Covering Corruption: What’s the Media’s Role?

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It is customary to invite elected officials to throw out the first pitch on the opening day of the Mosholu Montefiore Little League. As a parent and coach in the league for six years, this custom has afforded this reporter the chance to see what kind of stuff local pols bring. Councilman Oliver Koppell always looked like he was throwing not a baseball but a large porcelain plate. Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz usually seems a little tentative; his balls float a little. Andy Cohen, the new councilmember from the area, debuted last spring and looked convincingly like he had handled a baseball at least once at some earlier point in his life.

But no one compares to State Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr. who showed up to the 2010 ceremony wearing a track suit and a Superman shirt stretched across his brawny chest. Then he took a kid over to the side to catch while he threw warm-ups. Yes, warmups. He was not kidding.

It was fascinating to watch, not least because everyone knew that Espada was under scrutiny for possible corruption. That scrutiny later turned to indictment, conviction and incarceration: Espada is now a resident at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution, with a release date of—MLB scouts take note—October 30, 2017.

But it’s always fascinating to watch politicians who are suspected of being dirty. What’s the media’s role in channeling our fascination in a way that serves the public? And what’s our proper role in rooting out the dirt in the first place, while also keeping an eye on the power of prosecutors? Those were the questions Ben Max of Gotham Gazette, Azi Paybarah of Capital NY and I discussed over beers at The Emerson Bar in Clinton Hill in the latest edition of Brooklyn Independent Media’s “Straight Up.”

Watch it above and check out earlier episodes here.