This morning the Staten Island Advance and SILive.com published an article titled ‘”A Move On Staten Island To Broker Mosque Peace.” The latest coverage of the ongoing controversy about the plan to build a mosque in the neighborhood of Midland Beach is one of the worst pieces of news reporting I’ve ever read and the refusal to engage their audience, or even moderate comments, is nothing short of reprehensible. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Advance, Brian J. Laline, to complain about the alarmingly bias (and often dishonest) coverage of controversy but honestly have little expectation of it actually being read, none-the-less receiving a response. So I’ve decided to republish my letter here, complete with the typos I made in my rush to write the e-mail and move on to more pressing matters of the day (namely the ones that pay my bills).
I know I’m not alone in my growing frustration with the Advance and SILive. Maybe this will encourage more of you to speak up and write letters to the editors, and in particular Mr. Laline who bears ultimate responsibility for everything published in the paper.
To Mr. Laline,
Honestly your coverage of what is a very important local story has been nothing short of horrendous. As a “news” outlet you should be ashamed of yourselves. There is a difference between being impartial and failing to report facts accurately. Your unwillingness (or perhaps desire not to) accurately portray those opposing the mosque as the bigots they are do a disservice to you and your staff as well as the reputation of Staten Island and its citizens. One needs only to look at the most recent article “A Move On Staten Island To Broker Mosque Peace” to see how glaringly you are failing the people of this Island.
Please read the following two quotes taken directly from the article:
“Because the contract was drafted quietly, without input from residents, and because of traffic, parking and other concerns, hundreds of area residents have expressed their opposition to the plan.”
“The disagreement expressed by residents has been perceived as hatred and bigotry by Muslims, who said they see their constitutional rights being trampled upon.”
A. As a private entity I fail to see what responsibility the church had to draft the contract in public. They may be a member of the community and openness is appreciated, but they are under no obligation to do so. No one would be complaining if it was a corner store changing hands “quietly”
B. To describe the issue as having to do with “traffic, parking and other concerns” is dishonest and childish. Why not be honest “other concerns” is code for Islam.
C. “perceived as hatred and bigotry” Are you serious with this line? This is one of the most patently dismissive things I’ve ever read and it’s very hard to keep from reach for profanity to express how frustratingly ignorant that is to say. This is clearly driven in large part by hatred, bigotry and fear. One need only read the comments on the article to see that. Allow me to give you some highlights of the things that SI’s fine residents had to say in response:“FIRST AND FOREMOST WE DO NOT PRAY TO THE SAME GOD !!!!!”
“This photo makes me sick. If this is “YOUR COUNTRY” then PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO IT. Stand at the flag raising. Salute that soldier! I don’t think you will…..it is NOT your country!”
“HA HA HA!!! What a bunch of bull! We have no desire to learn more about Islam – you taught us all we needed to know on 9/11. Sorry that YOUR people have made us AMERICANS feel this way towards you but it’s your own fault. Why would you want a Mosque in a place where NOBODY wants you?”
“this is Catholic holy ground–there is an altar in that Convent…a mosque should be FORBIDDEN”
“Where were the rights of all the people on 9/11. The trains in Spain . And on and on these killers look for help to in slave the world. Next they will say bombers religious heroes”
“I’m with cr50l .. These people don’t have a country they just move in (where there not wanted) and try to change everything to their liking…”
“YOUR RIGHTS SHOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN AWAY WHEN YOUR SO CALLED RELIGION KILLED OVER 3,000 PEOPLE. PLEASE TAKE YOUR MOSQUE SOMEWHERE ELSE!! “
Not to mention the several comments that contain completely baseless accusations about connections to terrorism and Al-Qaeda.
If in the face of that overwhelming response based entirely in bigotry and fear you still cannot bring yourselves to admit the obvious in your “news” coverage then you’re not a news outlet.
Additionally if you’re going to allow comments on your articles it is your responsibility to engage with the audience and correct misinformation being presented. The purpose of comments is not to let readers mouth off as they see fit, it is to create a path for communication, part of the responsibility of the editors and reporters is to address what is posted in the comments. That means no only moderating them and removing what is clearly hate speech, but to spark discussion and prevent the spread of what can only be called lies.
If you plan to maintain any form of credibility and relevance in the coming years it’s going to take some deep soul searching. At the moment though you’re not doing anyone, including yourselves, any good.
Sincerely a concerned citizen and journalist,