CAB Minutes: April 2006

April 27, 2006

Westchester Outreach Meeting

MEMBERS PRESENT: (* panelist) Toby Butterfield*, John DiBlasi (moderator), Fred Friedland*, Sallie Gouvernour*, Dave Hall*, Judy Hellman*, Elizabeth Nam, David Rahni, Ed Sawchuk, David Weinstock, Basya Weissman*, Neal Zuckerman*, Jenn Batterton*

PANELISTS: Nell Minow, radio host, columnist and media specialist
Carla Horton, Executive Director, Northern Westchester Shelter
Deb Mehne, Chairman of Board, SPCA of Westchester
Radames Ocascio, Station Manager, WARY 88.1 FM
Hon. Janet DiFiore, Westchester County District Attorney
Dennis Hanratty, Director, Mount Vernon United Tenants
WNYC STAFF: Lori Ann Krushefski

NON–MEMBERS: Approximately 15 members of the general public attended.

Meeting Business

Neal Zuckerman began the meeting and gave an introduction. John DiBlasi introduced the purpose of the meeting, i.e., for the critical issues germane to the Westchester community to be communicated to the WNYC CAB. Basya Weissman introduced Nell Minow, who gave a 10 minute keynote address that focused on the influence of popular media, including music and video games, on children and adolescents. She highlighted the point that children are the most underserved population by the media.

Ms. Horton gave a 10-minute address that identified the tragic consequences of domestic violence. She identified her concerns vis a vis the media. First, the media does not cover this issue unless a famous person is involved. Second, the difficulty involved in leaving a partner is under-appreciated and places the victim at higher risk. Third, the message that help is available is not publicized. Fourth, the stories about domestic violence are usually cursory and don’t explore the true relationships between the abuser and victim, instead they miss the point by doing things like interviewing the neighbor who says, “He was such a nice guy.” Neal Zuckerman asked about whether domestic violence is an urban or suburban problem. Toby Butterfield asked about current research to identify those at risk. Sallie Gouvernour asked about the role of alcohol and drugs in domestic violence.

Ms. Mehne gave a 10-minute address outlining the role of the SPCA in Westchester. The SPCA investigates cases of animal abuse and provides a safe haven for abused animals. The SPCA joins the Red Cross in providing sheltering of animals in case of emergencies and educates animal owners about planning for emergency situations. She requested that WNYC provide visibility of animal issues by covering this aspect of life in Westchester, including the criminal elements involved in dog fighting and the role of first responders. Neal Zuckerman asked what percentage of residents have pets then asked whether NYC-focused stories on WNYC are of interest to Westchester residents. She responded that she doesn’t remember hearing any stories about Westchester. Dave Hall asked about non-domestic wildlife. Jenn Batterton asked whether the county has mounted policemen and what role the SPCA plays in monitoring circuses.

Mr. Ocascio gave a 10-minute address describing the Westchester Community College radio station then highlighting the importance of youth issues. He described the feeling among youth that “no one is interested in listening to them”. He requested that the station offer 1 hour of independent rock music or modern urban music that is not offered on other radio stations in the NYC listening area. Toby Butterfield asked who chooses the music that is played at WARY. Mr. Ocascio answered that the music director and station manager make most of the decisions and that none are commercially driven. Judy Hellman asked whether there is any outreach from the station to teach the role of radio in schools in Westchester. Mr. Ocascio responded that the station has internships at the station to try and develop interest. Neal Zuckerman asked for specific recommendations to attract a youth audience. Mr. Ocascio responded that a format that includes both popular and unheard rock music would be very attractive. Dave Hall asked about other issues pertinent to youth. Judy Hellman asked the whole panel which media sources are providing good coverage of issues pertinent to them. The panelists overall were very negative, although Nell Minow thought that MTV had excellent coverage of the presidential race. Dennis Hanratty thought that WBAI has excellent news coverage. Carla Horton reiterated the failure to establish context for the stories, thereby marginalizing the meaning of each story. Nell Minow indicated that the Washington Post has established a radio station where the reporters describe what stories they are working on and thought it an interesting, compelling new paradigm.

Ms. DiFiore gave a 10-minute address describing the modern-day role of a prosecutor, both in response to crime and in crime prevention (and public safety). There are 120 assistant district attorneys and 38 police investigators in the DA office. She implored the station to devote more attention to crime prevention programs. As an example, she outlined a program to prevent shaken baby syndrome and described how her support brought attention from the press. Toby Butterfield asked how prosecution could help prevent crime. Ms. DiFiore used the example of gun crime to describe how each case is used to create a comprehensive approach to prevent illicit gun trafficking. Jen Batterton asked about prisoner re-entry issues. Dave Hall asked about problems in Westchester with hate crimes and gang crime. Ms. DiFiore responded that an assistant DA is assigned specifically to bias crimes and that approximately 1500 gang members from more than 30 gangs are present in Westchester County. Neal Zuckerman asked how the DA office interacts with the media. Ms. DiFiore offered for one of the assistant DAs to be interviewed on-air on specific criminal justice issues.

Mr. Hanratty gave a 10-minute description of the housing crisis and the role of housing in quality-of-life in Westchester. The average 2 bedroom rent is >$1600 per month. He asked that stories about people being evicted or those who cannot afford food for their families be covered more frequently by WNYC. He also outlined that there are very few options for low-income persons so that it has become very difficult to enforce building codes in low-income rented apartments. He also stated that developers are only interested in developing high-income housing. Dave Hall asked about the role of race. Mr. Hanratty replied that the issue is primarily socioeconomic, not racial.

Fred Friedland commented that Ms. Minow’s father was owed a debt of gratitude for establishing a social framework by describing television as a “vast wasteland”.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:52.