If you’re a journalist looking for a good story, “Street Renamed for Firefighters!” ain’t it. Rather than let the non-story go, though, the Brooklyn Paper decided to transform the non-contentious renaming of a street in Red Hook into a pseudo-controversy. A portion of Richards Street, in Red Hook, was renamed “Seven in Heaven Way” over the weekend, to honor seven firefighters from the fire house there who died on September 11th while “pulling victims from burning rubble,” the Paper reports. It didn’t find anyone in Red Hook who was offended by such a ceremony—in fact, the community board unanimously supported the name change—but an easily placed phone call to American Atheists got the paper an opposing point of view, some juicy quotes—”it’s improper for the city to endorse the view that heaven exists”—and an exploitative and pointless story.
Worse is a man from NYC Athetists—who makes the story, in the Brooklyn Paper‘s estimation, “local,” though the group is based in Manhattan—who argues the sign is presumptive. “You’re assuming they even believed in heaven.” (This is then an actual line from the story: “It is unclear whether the firemen were all were religious, although most either attended Catholic school or had weddings at churches.”) The man from NYC Atheists adds that this “crosses the line,” but actually the opposite is true. If the group were serious about religion encroaching on civil rights and secular society, it sure picked the least offensive example about which to get upset.
Furthermore, the Brooklyn Paper‘s job is to report the news, not create it.