The Most Important Job

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A local paper that is doing its job, above all, protects public health and safety

"There is no substitute for a local paper that is doing its job." This great Warren E. Buffett truth should have been the Times' "Quote of the Day," with many a follow-up column on why the local paper is so indispensable, especially the paper kind. Bravo to Buffett for walking the talk and buying "dozens of newspapers."

And maybe you agree that newspapers "doing their job" mean airing news that that keeps government's feet to the fire so their first constitutional duty is strictly enacted. That duty is, of course, to protect public health and safety and enforce the laws passed to ensure this protection.

And because I'm best known for my traffic safety missions, (Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney did call me a leading Big Apple traffic safety champion) and because of a recent headlined traffic tragedy, I'll again rail at the minimally enforced laws that protect pedestrians, especially the one which requires vehicles to yield when turning into a pedestrian crosswalk.

"Failure to comply" is the leading cause of pedestrian death and injury and I sure wish I weren't the only media person banging this drum. It's not even recognized as the primary culprit in the highly publicized recent tragic death of a 6-year-old boy run down by a truck turning into his East Harlem crosswalk where he and his older brother were walking to school. The boys were walking with their go-signal, I might add, though the crossing guard was on a short break when the tragic accident occurred.

And speaking of newspapers doing their job, when will editors get it that even the most traffic law-observant walkers are at high risk whenever vehicles can turn into their crosswalk? Yes, there are statistics and case histories and I've endlessly pushed Right of Way president Charles Komanoff's 1998 " Killed by Automobile" manual, which so painstakingly compiled them. While widely distributed to elected officials and police and civic groups, still nobody acted to stop this number one threat to city pedestrians.

Newspapers "doing their job" should compile a manual showing how many lives were brutally taken since 1998 by this foremost pedestrian killer and maimer crime of traffic. But until then, newspapers must demand the reading of the Killed by Automobile manual by all their editors, columnists and reporters.

Also as a voice for elder rights (Maloney called me that too), 65-plus traffic crime victims need the same coverage as younger ones currently do. Indeed older walkers are the most frequent victims of traffic crimes. Now boomers have the numbers to change this unchallenged oversight, and indeed so much more in a world that unjustly (but socially acceptably) works against growing older in our society.

And yes, newspapers "doing their job" should also be noting examples of ageism which crosses all boundaries of race, ethnicity, and even economic and social status. Oh, and with my warm welcome to this paper's new publisher, Jeanne Straus, a mid-life woman, is the hope that the paper also challenges what feminists once called the "double standard of aging" ? especially rife in trend-setting media, entertainment and arts.

The changing of the publisher guard here is, of course, bittersweet, to lose the old guard, for which I am so inexpressibly grateful. First, for the late founding publisher, Ed Kayatt, for granting me a column, and for his successor, Tom Allon, for thinking its sometimes out-of-the-box, unfashionable and plain-spoken views were fit to print.

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