While Levy ponders cracking the Brooklyn code, the borough’s dedicated media consists of small local newspapers, local television and radio, and small emerging digital news organizations like Bklyner. Together, they don’t field enough reporters to cover all the things robust newspapers used to blanket as a matter of course—cops and courts, schools and transportation, sports and traffic, weather and features.
“I feel that you need to have a common conversation, and even when an issue does get covered,” Zagare said, “if it doesn’t get read and does not penetrate the consciousness of the people who reside in the city, you fail to inform the public.”
A few months ago, Zagare was at the Kings County Supreme Court. Parents were suing the Department of Education over closing P.S. 25 Eubie Blake Elementary School. “When the court staff heard a reporter was present, they questioned the legality of my presence and went to confer with the judge,” she said.
Zagare was dumbfounded. “I was just like, ‘Go ask her. I’m not going anywhere,’” she said. “You’re talking about closing a public school. I mean, it just blew my mind. Is it because they had never encountered a situation like that, or is it so infrequent that people show up to things like this?”
She told me she couldn’t blame the court staff, even though they should have known the courthouse is open to press. “I don’t know whether to cry or laugh at that one, because I think so much of what happens in courts is influenced by who’s watching,” she said. “And I don’t know if my presence changed anything, but they knew that someone is paying attention. It’s half the job, just showing up on behalf of the people. I’m here to see what’s going on and I’m going to report back to my readers.”
Vince DiMiceli, the editor of the Brooklyn Paper and Brooklyn Daily, two community newspapers in a consortium owned by Community News Group, noted that the dailies never covered the borough as closely as the community newspapers.
“When the Post and the News would try to cover stories in Brooklyn, it was a lot of ambulance chasing,” DiMiceli said. “Whereas we were waist deep in development and talking to politicians. No one else did that. Even back then—even before the Daily News had its problems. The local news that we had in the newspaper was a lot different than the local news they had in the newspaper.”
In addition to DiMiceli and his five reporters, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a title first introduced in 1841, is still printing every morning, with seven editors on staff, according to its website. The Brooklyn Reporter, a local site, started in 2016 and has three on its editorial staff. A handful of other titles—including The Brooklyn Rail, a monthly art and culture journal; Edible Brooklyn, which covers the borough’s food scene; and The Bridge, which covers Brooklyn’s business news—contribute to a small but dedicated group, probably numbering no more than a couple of dozen reporters based in Brooklyn, writing about Brooklyn. Schneps Communications, which owns the Brooklyn Reporter and other imprints in the outer boroughs and Long Island, bought Community News Group on Wednesday, bringing about further consolidation among these community papers.