|The Purloined Photo
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
I always wanted to use the word
"purloined" in print. The poetry of the phrase, THE PURLOINED PHOTO, may
be more interesting than this item. Obviously, its borrowed from the Edgar Allen Poe
tale scribed in 1845, The Purloined Letter. (Purloin, a verb meaning to steal can
be traced back to the mid-14th century when it was borrowed through the AngloFrench,
purloiner, to remove.) Poes bizarre, mysterious mind was always on the edge and his
use of language, musical to my tone-deaf ears. But "purloined photo," picture it
who could ask for anything more?
This Dee Richard photo of Ackerman opponent Doc Elkowitz and wife flanking Congressman
Gary Ackerman and Hillary Clinton at an Ackerman fundraiser is at the center of a mystery.
The Purloined Photo
However, Edgar Allen Poe has
nothing to do with what I write about, except, maybe its all just a little bit
bizarre, and it is a mystery.
The photo in question was taken (shot, not
stolen) by Dee Richard, a.k.a. the Tribpixie and is printed above. It was taken at
Leonards of Great Neck at a November fundraiser for Congressman Gary Ackerman.
Hillary Clinton then an undeclared Senatorial candidate was the guest of
honor and Gary and Hillary are flanked by Dr. and Mrs. Elkowitz.
Now heres whats interesting
about whos smiling with whom. Doc Elkowitz is now Ackermans Republican
opponent. Thats right, last November, Doc and the Mrs. show up at the funder to
schmooze with Gary and friends and meet Hillary. Then, last month, Doc seeks and is given
the Republican line to run against Ackerman. Docs not new to the game. He previously
opposed Ackerman as the Right-to-Life candidate.
I asked Dee Richard, the Trib photographer,
to go to the Ackerman fundraiser basically to get a picture of my 11-year-old daughter
Allison with Hillary. I already met (and had a picture taken with the first lady
the Prez, too) and Lil claimed not to be star-struck (she really wanted a pic, but denied
it). Well, Dee was there shooting up a storm. Got Allison, Lil, my niece Debbie, myself,
Gary and Hillary thanx, Dee and lots of others. Dee you see is the
preeminent political photographer in Queens. Her Tribpix page is a weekly whos who
in Queens emphasis on politics. Dee and I share a love of the political game and
enjoy picking the Tribpix photos weekly.
Here comes the mystery, and Ill leave
you to play Sherlock Holmes from the evidence at hand.
So Dee photographed Doc and Mrs. Elkowitz
with Gary and Hillary last November. The calendar moves forward to last Tuesday night
(July 11). I dont know what prompted Dee to review her old pics but she saw the
Elkowitz photo shown on this page and put it in her pocketbook to show it off at a
fundraiser for Republican State Senator Frank Padavan. Dee rightfully thought it was a
good story that Doc came to Ackermans fundraiser and that Doc who espouses things
far right of political center came to meet and smile with Hillary, the darling of the
At Tuesdays funder in Papazzios
in Bayside (marvelous place, try it and tell Dominic I sent you), Dee sits down with
political columnist Arthur Nitzburg, his wife Anne and Padavan to chat. The Queens
political circle is small, and such a grouping is not unlikely for a couple of minutes.
I like Nitzburg. He writes for another
Queens weekly. Some of his stuff is pretty good. Some is way off base. But, I like to read
about political hoohahs.
I really dont know him well enough
not to like him. And, you see, David Fred Roth, the Bayside philanthropist who is the
president of the Queens Salvation Army, told me that Arthur encouraged my selection as the
Salvation Armys honoree last year. It was an honor I gratefully shared with dear
friend Queens Board of Education member Terri Thomson remember her, shell
come back in a later item. Well thanks, Arthur you cant be all bad.
So Tuesday night, Dee shows Arthur, Anne
and Frank the photo. They all were interested, they all got a kick out of how silly it
made Elkowitz seem, Arthur loved the picture and asked, "Can I have it," Dee
recalls. She smiled, said no and put it back in her pocketbook.
The next day, Arthur calls Dee and says he
pitched the photo and story as an op-ed piece to Newsday. They liked the idea, and
Arthur would like to use the photo. It seems Newsday wanted the photo in order to
pay Nitzburg for his piece.
So Dee shows up at my office with her
pocketbook from the night before to ask me if I would approve her turning over the photo
to Arthur to sell to Newsday, for which she would receive a fee and photo credit
and Arthur then could sell his piece to Newsday. Dee, as the Trib photographer, was
doing the right thing in seeking my approval before selling anything to another newspaper.
Nitzburg had already called Ackerman to
lobby him to get me to approve of it all. Now, I liked the story and spin about Elkowitz;
and the idea really belonged to Dee, and not to Arthur. Gary according to what
Arthur told Dee wanted to see the piece in Newsday and I could have really
lived without the photo in my column. Once more, I was glad to see Dee getting photo
credit from a daily, so, I didnt object. "Sure, Dee, if you want to, give it to
Only Dee didnt have the photo.
She looked in her pocketbook from the night
before and the photo was gone. Someone had lifted it. Filched it. Purloined the photo.
Who could it be?
Dee felt she knew and called Arthur to
demand it back.
He denied having it.
I reached out for the Newsday editors to
let them know the photo was purloined and that it belonged to Dee. Tamara Hartman, the Tribune
editor reached out to Nitzburgs other newspaper to inform them of the purloined
photo and that they should not run it if they received it.
Now, Nitzburg still wanted to sell his
story to Newsday.
Dee and I wanted the photo back.
By the end of Wednesday, the small world
involved, knew the photo was Dees it had her photo credit on the back
and her permission was needed before anyone could use it. However, in this day of
scanners, its real easy to reproduce photos.
Nitzburg continued to lobby, calling Dee,
Ackerman, Newsday, Tamara and others.
Thursday morning, Dee wakes up, goes to her
car and finds an envelope under the windshield wiper. The Purloined Photo was returned.
Dee comes to the office, hands it to me and
says, do what you want with it. Dee and I agree that based on his questionable role in the
disappearance of the photo, Arthur should not profit ego or dollar wise. Basically,
we decided, not to let Nitzburg benefit from the photo.
On Friday (7/14) Nitzburg contacted our
editor, Tamara lobbied and threatened. He insisted he did not take the photo and
wouldnt do such a thing. He suggested that State Senator Frank Padavan might have
taken it in order to help Republican Elkowitz. Then he said hed sue me if I tried to
prevent him from writing for Newsday.
Thats all it took. I respond to
bullies in one way. The Newsday editor had emailed me asking whether Dees
photo would be available to them. I responded: not for use with Nitzburgs writing.
The photo and its story is Dees.
This story of the purloining is the story
of journalistic ethics and of someone who has lost their way or maybe never knew write
Vile and Ugly
Same topic: Newspapers and columnists, only
this one is not so frivolous.
This is a story of a vile and ugly
columnist and an unapologetic hateful newspaper that prints vile and ugly columns.
Fortunately, the newspaper is insignificant. But small people and small papers that spread
hate are dangerous. Such is the case of the Queens Ledger/Glendale Register, its
collection of small sister papers, and its columnist Frank Borzellieri.
The columnist, a member of community school
board 24, has in the past spewed forth with some of the vilest racist pronouncements this
borough has ever heard. His anti-immigrant, anti-minority positions are the stuff hate
groups thrive upon. His words have never belonged in a Queens community newspaper but in a
meeting of hooded cowards.
However, I believe in the first amendment
and as hateful as those words may be, Publisher Walter Sanchez has a right to print them.
The columnist is responsible for the hate
he writes. Publisher Walter Sanchez is responsible for the hate he prints.
Two weeks ago, Borzellieri and Sanchez went
too far. They likened Queens Board of Education member Terri Thomson to Adolph Hitler.
Terri, who is my friend, has a record that needs no defense. The columnist and his sick
ideas on education do not entitle him to personal attacks on fine public servants like
Terri. He can disagree with her and we always encourage such dialogue. But hateful, vile
and disgusting attacks dont fly here.
Im not surprised at the columnist; he
Im appalled at Publisher Sanchez.
Some sixteen years ago or so, I taught
Walter what this publishing business was all about. He bought his way into the industry
from a bowling alley and needed guidance. I gave it to him in his early days.
Perhaps I didnt do a good job
teaching, or he didnt do a good job learning or he has just lost his way.
Walters papers printed the attack on Terri. Walters papers likened her to
Then, last week, after printing the
hateful, hurtful column, an unsigned piece on the edit page declared, "Columnist
Needs A Break." Apparently reacting to the uproar caused by the columnists
twisted words, Walter backed off a little.
Walters edit said that the columnist,
"made no mention as to why he is comparing Teri (sic) to Hitler (the infamous
dictator), why he says she is void of any intellectual substance . . ."
Thank you Walter, we know who Hitler was.
Your parenthetical description leads me to
believe you dont.
He is the man that murdered six million. He
killed members of my family. He imprisoned my in-laws in concentration camps for six
years, killing their parents.
Your willingness to print the initial
column and matter-of-fact description of Adolph Hitler indicates your total insensitivity
to the hate you print and the pain you cause.
You dont apologize for printing hate;
you call it, "latitude." Then joke that your columnist, "might have
confused latitude with altitude, and with altitude, oxygen fails to get to the creative
juices in the brain."
Then you announce that you are keeping the
columnist "out of the paper for a few weeks." You encourage people to write in
with their opinion to help you decide on the writers future with your paper.
Maybe youll get more letters from
racists full of hate than from people of love and understanding. Maybe they, and you, like
Adolph Hitler. Maybe racism and hate is for you and your writers.
If I were a reader, I wouldnt write
to you. Id stop reading your newspaper.
Publishing a newspaper is not a democratic
process. It is a responsibility.
You cannot hide behind freedom of the
press. You are responsible for what you print. You are responsible for the hate. You are
responsible for hurting Terri Thomson. You are responsible for the hurt you caused from
the casual reference to Adolph Hitler. You are responsible for the vile and disgusting
things that your columnist writes.
You have failed as a publisher.
And in my book, you have failed as a human
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com