New Rochelle Patch Doubles-Down, Denies Plagiarism of Talk of the Sound

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Katie Ryan O’Connor, the Lower Hudson Valley Regional Editor for AOL Patch is standing by her woman, denying charges that New Rochelle Patch Editor Allison Esposito, lifted a composite image of the mug shots of three suspects in a recent murder in downtown New Rochelle.

New Rochelle Patch Responds to Charges of Plagiarism, Bias

O'Connor told Media Bistro's Ryan Derousseau that any similarity between the image file on Talk of the Sound and the image file on New Rochelle Patch was happenstance.

In an email from the Hudson Valley regional editor for Patch, Katie Ryan O’Connor said “Allison Esposito, did not plagiarize anything from Mr. Cox’s blog in any form.” She goes on to add that “The objects in question — police generated mug shots — are publicly available and any similarity to Mr. Cox’s presentation of those public images is purely coincidental. Linking mug shots together in Photoshop (in this case, apparently doing nothing more than placing three similar sized objects in a row) is standard operating procedure for news organizations everywhere.”

Talking about doubling down on a losing hand.

Derousseau has requested a reply to O'Connor's claims and this is it.

Either Ms. O'Connor or Ms. Esposito is a liar or both.

1. Ms. O'Connor claims that "any similarity to Mr. Cox’s presentation of those public images is purely coincidental" and that all that Esposito did was place "three similar sized objects in a row" and called that "standard operating procedure for news organizations everywhere." Let's see how that stands up.

Here are the photos obtained by me on September 20 from the New Rochelle Police Department.

L_Smith.jpeg

R_Johnson.jpeg

K_Leggieri.jpeg

Note that the photos are all 240 x 300 and the photo of Mr. Smith is very different than the other two.

Because the photo of Leggieri was such a tight shot, I had no choice but to anchor the other three on her image. I ran into a problem however because the Johnson photo was such that when I tightly cropped the image around his face it got too "thin" and I wanted the photos to be balanced -- a third, a third, a third -- so I just gave up on that and decided to use it "as is". The photo of Smith has a great deal of space around him and he is, relatively, very small in the photo. I am not that proficient in Adobe Photoshop so I just eye-balled it and cropped a rectangle around his head -- a totally random crop that was meant to be as close to the other two as possible but random nonetheless.

I ended up the the following three PNG images:

Krista Leggieri.png

R_Johnson.png

Laurell Smith.png

The first two photos are 150 x 188 because I just changed the width to 150 and scaled the height proportionally. The second photo is 150 x 184 because I eyeballed the cropping and my aim was slightly off.

My drupal theme has a main column of 455 pixels so three photos with a width of 150 would leave me five pixels short. Further, the bottom was not "smooth". To create a smoother appearance I added a white square and placed it across the bottom of the three images, added the names of each suspect and then saved the file then adjusted the image again using Mac Preview to make the width 455 and with the white strip it was 218 tall.

MurderSuspectsKevinWilliamsCase.png

Now, if you crop the photo to remove the white line you get an image that is 455 x 180 like this...

MurderSuspectsKevinWilliamsCase455-180.png

If you then adjust the photo to 600 pixels you get a a photo that is 600 x 237 like this...

MurderSuspectsKevinWilliamsCase600x237.png

Strangely enough, this is the exact dimension of the "large" version of the photo on New Rochelle Patch but cropped just slightly different; this would happen if Ms. Esposito did not precisely trim off the white bar but cropped a few pixels above it, as appears to be the case. Anyone care to calculate the odds of my various, random crops and trims resulting in exactly the same image as the image file Mr. Esposito claims to have created. What is blindingly obvious the composite image is not a matter of "placing three similar sized objects in a row". Had either Ms. Esposito or Ms. O'Connor actually seen the original images provided by the New Rochelle Police Department they would have known this.

Now, let's compare.

Here are the two images, stacked together, with Talk of the Sound on top and New Rochelle Patch on the bottom.

NRTALK-Top-v-PATCH-Bottom.jpg

Here is an animated GIF; the top edges of the images are slightly different reflecting Ms. Esposito cropping off the white strip at the bottom but note the eyes, note the edges of the clothing -- these are the exact same images only one is brighter (New Rochelle Talk) and one is darker (New Rochelle Patch).

NRTALK-v-NRPATCH.gif

If Ms. Esposito did obtain the images on her own and create a single image that is so directly similar and of the same dimensions she should also be able to document the provenance of the three mug shots. For instance, she should have had some email exchange like the one below. It is a redacted version of my email exchange with officials at the New Rochelle Police Department. It's copied out of Gmail so a little off-kilter but what you are seeing is 4 emails: (1) my initial request; (2) a reply from a senior NRPD officer saying someone else will send the mug shots; (3) another person sending the mug shots; (4) me thanking the first officer.

from Robert Cox
to __________ <__________@ci.new-rochelle.ny.us>
date Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 3:11 PM
subject mug shots for Laurell Smith, Rico Johnson,Krista Leggieri
mailed-by gmail.com
hide details Sep 20 (8 days ago)

_____________________,

I have the documents for the homicide case but wished to obtain the mug shots. _______________ told me they were available. Is that something you can email to me?

Thanks very much.

Robert Cox
Managing Editor
New Rochelle's Talk of the Sound
http://www.newrochelletalk.com

Phone: 914-500-8386
Email: robertcox@newrochelletalk.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/talkofthesound

from ______________ <_______@ci.new-rochelle.ny.us>
to Robert Cox
date Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 3:17 PM
subject Criminal Idendification Photos - NRPD Event #57196-10
hide details Sep 20 (8 days ago)
-

The criminal identification photos will be sent via e-mail shortly

Booking Photos
X

Reply
_______________ to robertcox
show details Sep 20 (8 days ago)

3 attachments — Download all attachments View all images
K_Leggieri.jpeg
5K View Download
L_Smith.jpeg
3K View Download
R_Johnson.jpeg
4K View Download

m Google
to "_____________" <________@ci.new-rochelle.ny.us>
date Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 10:22 PM
subject Re: Criminal Idendification Photos - NRPD Event #57196-10
mailed-by gmail.com
hide details Sep 20 (7 days ago)
Got them. Thank you.

Sent from my iPhone so please excuse any typos.

I trust this is sufficient to demonstrate that AOL Patch lifted the image from Talk of the Sound and when asked to remove it by me, went a step further and issued knowingly false public statements in an attempt to damage my reputation; denying what they did and making false allegations against me.

ADDENDUM

Ms. O'Connor has tried to create a smokescreen by raising a series of unrelated issues to deflect attention from her site stealing from mine. She has clearly lied abut the image so now let's take a look at her claims that I was hostile to AOL Patch from the get-go, that New Rochelle Patch is not affiliated with the North End clique of Democrats who runs New Rochelle and her claim that my request to remove the photo is a matter of "sour grapes" because she turned me down for a job.

Ms. O'Connor is entirely misrepresenting the matter of my views of Patch and my presenting to her an idea of a column that I could write for Patch as a way to deflect attention from the rather obvious use of an image from my web site which is no longer open to debate once people view the images side by side or in an animated gif of the two images transposed. The layout of three mugshots within the image file is not "coincidence" or what you would get by just laying thee three photos together as O'Connor has claimed.

I can add to that here with some factorial math and odds -- there are six different ways to layout the three photos. So, why are the three mugshots are laid out in the exact same order? Is that also a coincidence?

Here's another -- in their article they say the victim was 24. He was 23. His birthday was in October. How did they get that wrong? Try this on for size. I was the only reporter on the scene as the events surround the murder was happening a week ago Saturday (our lead photo is of the victim on a gurney being wheeled over the ambulance by paramedics) I was blogging from my iphone, listening to the police scanner as they chased after the two suspects (Leggieri is alleged to be an accessory after the fact). Trying to take pictures, blog and dodge police cars I only heard a part of a police report on the scanner saying the victim was Kevin Williams born in 1986. Doing the math I wrote that he was 24 years old and published that in my initial article. I later learned the victim was born in October so that he was actually 23. I later corrected that in my post. The other media came to the story long after I had broken the news on my site. They got the birthdate of the victim direct from NRPD not over the scanner in real time as did and did not make my initial error -- they reported the victim to be 23. So, the only place where Kevin Williams was reported to be 24 was on my site up until I fixed it. So why does the Patch story report Williams to be 24? Guess.

There is no doubt they took the image from my site. I believe they used my post as the basis for the article incorrectly stating the age. Ms. O'Connor is clearly making false statements about the image. I have heard nothing from Ms. Esposito who I was told has been on bereavement leave but if Ms. Esposito is claiming she created the image she is lying.

As for my supposed "sour grapes", puh-leeze. That is so idiotic it hardly merits comment but as some have referenced her statement but I will address that as well.

I have a long track record in advocating for more coverage of New Rochelle from local media. I have begged, bullied and pushed to Gannett to do more to cover New Rochelle. I welcomed Patch as another set of eyeballs on what is the 7th largest City in the State of New York, one that has been woefully under-covered my the media for many years.

Writing a weekly column for Patch is hardly a "job" but I am interested in any way to get my name out there and promote my site, Talk of the Sound. I have many, many ideas and throw them out to people all the time. Anyone who has talked to me on this list knows that you can hardly shut me up when I get going :-) One idea was to re-purpose the content on my site as a sort of cross-post to promote my own site in which case we would both benefit. Another idea was a Jimmy Breslin style column, sort of man-on-the-bar-stool type thing.

When I first learned Patch was opening in New Rochelle I wrote about it, back in early August:

http://www.newrochelletalk.com/content/aols-patchcom-coming-new-rochelle

I think it is fair to say that I was supportive. I posted how they were looking to hire writers and linked their Craigslist ad. I encouraged my contributors to apply to write for them. I said I was going to apply too and did. In large part I was PROMOTING their efforts. Does this strike anyone as my being antagonistic towards Patch? And does Ms. O'Connor think she is "outing" me as a supposedly disgruntled job applicant when I wrote about this two months ago? As the largest hyper-local blog in Westchester County, my promoting them (as I promote other local media efforts) was meant to be helpful now Ms. O'Connor would like to throw that in my face because her editor got caught lifting material from my site.

As for my meeting with her, Ms. O'Connor contacted me to meet up for coffee I went. She never explained why she wanted to meet. We spent about two hours together (not 45 minutes) and chatted about a wide range of things. She never offered why, exactly, she had asked to meet. We talked about a number of things including her getting new sites launched and a bit about my background. The meeting meandered and seemed largely pointless so I took a different tact and brought up some ideas for writing a column. She said she was not comfortable having someone write for Patch would be critical of Patch. I found that a bit baffling on a few levels but mostly because I had never been critical of Patch and had no reason to be and had said nothing bad about them. In fact, I was encouraging my contributors to make some money by writing for them. Also, if she was not interested in my writing for her then what was the point of our meeting. I asked her that. She said, "I like to meet people". She spent some time making disparaging remarks about another local blogger, Polly Kreisman of the Loop in Larchmont, NY which I found a bit odd for someone in her position. Over the course of that discussion I shared a number of ideas running around my head -- as people who know me know I am wont to do -- including the idea fo the Breslin-style column. She never followed up from that meeting and I did not pursue it and did not give it any thought until she raised it this week in a very misleading way to portray my request that Patch remove my image from their site as a reaction to my "trauma" over not being given the honor of writing a column for a publication that is only a small step about a Yellow Pages directory with news blurbs and pictures.

As for the bias of the site it is basically an institutional bias. New Rochelle has been run by the local Democratic Party for many years and the people who run it are preoccupied with controlling "the message" of New Rochelle as a safe, leafy suburb of New York City with low crime and a love of "diversity". This is the Dick Van Dyke Show image, the Norman Rockwell image that the ruling political class of New Rochelle wants to project -- primarily in order to protect home values in the affluent North End of the City. I was informed by a source that the Mayor, who largely controls the Democratic Party in New Rochelle and is closely aligned with Congresswoman Nita Lowey and her millions in campaign funds, is very excited and involved with Patch which he views as a way to "get our message out".

Ms. O'Connor claims that New Rochelle Patch will do real journalism. If that turns out to be the case no one will be happier than me. So far, there is no indication of that. If one were to look around at other local Patch sites in Westchester, one will start to see more of the same -- aligning with the institutions of power in each location. Ms. O'Connor cites a few example of supposedly speaking truth to power; that is hardly responsive to the FACT that many of the people who have begun to appear on New Rochelle Patch our part of the same group of people who believe the only news worth reporting about New Rochelle is good news.

In a comment to the Mayor's first column for Patch, a Patch employee named Theresa Leghorn Kump, a card-carrying member of the North End clique wrote "It's great to have a website dedicated to reporting on what's great about living in New Rochelle instead of tearing everything down." To which Allison Esposito, the editor, wrote "Thank you Theresa".

Since when is "journalism" dedicated to "reporting on what's great" about living in a particular municipality and how is this different from political propaganda? This is exactly the modus operandi of the North End clique which routinely seeks to suppress anything that might portray New Rochelle in a negative light including municipal corruption, violent crime, negative state audits, problems in the schools. Most of the people are connected to the real estate industry in New Rochelle and basically want news stories about firefighters rescuing cats from tree, art fairs at an elementary school, ribbon cutting ceremonies and the like.

Ms. O'Connor says this criticism of New Rochelle Patch is unfair and premature and promises real journalism. To quote Seth and Amy...Really? Your going to deliver real journalism? Really? Unlike Ms. O'Connor, I live her and have done so for many years. I have been reporting on the City of New Rochelle for more than two years on Talk of the Sound. I attend most every school board meeting, watch or attend most City Council meetings, work sources throughout the City on a 24/7 basis, listen to the scanner channels, rush to crime scenes and fires and more. I and my contributors break REAL stories -- not missing cats or chef of the week but things like the District Attorney investigating the DPW, school security guards transmitting nude images of 7th graders,

It is what I know about these people, what I have been reliably informed the Mayor said, what I have seen from the initial articles, what I have seen from who is writing the Patch and comments like the one above that suggest to me that New Rochelle Patch is, as I feared might happen, a new propaganda platform for the North End Democratic clique.

I am happy to revisit the issue in six months and see where Patch ends up here in New Rochelle but I can safely predict two outcomes -- they will either report "the good, the bad and the ugly" in New Rochelle and many of those involved now will turn against them or they will report just the good and try to spin what little bad news they report and have loads of friends among the North End ruling class that runs the City today. The former would be journalism, the latter just more propaganda.

-- which I may still do on my own site -- and she said that was the sort of column that interested her. I never heard back from her after that and did not give it any further thought.

The idea that my

I would direct you to the post I wrote back on August 2, 2010 when I first learned that Patch was planning to open in New Rochelle:

http://www.newrochelletalk.com/content/aols-patchcom-coming-new-rochelle

On Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 8:37 PM, Tish Grier wrote:
thanks for forwarding the entire text of Ms. O'Connor's email to you...

While her line about declining Bob's offer to write for Patch sounds like an
indictment of sour grapes, IMO she's just giving all the details. If she were
to hold that back, would we think differently? Does this make us say "oh,
well, that explains it" and shut the door on the rest of what she's said in the
email.

The way I would have handled the matter is this: I would have posted a comment
at the bottom of the Patch post about the pic, and linked back to my post.
Then sit back and wait to see what would happen to the comment. Sometimes the
best thing to do is to address something openly and publicly rather than getting
all bunged up about it. There can, indeed, be credible explanations, even from
groups that we might despise.

Tish

----- Original Message ----
From: BillD
To: Journalism That Matters
Sent: Tue, September 28, 2010 11:51:43 AM
Subject: Re: {JTM} AOL Patch Debuts New Rochelle Operation by Plagiarizing From
Talk of the Sound

Katie Ryan O'Connor, Hudson Valley regional editor for Patch.com has
responded to the post by Robert Cox alleging plagiarizing of his local
online news community blog. Ms. O'Connor emailed her reply to me at
the Media Giraffe Project since she is not on the JTM Google Groups
list. I am appending it below unedited.

-- bill densmore

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Kathleen O'Connor
Date: Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 11:25 AM
Subject: Patch response
To: densmore@journ.umass.edu

Dear Bill,

I've taken the time to investigate the allegations by Robert Cox.
Thank you for seeking a response from Patch.

Simply put, our New Rochelle Patch Local Editor Allison Esposito did
not plagiarize anything from Mr. Cox's blog in any form.

The objects in question — police generated mug shots — are publicly
available and any similarity to Mr. Cox's presentation of those public
images is purely coincidental. Linking mug shots together in Photoshop
(in this case, apparently doing nothing more than placing three
similar sized objects in a row) is standard operating procedure for
news organizations everywhere.

His other criticisms of Patch are puzzling at best. I'll try to
address them point by point:

Mr. Cox alleges Ms. Esposito is a "democratic political operative."
Here's the truth: Like so many journalists faced with finding work in
an industry that is shedding jobs at a rapid pace (as many as 25
percent of all full-time newspaper positions have disappeared since
2001, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors), Ms.
Esposito took jobs in other fields that would utilize her writing and
editing skills, most recently working as a communications director for
Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. She held that position for only
about 12 months. During an extensive interview process, Ms. Esposito
made it clear her first and foremost passion was journalism and has
been working to find her way back into a full-time reporting and
editing position ever since. Her work for Paulin is clearly stated in
her biography for all readers to see — and more importantly, decide
for themselves. Transparency is a key part of Patch's mission, which
is why our editors go above and beyond most disclosures by journalists
by revealing key beliefs publicly, such as political leanings and
religious views.

As for Mr. Cox's assertion we have no interest in challenging the city
administration, it's worth noting this came after we had been live for
less than three full days (one a Saturday) and appears based on two,
maybe three routine features and two third-party reader comments.
Patch is committed to the highest standards of public service
journalism. We just exposed lead contamination at the Clarkstown
police firing range when the town would have much preferred it stay
quiet. Our Larchmont-Mamaroneck editor earlier this year uncovered an
air gun incident in Rye Neck schools that appeared to have been
significantly underplayed to parents and we recently revealed a
parking funds scandal in Port Chester. Our extensive coverage of the
death of two local firefighters in Tarrytown continues and now
investigations have shown the town workers did not follow protocol for
sewer problems. Mr. Cox may have also forgotten I edited the New
Rochelle report for The Journal News when city residents bitterly
fought a plan to establish an outpost of the Swedish furniture giant
IKEA — and won. Our aggressive reporting earned my team an Associated
Press award. We proudly invite anyone to fairly judge our work —
readers do everyday.

Mr. Cox alleges in his initial posting on the Journalism that Matters
Google group here that a story we wrote on a church fire was "based on
information" from his site. Also completely false. (And I was curious
why Mr. Cox does not include this secondary allegation on his own
blog.) In reading both stories, I'm just not sure how to respond.
There is simply no similarity between our story and his very brief
blog posting. Unless he means that when his brief says the church was
"undergoing a remodeling" (no attribution) and our story says, "The
church appeared as if it is currently in the process of being
renovated, according to Fire Commissioner Raymond 'Doc' Kiernan," that
it constitutes some sort of borrowing. Unless he posted something
else, the item that ran under the headline "Lightening (sic) Strikes
Cross on New Rochelle Steeple..." bears no resemblance to what we ran.
Here is his story. Here is ours.

For additional perspective, Mr. Cox previously sought to be a paid
columnist for New Rochelle Patch. I declined his offer.

I'd be happy to discuss this further with anyone interested. I can be
reached via phone at 914-299-9379 and email at kathleen@patch.com.

Best regards,
Katie
--
Katie Ryan O'Connor
Hudson Valley Regional Editor
914-299-9379
Patch.com
Twitter.com/westchestrpatch

On Sep 27, 10:25 am, Robert Cox wrote:

> Thank you all for the replies, suggestions and especially the outreach to
> others at Patch. In the weeks prior to launch I did meet with them and
> wrote about them and even advertised they were looking to hire writers on my
> site. I want MORE coverage of my city and if they can provide it then I
> view them as helping me achieve my goal. Had the ASKED permission to use my
> image (with attribution) I would have not hesitated to say yes, as I always
> do with other local media.
>
> Over the weekend I sent an email to the local editor, the regional editor as
> well as Patch Editor-in-chief Brian Farnham and Patch President Warren
> Webster. I have heard nothing back so far from anyone and the image remains
> on the site.
>
> Please understand this is about more than just their use of my image. New
> Rochelle is a unique, schizophrenic City with an affluent, predominantly
> white North End with higher property values than Scarsdale and a South End
> that is majority minority are with an urban downtown area and a large number
> of apartment dwellers more akin to the Bronx (although THE most expensive
> homes are also in the South, overlooking Long Island Sound). There is a
> tremendous preoccupation among North End residents with presenting New
> Rochelle as the fictional home of Rob and Laura Petrie of the Dick Van Dyke
> Show (the show's creator Carl Reiner lived in New Rochelle 50 years ago and
> based the show there). For them it is -- quiet leafy suburbs, parks, high
> quality schools, low crime. For the East End, West End and South End things
> are a bit different -- noisy urban, failing schools, much higher and more
> violent crime, etc.
>
> The City government and Board of Ed are run by people from the North End.
> They absolutely hate me and my site. Collectively they have harassed me in
> a number of ways ranging from sending police to my house with phony
> complaints, hiring private investigators, threatening my web hosting
> provider, illegally discussing me in executive session, ignoring Freedom of
> Information requests, and generally defaming me to anyone who stands still
> long enough to listen. For the past two years they have refused to put me
> on the email list for press releases and other petty stuff like that. Of
> course, that has backfired and my site is now, I am told, the largest
> hyper-local site in Westchester County with about 25,000 readers a month.
>
> We are often the only media outlet in the area where you can read about
> violent crimes or municipal corruption or what they call "negative" stories.
> Their goal is to plant "positive" stories in the local media who kowtow to
> them for various reasons -- the area newspapers are paid for official
> notices and ads, the only local TV is a cable company that is licensed to
> operate by the City. It has become clear that AOL is permitting the New
> Rochelle Patch to serve as an extension of their control of the flow of
> information in the City where the same clique is now running the site as yet
> another propaganda platform.
>
> As I wrote in my article, if that is what AOL wants then fine but keep me
> out of it by not re-writing my stories or lifting my image content.
>
> Bob Cox
>
> Robert Cox
> Managing Editor
> New Rochelle's Talk of the Soundhttp://www.newrochelletalk.com
>
>Phone:914-500-8386begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 914-500-8386 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
>g
> Email: robert...@newrochelletalk.com
> Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/talkofthesound

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