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By: Ken Hamilton
Let me make this clear for those who have asked me, “I didn’t leave the Niagara Gazette, the Niagara Gazette left me!” And it’s alright. I was not a Gazette employee, I was a stringer and worked from home – or wherever else I might have been when an idea hit me or an experience emerged. I searched my files and so far the earliest article that I could find was from 1984 on then-presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, 35-years ago. Perhaps it was time to go. I am, however sure, that I had submitted a couple of letters to the editor before then.
But some folks have asked me if the reason that I was let go was because I was also writing for the Niagara Reporter. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that I asked managing editor Matt Winterhalter before I started writing for the Reporter, and he said that he didn’t have a problem with it if I didn’t submit the same story to the Reporter that I submitted to the Gazette – fair enough. If you have any questions about why, then you’ll have to call 7162822311 Ext. 2259 and ask Matt.
In response to a question posed to me on Facebook stating that I was the only regular black news and opinion writer that the Gazette had (outside of sports) and asking for what that I thought might have been a reason for no longer being needed, I responded that it may have been in coincidence with an event that took place on Facebook.
There, I was being harassed by a militant lesbian who was making the false allegations that I was homophobic. The militant lesbian based her “fact” upon the event of the 2011 Gay wedding on Goat Island where I spent 15-minutes with 9 pastors whom each I knew, who were protesting it. In total person-minutes it came to about 135 person-minutes. The illogical part of her assumption was that despite me also spending 3-1/2 hours with approximately 400 gay couples, their supporters and other onlookers for a total of 84,000 person-minutes. In essence, for every 2-minutes that I spent with the pastors, I spent a 1,000 minutes as a photojournalist with those who were celebrating the gay wedding.
Crazy, isn’t it? But she kept mentioning that I worked for the Gazette; as such, I find it hard to believe that she didn’t get other unreasonable gay militants to flood the phone lines at the Gazette as leftist are apt to do.
Being as short-staffed as newspapers are apt to be, little doubt that I was a lighting rod because of the tenacity and honesty in which I dig into social and political ails wherever they may lie and then proposing solutions. It was my experiences that allowed me to see what to others were obscure.
In my 1996 endorsement interview for New York State Senate against incumbent Anthony Nanula, the Buffalo News in essence said that Ken Hamilton understands the long-term ramifications of public policy. Upon reading that, Niachlor Plant Manager Jim Sanders put it, “They came within a hair’s-breadth of endorsing you.”
Unlike most people who write in media, whereas they have had a front row seat on such events, I have sacrificed myself and spent most of my life in the arena as an agent of change and as a newsmaker.
Additionally, writing for more than one news source isn’t new for me — if that is the reason that the Gazette left me. There was a time that I wrote for the Gazette, had my own show on WJJL, and wrote for the Buffalo Criterion and for www.PoliticsNY.net, all at the same time. In fact, while writing for the Gazette, as with the Reporter, I am still a guest host on WBEN’s Beach and Company that has an audience that is many times larger than the Gazette’s circulation.
Undoubtedly, a result of so doing, with the pen and microphone in hand, I was able to help rebuild and start churches; effect public schools, a public-charter and a parochial school along with their curriculums; to save the local library system; build basketball courts and a skateboard park; facilitate monuments, rename streets, effect ordinances in Niagara Falls and Buffalo; to bring the Silver Alert Program to Niagara County as a board member for the Alzheimer’s Association of Western NY; initiated the largest international kite festival ever in NYS with the Homan Walsh reenactment and the Arch of Kites at the Rainbow Bridge, and so, so much more – things that newsmen and columnist just generally don’t do’
But in all of that, as a past president of the Niagara Falls Chapter of the NAACP investigating racial equity in education, and a past VP of the Area One Community Preservation Corporation building home ownership units in the city’s north-end, being a significant contributor the United Way and Niagara Community Center and Girls Club, I never once thought that I would have a lesbian call me homophobic, nor – if it was the case – to be let go by the local daily newspaper.
But this is America, and I don’t own a newspaper. I wish the Gazette success, as I also wish for the Reporter. As media organs, they both, as is the Buffalo News and even other smaller newspapers, all add to the function of the whole body of public thought.
I consider Matt, Mark Scheer, Phil Gambini, Michele DeLuca and so many others of their staff of over 35-years – including former publishers Peter Mio and especially Terry Shaw, through whom I held the record of once having the most front page stories in a single month of any contemporary Gazette writer due to a series on local African-American success stories. I am almost sure that the decision to leave me was more at the corporate level than among them.
But now, as a former Gazette writer, I ironically join that brilliant writer and former Gazette staffer Mike Hudson, through whose efforts at starting the Reporter, and through whose words having greatly added awareness of so many wrong things that were once complacent among Niagarans, he wrote his books. I hope that I will be able to now take the time and write even more than did he, and only hope to write them half as well as he wrote his. Perhaps in so doing, insensitive out-of-towner publishers and militant lesbians will better understand the world in which many of us live – especially ultra-conservative liberals like myself.