Having to explain the Niagara Falls Reporter to people is always embarrassing.
When I worked at the Niagara Gazette, the daily paper in the Cataract City, it felt like a burden I had to endure. There was a time the Reporter, a weekly rag, was considered a proper competitor. They did a lot of legwork in uncovering a local union scandal, and the Gazette was faltering under shaky ownership and even worse leadership.
That was a long time ago. Now the Gazette, though still struggling in many ways, has greatly improved its product. The Reporter, however, has not. It’s devolved into slander, potshots and clever wordplay that has kept them out of controversy and in the conversation. They’re really good at being bad, but never getting caught.
It’s difficult to describe how dubious a product NFR (oops, wrong link) is without delving into hearsay. If you’re into Niagara Falls politics you know something shady is going on. Let’s leave it at that.
But hey, let’s let the copy speak for itself. Here’s Lenny Palumbo stringing words together about the Sabres. We’ll skip over all the awful and get right to the downright offensive:
… the league is determined to reduce fighting as much as possible. Meanwhile, the NHL’s abominable, “You Can Play” promotion, which all but endorses homosexuality in hockey, is among its top priorities.
Thanks to Gary Bettman and his ilk, enforcers are out, but gays are in. So why don’t they just hire Elton John as commissioner and be done with it?
Fortunately for Sabres fans, the team has not come out of the closet and the signing of tough guy, John Scott is an indication there might be some shred of manliness left in an otherwise emasculated organization that has much to prove in 2012-13.
Just a reminder that this is a real, printed newspaper. You can find it in dozens of coffee shops and other local businesses in the city.
Now you, dear hockey fans, probably have many questions. No, the You Can Play initiative is not “abominable,” nor is homosexuality. Fighting in hockey has nothing to do with equality and tolerance or any of the things You Can Play stands for. These statements are obvious for most, but apparently not enough for all “journalists” around these parts.
To peg Palumbo as homophobic and an awful writer is to let him off easy. He has a colorful history with journalism that says plenty about local politics and the insanity that is the Reporter. This is about more than one man’s ignorance.
I know what you’re thinking: How did this even make its way to print? Good question. If you’ve never read the Reporter before, this kind of rhetoric isn’t out of place. Neither is the bad sports writing. Here’s Palumbo on July 10, shortly after the Sabres traded Derek Roy for Steve Ott:
The timing couldn’t be better for the acquisition of Scott and Ott, as the Reporter was seriously considering calling on the NHL to craft special anti-bullying regulations to protect the timid Sabres from Bruin thugs like Lucic and Sean Thornton and other scary players in the league.
It was suggested the league’s “You Can Play” propaganda project, which promotes homosexuality by addressing alleged homophobia among players, was actually targeting certain Sabres as poster boys.
This was suggested, of course, nowhere but in this article. See the theme developing? Palumbo’s prior work for the Reporter includes such works as “PRO-GAY AGENDA BEHIND ANTI-BULLYING LAWS and SABRES’ SOFT AND GUTLESS APPROACH SPELLS F-A-I-L-U-R-E: New owner Pagula’s (SIC) rehire of GM and coach bodes ill for team to “man-up”. The latter includes photos of Derek Roy and Nathan Gerbe with the caption that reads “These photos of Derek Roy (Top) and Nathan Gerbe (Bottom), with their pouty, unnatural poses, leave one wondering if they are hockey players or male, hairstyle models.”
This is Palumbo’s schtick, it just so happens that he’s a sports fan and someone let him publish this garbage after applying it to a hockey team.
So who is letting Palumbo do his thing? Well, that would be Mike Hudson. This Mike Hudson. This is the editor of the Reporter. Word is he’s somewhere on the West coast now, but he’s still doing his thing with NFR. Including, presumably, editing stories like Palumbo’s.
But why is Palumbo even working for the Reporter, anyway? Palumbo is a former Lewiston-Porter School Board member who had a complaint filed against him in 2006 by Rick Sweeney, a teacher and coach in the district who said Palumbo was “making unnecessary noise with his vehicle while driving past their home on several occasions.”
From the story:
According to the police report, Sweeney believes Palumbo would intentionally rev-up his vehicle’s engine and honk his horn when driving by their house, including at “inappropriate times.”
“Mr. Sweeney’s point was they have young children and they didn’t want Mr. Palumbo driving by honking and making the noise,” Lewiston Police Chief Ronald Winkley said. “Mr. Palumbo has been advised of this.”
Sweeney said the actions didn’t stop after the warning. He has turned in video surveillance of Palumbo driving by honking and making noise on at least one other occasion afterward.
The eight-year employee of Lew-Port has said little about the police reports, pointing out it’s a private matter involving his family’s well-being.
“Surveillance tapes were turned into the proper authorities,” said Sweeney, adding he was surprised to learn about the district’s investigation into the complaint. “I didn’t think what has happened is a school issue.”
Palumbo defends his behavior by pointing out the vehicle he was driving at the time of the report had a loud exhaust system. The honking, he said, was a sign of friendliness.
“It was an old car and made a lot of noise,” said Palumbo, who admits to being contacted by the police department. “I don’t know what motivated (Sweeney) to file the report, but I was told it didn’t meet the level of harassment.”
This isn’t the first time Palumbo and Sweeney have come into conflict. Last year, Sweeney was among a handful of Lew-Port athletic coaches denied reappointment at first because he criticized Palumbo about some previous statements the board member had said about the district’s academics.
Essentially, Sweeney said critical things and then he got the runaround on his coaching gigs. Why does this matter? Well, after things escalated in Lew-Port, a mysterious publication called The Vanguard started appearing and disparaging members of the Lew-Port board and its critics. Feel free to browse its archives if you have a few minutes and a light stomach. The Dec. 29, 2009 issue (Palumbo case dismissed) may be of particular interest.
Unsurprisingly, The Vanguard had its own share of hateful rhetoric. Sweeney was frequently mentioned, while Barack Obama was presented as a Nazi, along with the usual homophobic rhetoric. For a while no one seemed to know who was behind it, until Lew-Port school board candidate Ed Lily came clean, saying he was “proud to disseminate any publication that delivers the truth to the people.”
Also involved in The Vanguard? Lenny Palumbo. In the link, NFR publisher Frank Parlato Jr. suggests buying The Vanguard and turning it into a “legitimate” newspaper. Two years later, Palumbo’s writing about how gay the NHL is.
Here’s the funny part: Mike Hudson in the Niagara Falls Reporter on April 20, 2010:
But Lewiston does have problems, particularly with vermin. Worse than maggots, rats and skunks combined, Lewiston has the not-too-bright Ed Lilly and his dumber-than-dirt accomplice, Lenny Palumbo, the two responsible for a series of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist tracts that get scattered around the village like garbage every couple of months.
Between them, Lilly and Palumbo have cost taxpayers in the Lewiston-Porter School District hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years on nuisance lawsuits meant to subvert the very idea of representative democracy. In addition, Palumbo has compiled an extensive police record. Their infantile tracts are simply the latest manifestation of the sort of hatred they spewed when they were members of the Lew-Port Board of Education, positions they have since been relieved of.
Lilly and Palumbo are also cowards. They publish their tracts anonymously, refusing to accept responsibility for the vile and sickening viewpoints contained in them. Like the white-hooded riders of the Ku Klux Klan, they use of the cover of darkness to do their dirty work, creating a mess for homeowners by tossing the hateful printed matter on front lawns and driveways from the window of a speeding car.
So what changed? I have no idea. The point here is that these are pretty bad people. All of them. Decrying the You Can Play campaign is but a minor blip on the radar, really. They are all shady characters who, sadly, have some pull in the political scene in Niagara County.
The worst part about this is that it gets read. Palumbo’s foray into hockey talk will come and go, but his slimy rhetoric has found its place in the “media.” Go to a local diner in the Falls and the elderly swap stories over the Reporter more often than a real newspaper. There is an audience for this kind of dreck.
Sports can be important when they help promote social issues and acceptance. It’s a way into reality, where they can do some real good. When homophobic, hateful and downright wrongheaded thinking like Palumbo’s can gain traction in the real world, though, that’s when it gets really dangerous.