. And lastly, cover the city of Amsterdam more aggressively. Then there’s option two, which is to merge with the Leader-Herald.

    And Kevin, speaking from a point of knowledge, if the Recorder has Mattison and three other editors, then he’s got just as many as the Leader-Herald. Also, editorials DO NOT take 30 hours a week to write, unless you’re writing something that might get the paper sued or your handicapped. A good editor will read his or her paper each day from cover to cover and have a good handle on the events happening within the circulation; a good editor should be able to produce an editorial in under a couple of hours.

    But then again, it’s tough to buy anything you say, seeing as though you state in tour first post, that you’re a loyal reader, and then in the second, you insist you don’t read the Recorder. Sorry for calling for your job, but it’s time for someone to lead that paper out of the dumps.

    By Anonymous Matt Neary, at 1:29 PM  

  • Hello Dan,
    I, of course, found this discussion fascinating. Thank you for having the courage and brights to provide the forum.
    The Recorder didn't become what it became by chance. It was by choice, and I think the wrong one.
    A small-minded, simplistic choice.
    In many ways, the choice the Recorder brain-trust made parallels the ills of newspapers across the nation.
    The owners hired a publisher with no understanding of news, or the important role of newspapers in a community. Everything became bottom line. Everything.
    That may work in a pickle factory, but newspapers are different.
    Newspapers have a special obligation. It was the Recorder plan in 1996 to sacrifice that obligation in order to prop up the bottom line. It may work from a business standpoint, but totally fails the journalistic responsibility. Not to mention intgrity.
    To hell with readers, as long as the owners are happy. You keep your job. How you look yourself in the mirror is another question. (for a case study in how this works -- or doesn't -- review the sad plight of Knight-Ridder Newspapers).
    Anyone can own a newspaper. Not everyone can run a good one.
    During my final year there, the marching orders were cut, cut, cut.
    Reporters, editors, clerks -- investigative work, in-depth stories that explain, opinion, coverage area. Cut it all. And try to fake it.
    Another marching order: Don't rile the so-called powerful. What a hoot. Powerful, how? Ad dollars? Chummy talk at cocktail parties? The Recorder lost its compass.
    And they wonder why circulation falls.
    Readers -- the backbone of a newspaper's success -- are not fools or fooled.
    I'm very sorry those I thought could carry on, couldn't. I thought I knew them. I didn't. They're scared to death, and it goes to the paycheck. They hover in the velvet coffin. Dead. But sort of comfortable. What a way to go. There are worse things in the world than being fired. Especially from a place gone off the tracks.
    Tony Benjamin

    PS: I can't believe my writing got on your nerves. Congratulations to your son on his Sunday story (Death in the Adirondacks)in the Gazette. Be proud. It was a winner.

    By Blogger Tony B., at 11:57 PM  

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