The backlash to the ugly New York Post story on murdered developer Menachem Stark has been covered elsewhere. His brother-in-law wrote an angry response of his own.
But let’s look at what is actually wrong with the New York Post’s Stark story by Larry Celona, Jamie Schram and Aaron Short, aside from its ugly tone.
1. The New York Post calls Menachem Stark a slumlord. That’s a meaningless term in New York City’s combative landlord-tenant wars where lawsuits come easy, non-profit advocacy groups are eager to get involved and everyone raises their accusations to 11.
Anyone who deals with renting apartments to low income residents is going to be called a slumlord and sued sooner or later. It’s an entire industry and a fact of life.
2. The New York Post relies on anonymous sources for its most damning accusations.
“Any number of people wanted to kill this guy,” one law-enforcement source said of Menachem “Max” Stark, 39, describing the father of eight as embroiled in several “shady” real-estate transactions and being up to his tuchus in debt.
“He owed a lot of people money,” said another source.
Starting off an article with anonymous sources is rarely a good sign. Especially if you’re talking about a dead man. And what follows are more anonymous sources and claims.
“He’s a Hasidic Jew from Williamsburg, and we think he’s a scammer,” another investigator said of Stark, who had defaulted on more than $30 million in real-estate loans in recent years and owed tens of thousands in penalties for building violations. “He f–ked over a few people,” the source added.
Who is this investigator? Is this the same person as the anonymous law enforcement source? But then the New York Post really leaps headlong into the sewer.
Many on Stark’s enemies list took to social media Saturday — and not to mourn his passing. “His slanted shtreimel on his head gives his crookedness away,” one commenter wrote on Failed Messiah, referring to the victim’s fur hat in a photo.
Failed Messiah isn’t “social media”, it’s an Anti-Semitic hate site.
There’s no reason to think that anonymous commenters on an Anti-Semitic hate site are Stark’s enemies. They would respond in the same exact way to a story about any Orthodox Jew.
The New York Post could have just as easily quoted commenters on Stormfront or any Neo-Nazi site with the same results.
If the previous anonymous sources had been remotely defensible from the standpoint of journalism, quoting random anonymous comments on a hate site isn’t.
The New York Post responded to the backlash with this statement;
“A spokesman for The Post said the paper’s reporting simply pointed out that basic fact. “The Post does not say Mr. Stark deserved to die, but our reporting showed that he had many enemies, which may have led to the commission of this terrible crime,” the spokesman said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of loss.”
But the New York Post article by Larry Celona, Jamie Schram and Aaron Short did not point out basic facts. Or any facts.
Larry Celona, Jamie Schram and Aaron Short collected anonymous attacks, some from internet commenters on Failed Messiah, a hate site targeting Orthodox Jews, and compiled them into an article.
The New York Post article hardly quoted anyone by name. It dealt with very few specific accusations. Instead it put together vague accusations that can’t be pinned down from anonymous sources with no name.
That’s not journalism. It’s not reporting. It certainly isn’t basic fact.
I don’t know Menachem Stark. I have no idea what really happened and I can’t speak to his character. But I can speak to the character of Larry Celona, Jamie Schram and Aaron Short. And their journalistic abilities.
If your news story harvests anonymous comments from an Anti-Semitic hate site about a murdered man, you’re not reporting facts. You’re not not reporting anything at all. You’re spewing hate for your own reasons.