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General News: Local Businessman Criticizes Newspaper

Deke Hazirjian reads his letter
Deke Hazirjian reads his letter
November 14, 2007

At the Cornwall town board meeting on Tuesday, Deke Hazirjian, a local businessman who sits on the town planning board and is the president of the village of Cornwall-on-Hudson Local Development Corporation, made a public plea to the board to open a discussion about the role of The Cornwall Local newspaper in the community.

Hazirjian said he came to the board to find a forum for his views on the newspaper because the paper refused to print a letter he had written criticizing what he called the “biased reporting” of the current editor, Margaret Menge. Hazirjian said in his open letter that Menge "writes every important story on the front page, plus re-writes other reporter's work, giving it her own slant...and has made our paper into her own personal forum."

Hazirjian also stated that in her crusade for open government the editor has “intimidated, hounded and impugned the integrity of nearly every board and board member." Hazirjian described himself and other local board members as people who “serve to enhance our community, to give back.”

Menge, who joined the paper in 2006, has called for the disbanding of the Local Development Corporation, citing the lack of public accountability of the organization. She has also challenged public officials -- from the school board to town board -- to adhere to the law regarding open meetings. "I care about this community," she said. "and I'm proud of everything I have done here."

Hazirjian's held up a recent issue of the paper with photos of two teens accused of petty larceny. “This is not the paper we are all used to,” he told the board. “Since when is it OK to have our teenagers’ mug shots on the front page?” he asked. “To sell newspapers? What is happening to this community?”

After hearing about Hazirjian’s presentation, Menge said that it was “outrageous,” adding that Hazirjian is mad because she thinks the LDC should be disbanded. “If he wants to trash me personally, come on,” she said. “It says more about him than about me. It’s juvenile. It’s ridiculous.” She said the paper wouldn’t print his letter if it had been about anybody because it was “garbage.”

Menge acknowledged that her style is different, even intimidating, noting that The Local had been pretty soft before she came on board. She said she has been frustrated because the town board has not been more open and she believes it is her job to keep digging and keep finding things out.

After the meeting, town board member Kerry McGuinness said he agreed with Hazirjian’s perspective, noting that “a lot of people are unhappy” with the paper’s editorials.

Board member Randy Clark recalled that earlier this year he had raised his own concerns about an editorial that questioned whether the board could be trusted because of the way it handled the hiring of a new police chief. Clark acknowledged that you can’t like everything that is in the paper and that a bit of criticism is not bad, then noted that there have been good editors and bad ones, adding “this, too, shall pass.”

Town supervisor Richard Randazzo, who has had his own tangles with the editor, said after the meeting that “she is seeking the negative, she is always looking for the flaw.”

Menge said that she understands that it is an adjustment for public officials to have a journalist questioning them as she does but she thinks it is outrageous that Supervisor Randazzo allowed Hazirjian to read his letter publicly.

As for Hazirjian, he plans to press ahead with his campaign to open a public dialogue on the role of a local newspaper.

Menge sounds like she is ready for a fight. “I’m doing my job,” she said. “I am the one person in this town who he cannot buy or bully.”

Comments:

wow--lots of back and forth bickering here. I dont know about you- bu`t those kids committed a CRIME!!! If it was your car broken into or your windows smashed, I am sure you would like to see those faces plastered all over town!!! It will be a deterent for other stupid kids to do stupid things. I would want to know if these kids were haning out with my kids. stop blaming the editor and the town. If your kids are doing bad things0 it's not because there are too little outlets for these kids to express themselves.
posted by beccafan on 11/15/07 at 10:06 AM
Good for you Deke. I think you have said what many of us would like to say. Menge is not an editor, I'm not sure what she is. Let's continue this discussion, maybe it's time for a change!
posted by LIZMET on 11/15/07 at 12:13 PM
OK readers, let's turn to the US Constitution for a minute: First Amendment. This is the Big One. This is why we can voice our sublime and/or ridiculous opinions on websites such as this, not to mention blogs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers, posters, billboards, TV, and radio. This is why are free to speak, shout, praise, complain, cry, laugh, and pontificate from street corners, soap-boxes and pulpits. Did I mention newspapers? Any citizen who doesn't like a newspaper certainly has the right to refrain from reading it. In addition, any citizen, business person or otherwise, has the right to publish his own newspaper. What would it be... the Cornwall Herald-Record-Guardian, or the Cornwall Times-Post-Picayune? As Tom Paine said, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."
posted by MT on 11/15/07 at 1:31 PM
Why do the Boards have to be *bullied* into complying with the Open Government requirements? There is a reason that government is required to be Open - it is important. Thank goodness someone is brave enough to challenge the secret dealings and business as usual.
posted by cpmomcat on 11/15/07 at 9:38 PM
I remember this book from 1st grade it went something like this... Fortunately, we have the first amendment. Unfortunately, people often have very different opinions. Fortunately , we have an editor/reporter who believes that people want to hear the truth, and does her best to get at it (despite the local authorities). Unfortunately, some people are uncomfortable with the questions she asks. (it is what it is)Fortunately, the truth shall set you free. Unfortunately, the truth is often subjective. Fortunately, we know who the goofballs are. Unfortunately , they are members of our community, (and we still love them - except for Sheppard, who I think exacerbated this whole negative mindset thing..., uh-oh see above re: 1st amendment) My roundabout point is that as long as we LISTEN to what others have to say and RESPECT them as human beings, we should come out of all of this just fine. "All you need is love. Love. Love is all you need."
posted by kate on 11/16/07 at 12:05 AM
Sorry, left out the credit: J.Lennon/P. McCartney
posted by kate on 11/16/07 at 12:07 AM


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