Dick Lutz Proves That Dinosaurs Still Roam Roosevelt Island

Why Is the Main Street WIRE Afraid of Competition?

Updated 40 weeks ago David Stone
Dinosaurs we thought were extinct.
Dinosaurs we thought were extinct.
Public Domain / Creative Commons 3.0 license.

After Dick Lutz's ugly, years long campaigns against the Roosevelt Islander blog, we've come to expect the bullying, but just two days after I had a conciliatory conversation with the WIRE's current listed publisher, Dana Agmon, Lutz's most recent misleading blast took us by surprise.

Peace was not in the air, after all.

Coming on the heels of a weekend where the Main Street WIRE failed to publish on its promised every two weeks schedule and after I was assured that Dick Lutz had been put out to pasture, taking his behind the scenes backstabbing with him, his unprovoked (as far as we know) attack on this newspaper seemed strange and pathetic. 

Lutz actually instructed readers of his stale mailing list, after over six months in which we joined the Roosevelt Islander in moving ahead of the WIRE in voluntary readership, to unsubscribe from the alerts we produce regularly to let subscribers know about issues, like subway changes, affecting their daily lives.

In Dick Lutz confused world, our carefully culled and updated mailing list is somehow his.

But why is he so concerned?

Isn't informing the community a worthwhile endeavor for all of us, no matter who or where the information comes from?

Why is monopolizing contact with Roosevelt Island residents so critical to the Main Street WIRE that Lutz has been on the attack for years against the Roosevelt Islander, the Daily and, more fancifully, a publication he fears Cornell Tech will create online soon after the campus opens?

Follow the Money

It was a lesson my generation learned from President Nixon's scandals. Take your choice of bad behaviors, and if you dig deep enough, you'll find money behind it. Or sex, but we can probably forget that motive here.

What Lutz knows but can do nothing about is that print advertising is dead along with the publications that rely exclusively on it because it's far more costly and far less effective. 

Early in the transition of my taking over the WIRE, earlier this year, Lutz indulged his backstabbing habit with advertising manager Ellen Levy as his topic. He explained that the only thing stopping him from firing her, since he claimed she was unreliable as well as untrustworthy, was that "She'll take all the advertisers over to the blogger," referring to Rick O'Conor's excellent and reliable source of information that routinely makes the WIRE look like a tired old warhorse.

(When I got to know Levy, I quickly realized that Lutz was wrong about her. She was the best thing the WIRE had going for it. The rag would have folded years ago without her.)

Later in the same conversation, his paranoia about losing advertisers popped up as he explained that, once Cornell Tech opened, "They'll have no trouble creating web pages" that would, also, suck away his advertisers. "That," he went on, "is why I started the Cornell Column. That might appease them and hold them off."

When I tried to steer the conversation back into the neighborhood of recognizable reality, Lutz went off on a description of how the University of Michigan conquered Ann Arbor, including the local news.

When Lutz gets an idea in his head, it sticks, regardless of how foolish, and stays right there.

But the real message was about the money, and the closer I looked at that, the more disgusted I became.

The Moneymaking House of Cards

The moneymaker Lutz made of the Main Street WIRE was built on an unstable foundation that was bound to collapse. In planning to remake the newspaper on a more responsible basis, I intended to make basic changes in how things got done and give the operation a moral compass I believe it lacked. Those changes, necessary in my opinion, tipped Lutz over the edge. Clearly, he was not ready to let go of his controls, even in retirement.

First, I'd put an end to the stuffing and distribution operations that depended on convincing Rivercross that the WIRE was a nonprofit community service and, worse, on leading unpaid volunteers to believe the newspaper desperately needed their free service to survive.

Neither was true, and if I were managing Rivercross, I'd go back after the newspaper to pay for space and services provided under a dubious premise, and if I were a volunteer, I'd ask Lutz to cough up some cash for my labor.

And if I were an advertiser, I'd demand that he show me documentation for the distribution figures he claims as a basis for high rates.

As a resident, I'd treat the Main Street WIRE as the junk mail it is and trash it before it gets inside my house.

The Roosevelt Islander blog is a far better resource for ongoing activities, and the Daily publishes twice as many informative stories without the institutionalized bias that infects the WIRE.

What Lutz keeps under his hat is the bald truth that the WIRE's income averages $10,000 per month, including months when it barely publishes, and that printing it accounted for only about 20% of expenses. Where did the other $8,000 per month go?

When I tried to find that out as incoming publisher, facts suddenly became elusive. At the same time as Lutz was encouraging me to begin taking on debt in support of the WIRE, he claimed that giving me a complete picture of expenses would take two to five weeks. I was never able to identify more than 50% of where the cash went.

My wife and I rolled our eyes when I showed her the two to five weeks statement from Lutz. And as noted before, my mother told me I was born in the morning, but it wasn't this morning.

When I put the verbal agreement Lutz and I had been working under for two months in writing, including a condition that I would be taking over free and clear of any debt, Lutz choked, using Briana Warsing's tenure as editor as a shield.

Shortly thereafter, his overt threats against me and anyone willing to work with me in my startup Roosevelt Island Daily began. Someday, if he continues his behavior, I will share his emails threatening me and others with lawsuits, but why go there?

It's enough that the community understands that the Main Street WIRE, with Lutz continuing as godfather, is more concerned with cash flowing in than information being shared with Roosevelt Island residents.

Longstanding hostility to the Roosevelt Islander blog, currently against the Daily and, in the future, against a fantasized Cornell Tech newspaper are all about the money and nothing else.

Anyone wishing to unsubscribe from the bulletins we put out is encouraged to click the "Unsubscribe" button at the bottom of any email. Your choice will be instantly respected.

But don't you just wish it was as easy to prevent the WIRE from being shoved in your mailbox every couple of weeks or so, whether you want it or not? Where's the Unsubscribe button for that privilege? You won't find one because it's that unrequested intrusion in your life on which Lutz has based his high advertising rates. Without them, the WIRE  is finished.

And good riddance.

For Cat Lovers