Category Archives: Brooklyn Paper

Gersh eats dog food

What can I say? He’s pushing for another award.

For Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman and Courier-Life editor Vince DiMiceli (seated behind Gersh in the video) the news is born to be hyped. Here’s the Gersh-flavored promo copy that accompanies today’s weekly roundup at

The Brooklyn Paper — a garden of earthly delights

Think about what we do for you — we send reporters into movie theaters in hopes that they get bitten by bedbugs; we have columnists who eat dog food; we break news stories like convicts break rocks in the big yard; we fill the pages of our weekly print edition with spirited copy and pictures that will brighten your water-cooler conversations; we report so you can decide. And what do we ask in return? Just click the headline above and start downloading our full print edition — and keep hustlin’, Brooklyn!
Yeah, that’s right. Keep hustlin’ everyone.
• • •
UPDATE 2/18: Gersh disciple Ben Muessig wrote about Gersh’s latest adventure this morning on AOL — “Eating Dog Food: The Future of Journalism?”

Newspaper war in Brooklyn

Who says newspapers are dead?

An old-fashioned newspaper war is expected to get underway any day now in Brooklyn, NY. I’d be remiss in not reporting on it, since I know more than a little about the turf and about the players, having published The Brooklyn Paper (one of the dogs in this fight) for 30 years before selling it to a division of NewsCorp.; some of my crew — including Vince DiMiceli and Gersh Kuntzman — are still at The Paper; my wife Celia is the publisher.

Between 2006 and 2009, Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, which publishes the daily NY Post in Manhattan, acquired a significant number of “outer borough” weeklies.

In Brooklyn, NewsCorp grabbed pretty much everything, leaving only the Home-Reporter/Brooklyn Spectator group and standalones in Brooklyn Heights, Canarsie and Greenpoint.

In the Bronx, NewsCorp took the gritty Bronx Times tabloids (no relation to The Bronx Times online) and left the prestigious Riverdale Press broadsheet for acquisition by Long Island’s Richner brothers (who recently picked up a chain of Philadelphia area weeklies from the ailing Philadelphia Inquirer).

In Queens, NewsCorp scooped up the quality group — Steve Blank’s Times-Ledger — at the same time that it bought the biggest chain in Brooklyn, Cliff Luster’s Courier-Life. But it also left four consequential newspaper groups on the table — Queens Ledger, Queens Courier, Queens Chronicle and Queens Tribune — as well as some standalones like the Wave of Rockaway and Times NewsWeekly of Ridgewood.

Yesterday, the Queens Courier, co-published by the feisty Victoria Schneps and her able son Josh, announced that it bought The Home-Reporter/Brooklyn Spectator. These are legacy titles — the Spector goes back 82 years — that have seen better days (they don’t have a Website of any sort) but are still breathing. The Queens Courier newspapers and Website are very much alive.

The Schneps selected Ken Brown as their Brooklyn editor, and this may add an accelerant to the war’s flames. Ken was the editor at Courier-Life before and after the NewsCorp acquisition; he had worked there for 28 years when he was deposed last year and replaced by Vince and Gersh. Grudge match anyone?

Followup: Gersh an ‘Editor of the Year’—again

Actually, there’s more to it than that.

After we posted yesterday’s item on Gersh Kuntzman’s outstanding editorial leadership, Suburban Newspapers of America announced that is had chosen Kuntzman as “Editor of the Year—Daily, 3rd Place.”

This is especially notable since Gersh’s newspaper is a weekly — but it’s a weekly that operates as a daily by posting nearly all of its content online, on a daily basis, ahead of the print edition.

Kuntzman won SNA’s top “Editor of the Year, 1st Place” prize as a weekly editor in 2008. [He’s won lots of other awards as well — and he’s happy to tell you about them!]

Meanwhile, SNA chose one of Kuntzman’s reporters — Stephen Brown — as “Journalist of the Year—Weekly, 1st Place.”

Brown was an attentive student at the Graduate School of Journalism that Gersh operates at The Brooklyn Paper (referenced in yesterday’s post). Brown learned so well under Kuntzman that he was hired away by AOL Patch as the editor of one of its Brooklyn editions … where he will be competing with … Kuntzman.

This video features Brown with “Not Gersh Kuntzman” Vince DiMiceli. Gersh was on vacation when it was shot and Vince, who edits the affiliated Courier-Life newspapers, went whole hog filling in. (Vince is a standout in his own right — as newshound, editor, page designer, and news media internet pioneer.) The clip proudly references Gersh’s role in “training the journalists of the future.”


Gersh Kuntzman and the future of journalism

Gersh Kuntzman, a standout community editor, was running with a Flip before Al Gore invented the internet (I exaggerate, but so does Gersh — usually to good effect). Any reporter who completes the Graduate School of Journalism that he runs at The Brooklyn Paper can swim with confidence in the uncharted waters of New Media.

Gersh knows that media in the future will not mirror media’s past, and that journalists must adapt or die.

He was my editor when I sold The Brooklyn Paper to a division of NewsCorp in 2009, and he’s continued under the new management to good effect.

Here’s a double scoop sampler, fresh this week, of video a la Gersh

Want more? Here’s Gersh taking a dump for a storycovering snow on a budget; riding a new bike lane, and immodestly accepting the SNA’s Editor of the Year award (start video around 1:17).

Meanwhile, video is just one part of Gersh’s exposition. He’ll rarely pass up an opportunity to personalize a news story (for example, inserting caffeine suppositories; reporting each of the many times his bicycles were stolen, and covering the night he posed nude for an art class of hipsters).

• • •

Gersh would not suggest that he has all of the solutions to Old Media’s woes, and it’s not clear that his formula will pay off in the long run.

But the old prescriptions will no longer work: Readers won’t take the medicine old-line editors would like to continuing doling out, and staff-short newspapers will be unable to fill them in any event.

If newspapers are going to survive in print or online, they’ll need to adapt to the kind playful experimentation that Gersh can’t suppress.

UPDATE: Click to link to followup.

Free speech: Where do you draw the line?

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday over the right of the vile Westboro Baptist Church to stage raucous protests at the funerals of slain American soldiers. Westboro, whose protests have become notorious throughout the country, argues that the deaths are God’s punishment to America for tolerating homosexuality.

It’s an important free speech case. After a court ruled against Westboro, a federal appeals court overturned the verdict on First Amendment grounds. Now it’s up to the Nine.

Click here for the lead story, by Jan Crawford, on Wednesday’s CBS-TV Evening News with Katie Couric.

Photo above is by Nikki Kahn of the Washington Post. Click here for slideshow on WP Website.

• • •

Westboro hates Jews as well as gays.

The Brooklyn Paper reports this morning that Westboro will be in the heart of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, demonstrating — loudly — outside two Jewish day schools, on Monday.

Westboro’s Website,, states:

“We will picket to remind the Jews that a remnant of them will be saved if they turn to their God, but that the rest will be cast into everlasting fire in hell. The Lord’s promises are good and he has promised to save 144,000 obedient Jews who hearken his commandments and repent. The rest of the Jews represent the disobedient masses of mankind who will dwell eternally where the worm that eats them never dies and the fire ascend up forever and ever.”

Expect locals to react. According to The Brooklyn Paper:

“The Westboro Baptist Church is nothing more than a veiled neo-Nazi group spewing venom and bile indiscriminately,” said [Assemblyman Dov] Hikind. “I cannot and will not stand idly by while these sick individuals disparage and vilify Jews, rehashing age-old anti-Semitic canards such as the Jews killed Jesus.”

The accompanying Brooklyn Paper photo by Mike Short is from a Westboro demonstration in Brooklyn last Octoboer. At the time, about seven Westboro members, including small children, held placards reading, “Jews Killed Jesus,” “Israel is doomed,” “Jews stole the land” and “Mourn for your sins,” said The Brooklyn Paper, which added:

The group’s still proudly standing behind its backwater beliefs, claiming their blitzkrieg protests are actually “warnings.”

“[The Jews’] time is about gone and they have to be held accountable for spilling the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokeswoman and attorney for the church told us last year. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful Wednesday as we reached our deadline. “We want [the Jews] to understand that we will be the fateful witnesses in the spirit of grace and supplication and that we will mourn for them when their time comes.”

The First Amendment’s freedom to pee

At what point are someone’s political views so detestable that they earn their holder a bathroom ban? And if the ban’s originator and enforcer is an officer of the government — in this case, a police officer — does the ban run afoul of the First Amendment?

Brother J.J. Richardson says he was banned from Brooklyn Boro Hall because of his anti-gay views. (Brooklyn Paper photo by Brown)

The Brooklyn Paper reports this morning that the cop on duty at Brooklyn Borough Hall is denying restroom access to a homophobe street preacher — and that New Yorkers ought to be as outraged by the cop’s affront to the First Amendment as they should be about the preacher’s views.

The Paper’s Politicrasher columnist says the preacher’s “leaflets are appalling by most civilized standards — and can’t be reprinted here — but the First Amendment guarantee of free speech means nothing if the person making the speech is punished for it, especially by a government officer!”

The coumnist continues:

That’s the point of the amendment in the first place — to bar government from “abridging the freedom of speech.” Courts have consistently knocked down government efforts to curtail one kind of speech, yet not other equally vile beliefs. …

It all reminds me of a twisted take on Samuel 8:18: “You will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

The cop — who would identify herself only as “Gibson” — refused to confirm to The Brooklyn Paper that she had a problem with the preacher, Brother J.J. Richardson.

“[The bathroom] has always been closed to the public, but we extended a courtesy,” said Gibson.

But it’s not her “courtesy” to extend.

Thin crust delicacies, Brooklyn-style

There are two thin-crust eatables in high demand in Brooklyn this week.

One is a 52-week favorite: Grimaldi’s pizza in DUMBO.

The other is an eight-day wonder: shmura matzoh out of Williamsburg.

The local newspaper that covers both Williamsburg and DUMBO — my old Brooklyn Paper — was on top of them both.

Grimaldi’s moved to the front page when First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha showed up and downed three pies (one classic Margherita, one with pepperoni and sausage, one with mushrooms, peppers and onions), according to The Brooklyn Paper’s Andy Campbell.

The pizzeria — next to the Brooklyn Bridge — is a magnet for both tourists and New York’s famously snobbish pizzerati. A stressed staff, no slices (whole pies only), a keep-your-stinkin’-credit-card-in-your-pocket cash-only operation (shut down last year for not paying sales tax), and a don’t-complain-about-waiting-outside-in-the-rain-for an-hour-to-get-in vibe — that’s the price Grimaldi’s fans gladly pay for a taste of thin crust brick oven heaven.

Waiter Rafal Harajda, who served the First Family, told The Paper that customers kept their distance — more out of respect than fear of the heavy security.

Two neighborhoods over, in Williamsburg, where black-coated, sideburn-swinging Satmar Hassids split the turf with fast-moving young hipsters, the Hassids were keeping a close eye on the clock. With Passover just days away, they were busy completing orders for a product even crispier than the one offered by Grimaldi’s — shmura matzoh. “Shmura” means “watched”; the process of making matzoh must take exactly 18 minutes, no more, no less … it’s carefully watched, as is everything leading up to the baking (from the moment the wheat is harvested, an religiously-observant Jew keeps an open eye).

For The Brooklyn Paper’s Gersh Kuntzman and Aaron Short — joined by their team’s “noted non-Jew” Vince DiMiceli” — erev Passover was taste-test time:

Passover begins tonight (Monday March 29). Lechaim (to life)!

Matzoh photo by Aaron Short in The Brooklyn Paper. Michelle Obama photo by Tom Callan in The Brooklyn Paper.