On May 31 2020, news began circulating on social media about a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest to be held that evening in downtown Geneva. The protest was organized by young black women and men from Geneva, and like other protests around the country, was in response to the killing of George Floyd (and others) by the police.
Within hours of the peaceful protest being announced, the City of Geneva issued a statement warning residents and peaceful protesters to “stay home” that evening and for business owners to make sure their doors were locked due to the possibility of “looting and destructive behavior” by the protesters. The Facebook post of the warning was shared over 1,000 times.
Within 30 minutes, the Finger Lakes Times published an on-line article and joined the city and police department in encouraging all citizens, including protesters, to stay at home. This Facebook post was shared 147 times.
Several downtown businesses responded by covering their storefronts with plywood and “standing guard” outside their shops. One business reportedly had armed individuals inside their location, ready to shoot any trespassers.
The protest lasted several hours, with participants marching through the neighborhoods of Geneva and chanting for justice.
There was no violence perpetrated by the Geneva Police, and there was (of course) no violence from the protesters, either.
IF there were legitimate concerns about protesters engaging in violence, then the City of Geneva (and the Geneva Police) could have reached out to organizers to discuss ways to ensure a peaceful event. Instead, they unnecessarily stoked the fears of 13,000 residents and discredited the protest as “violent” before it had even taken place.
The next day, the Finger Lakes Times published a front-page story that included a misleading statement about the protests that would lead to another protest being held on the front steps of the newspaper’s headquarters on Genesee Street.
And the Finger Lakes Times once again showed that they just don’t want to report on some of the things that are happening right outside their door.
Finger Lakes Times “Reports” On A Protest – Four Days Later
On June 2 2020, dozens of marchers from The People’s Peaceful Protest held a Black Lives Matter demonstration at the front entrance of the Finger Lakes Times’s offices. The demonstration was in response to the newspaper’s recent front page claim that the May 31st peaceful protest had been peaceful “at least for the first hour.” During the approximately 3 minute rally, none of the Finger Lakes Times staff came outside to speak with the protesters about their concerns.
On June 4 2020, the Finger Lakes Times quietly edited the online version of the article, removing the phrase “at least for the first hour.” The newspaper did not publish an explanation for why the article was changed.
On June 6 2020, four days after the protest took place on the front steps of the newspaper, Finger Lakes Times editor Mike Cutillo finally acknowledged that the protest occurred.
Cutillo’s acknowledgement was buried within a lengthy editorial on page 2-C of the Opinion section.
And Cutillo claimed that he didn’t know why the protesters had been outside his office.
“It’s my understanding that when the BLM marchers stopped at our office on Tuesday it was to protest my use of that phrase (“at least for the first hour”).
I wish I would have known that at the time because I would have been pleased to address them and to explain.
No one told me.”
However, video from the protest shows an organizer, with a bullhorn, on the front steps of the Finger Lakes Times, clearly stating that the reason for the protest was the “one hour” claim, and that statement that was repeated five times within a span of three minutes.
Not a single reporter from the Finger Lakes Times, including Mike Cutillo, made any effort to reach out to any of the organizers of the protest, either during or after the protest, in order to better understand their concerns with the newspaper’s reporting.
And near the end of the Cutillo’s article, rather than address the reasons why the protesters were upset with the newspaper, Cutillo strongly implied that the protesters’ concerns were just a case of “people taking something the wrong way on Facebook.”
It took the Finger Lakes Times four days to report on a Black Lives Matter protest that happened outside their front door, and and when the editor finally reported on it, he claimed he didn’t know why the protest had taken place, never tried to contact anyone from the protest to find out, and blamed the protesters for “taking (it) the wrong way.”
Interestingly, almost exactly one year ago, the Finger Lakes Times failed to report on another story…and that one happened right outside their back door.
Finger Lakes Times “Reports” On A Hate Crime – Six Days Later
On June 6 2019, the words “white power” and a swastika were discovered spray painted on a shed that is clearly visible from the back entrance of the Finger Lakes Times’ offices at 218 Genesee Street. The Geneva Police responded to the scene and took reports.
On June 12 2019, six days after the racist graffiti was found, the Finger Lakes Times finally reported on the incident by publishing a photo of the racist graffiti on page 5-A.
The photo, which had been submitted by a reader, was published ONLY in the print edition of the newspaper, and was NOT published on the Finger Lakes Times website.
The photo’s caption called the term “white power” a “racially charged saying,” rather than a “racist saying.”
Because the phrase “white power” assumes the superiority of the white race over other races, it is literally the dictionary definition of racism. It is not known why the Finger Lakes Times failed to call the graffiti “racist.”
In 2019, it took the Finger Lakes Times six days to report on the racist hate crime that happened outside their back door, and when they reported on it, they refused to call it “racist” and refused to publish the story online.
Don’t Talk About Me, Without Me
In his editorial “responding” to the protests on the steps of his newspaper, Cutillo points out that Mayor Steve Valentino, City Manager Sage Gerling, Police Chief Mike Passalacqua, and NAACP President Lucile Mallard have all received criticism for their actions and/or statements related to the first Black Lives Matter protests on May 31st.
Cutillo bizarrely said that he felt the Finger Lakes Times was “in good company” because the newspaper is being criticized alongside government officials and the NAACP.
However, Mike Cutillo didn’t talk to the protesters during the protest. He didn’t try to find out who they were after the protest (which should have been an easy task for a reporter to accomplish). He didn’t watch video of the protest.
He didn’t do any “reporting.”
Instead, he paid attention to what the establishment’s leaders said and provided a platform for those leaders’ messages to be heard while deliberately ignoring the voices of those who are marching for justice in our community.
And in doing so, Cutillo showed, once again, that sometimes, for some reason, the Finger Lakes Times just doesn’t want to report on what’s happening right outside their door.