What Happened To Silent News?

Discussion in 'Deaf News' started by Kalista, Aug 11, 2003.

  1. Kalista

    Kalista New Member Premium Member

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    By Tom Willard

    Many in the deaf community are wondering what happened to Silent News. It has been nearly a year since the newspaper has appeared. The publishers have not told their subscribers or advertisers what is going on. The office has closed and the phones have been disconnected. Recently I saw an Internet article by Jamie Berke of about.com titled "Silent News Passes Away."

    You can see her article at:
    http://deafness.about.com/library/weekly/aa010803.htm

    I decided to write a response to Ms. Berke's article because I was editor
    of Silent News for five years and learned a lot about the newspaper's
    operations during this time. I thought I would share my letter with readers who may not have a chance to see the news on about.com. If anyone would like to respond, please feel free to contact me at tomwillard99 (at) aol.com.

    Dear Jamie Berke
    About.com Deafness Guide

    Thank you for writing about the "passing away" of Silent News. It was
    practically the only acknowledgement I have read anywhere about the
    newspaper's sudden and mysterious departure from the scene. Can you imagine if The New York Times went out of business and no one reported this news? It is a sad commentary on the deaf community that our leading newspaper could cease to exist with a bare minimum of response from the community.

    I read the cryptic message issued by Silent News in January 2003 and was not satisfied with this information. No reason was given for why the
    newspaper halted publication, no date was given for its supposed return, and no names were provided as sources of this information. The advertisers and subscribers who supported the paper all these years deserve better. I spoke with a few advertisers and they were in the dark like the rest of us. I saw a note on deafbase.net alleging that one advertiser gave $11,000 to Silent News and got nothing in return!

    I was editor of Silent News from 1991 to 1996. In my opinion, the
    problems started in July 1996 when the founders' daughter, Adele Wiggins, showed up in our office in Rochester with a lawyer and informed us that the office was closing immediately and reopening in New Jersey near her home.

    She had never been a part of the paper during the five years I served as
    editor, but with her parents planning to retire, she decided to have herself appointed as executive director. She had been an interpreter and I understand she could no longer do this kind of work due to carpal tunnel syndrome.

    I was abruptly fired as editor, despite doing a good job to improve the
    paper. When I joined, Silent News was a "Mom & Pop" operation run from the dining room table of Julius and Harriet Wiggins. By the time I left, the newspaper was computerized, had a professional office and was run an all-deaf staff of seven. Subscriptions increased from 8,000 to 12,000 during my tenure, and revenue grew from $200,000 to $500,000. During this time, we launched the local newsmagazine "Deaf Rochester" and the national "Job Bulletin," filled with deaf-related job announcements from all over the country.

    Adele Wiggins replaced the entire Rochester staff with new people and had a revolving door of editors. Betty Broecker lasted just one year.
    Considerable time then passed without an editor (it showed) before Trudy Suggs came on and did a marvelous job of upgrading the newspaper. Alas, she suddenly resigned, taking the sports editor and several writers with her.

    The Wiggins family then turned to the marketing director, Jonathan Kovacs, to serve as interim editor.

    It is Kovacs who has been the target of rumors about an alleged theft of
    money from Silent News. I was at the Deaf Expo in California last November and two people from New Jersey told me with strong assurance that the rumors were true. One said the theft totalled $35,000; the other said $65,000. The story was that Kovacs organized a Silent News-sponsored party at the Hard Rock Cafe during The Deaf Way II and then pocketed the admission fees; leaving Silent News on the hook and unable to pay the restaurant, much less continue to pay for printing and postage fees. Later that same day, I spotted Mr. Kovacs himself roaming the aisles. I flagged him down and asked him about these rumors. He categorically denied the allegations and said that in fact Silent News still owed him money for his work. He referred further questions to Adele Wiggins. In a recent newspaper interview, Kovacs addressed the matter and claimed that he was the sponsor of the Hard Rock Cafe event, not Silent News. So who is telling the truth? It is hard to say, but if Kovacs did in fact steal money from the newspaper, I think Silent News would have filed a lawsuit against him, and we have heard of no such action taking place. Perhaps Kovacs was used as a scapegoat to cover up the financial misdeeds of Silent News management.

    It is interesting to consider the legal status of Silent News. The
    newspaper was founded in 1969 as a private business with several
    "shareholders" who put up the money to get things started. In the early
    1970s the Wigginses bought out these partners and became sole owners, but the paper struggled financially. In 1975, Silent News converted from a private business to a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization. This allowed Silent News to seek out grants, avoid taxes and get lower fees on booth rentals, advertising and other services. I saw evidence that they were using the organization's funds to pay their own personal expenses, including car payments, and I was dismayed when they made a deal with a travel agency to place full-page ads in Silent News every month in exchange for personal travel that they used for their own benefit, including several cruises.

    Many times, Julius and Harriet talked to me about retiring and selling the
    business. Every time, I expressed my belief that a non-profit organization could not be "sold," but they ignored me and never stopped calling themselves the "owners." The board of directors consisted only of Julius and Harriet and their three hearing children. I thought it was odd and improper for a non-profit agency's board to consist only of five people from the same family. This concerned all of us on the staff, and we met with a lawyer to discuss the matter. We were told to be patient and wait for them to retire. If we went to the IRS with our concerns, it could mark the end of the newspaper and we didn't want that to happen.

    One day Harriet told me that they had talked with a lawyer about selling
    the business and learned that they would need to convert back to private ownership and pay around 20 years of back taxes. She was shocked and disappointed. Shortly thereafter, we were called to a meeting about their retirement. The staff looked forward to continuing to run the newspaper from Rochester with minimal involvement from the Wiggins. Instead, Adele showed up for the meeting with a lawyer and accountant and took over the organization in a coup d'état. She immediately started packing up our office and within a week, Silent News was gone from Rochester. Soon the finances began to plummet, and according to IRS tax returns, Julius Wiggins was soon forced to make a personal loan of around $100,000 to keep the paper going.

    Amazingly enough, they recently found a way to convert the paper back to private ownership (note their domain name went from silentnews.org to silentnews.com) and shortly therea after began to have severe financial problems again, with no ability to seek out grants to get them over the hard times.

    It is important for people to understand the truth about what happened
    with Silent News. In my opinion, the paper was done in by the greed of the Wiggins family, who tried to have the best of both worlds ... private
    ownership and non-profit status at the same time. Toward the end of the Rochester era of Silent News, Harriet was paying herself $69,000 a year as part-time accountant and Julius was getting around $48,000 despite doing practically no work on the newspaper. Harriet justified these salaries by saying that for many years they worked for almost nothing. That is fine in a private business, but not acceptable in a non-profit organization.

    Left to his own devices, I am almost positive that Julius Wiggins would
    have let Silent News remain in Rochester to continue all the good work we were doing. Instead, I feel that he was betrayed by his wife and daughter, who were unable to make the transition gracefully. I find it very sad that Julius Wiggins passed away and was followed to the grave so soon thereafter by the newspaper to which he devoted his life.
     
  2. BabyPhat21

    BabyPhat21 New Member

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  3. CatoCooper13

    CatoCooper13 New Member

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    *smh* I don't know whether to believe this because I personally know Jonathan Kovacs and think that's out of character of him. Hmm...I'm hands off in this issue, nothing I can do will help at all. :dunno:
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2003
  4. prettyerica36

    prettyerica36 Active Member

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    that sucks big time sheesh some deafies usually take advantage of $$$ out of events for what? :roll: that's so fooked up :thumbd:
     
  5. ASLuser101

    ASLuser101 New Member

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    lets not get carried away here with hearsay but the MAIN reason that virtually ALL deaf magazines have gone belly up is due to financial reasons related to, yep that's right, deaf news on the internet. the question now is how long are the deaf news providers on the net gonna keep doing this for free?



    (Don't tell me they're making money selling advertising on the net because they're not! ;) )
     
  6. Stevey Boy

    Stevey Boy Active Member

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    I never like Silent News. Those articles are not very interesting and very bland for me to read. It's like reading a middle school newletter. This is def not very close as New York Times
     
  7. CatoCooper13

    CatoCooper13 New Member

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    Well, although it's sad that Silent News has shut down -- still it's good to see other deaf-related sites are still thriving and I hope for a long time to come as us deafies do come to rely on them for news and events around the USA/nationwide and sometimes internationally as well.
     
  8. Kalista

    Kalista New Member Premium Member

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    I always enjoyed to read silent news to update events, technologies, annoucement (wedding, birth babies, etc..) Education, etc..

    I miss the Silent News. :tears: It is so sad to see this happen in DeafWay during the conference.

    When a person who was leadership to help them. At once he/she who did stole the money, it becomes hurt the business. Also, it hurts to the Deaf Community due to small numbers of Deaf. We do not have much any socialize, clubs, schools, etc... We become more and more isolate due to lack of information about the events. We only received emails with the events/entertainments once a while.

    Not like when I was young, we used to be going out hiking, camping, etc... but not now.. due to economic and lack of contact each other.

    I miss my old time.

    Sabrina
     
  9. Alex

    Alex Administrator Staff Member

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    Update

    Source: www.signews.org/980

     
  10. javapride

    javapride New Member

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    ok that's from the woman in the accuscation sounds very cut off right there doesn't look right to me :-X
     
  11. deafdyke

    deafdyke Well-Known Member

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    SignNews is a great paper to read!!!! I enjoy it IMMENSLY and it's much bettert then Silent News!
     
  12. Nesmuth

    Nesmuth New Member

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    I picked up wind Silent News lost their 501(c)(3) charity status from a reliable source within the 'organization'. There had been a lot of internal fireworks going on for some time that led to its demise.

    SignNews is good yet it smells a lot like Kappa Gamma drivel.

    Richard
     
  13. Mookie

    Mookie Guest

    Rathskellar was a seed of an idea in 1998 when founder Jonathan Hall Kovacs thought to showcase the raw beauty of sign language by combining it with pulsating music. A group was formed and as they rehearsed for weeks, they discovered themselves creating out of an art form that continued to stretch with their imagination, with Kovacs adding percussion, dancing, folklore, and mime to the experiment. The creation has evolved into the visual stunner that is Rathskellar today.

    Same old story about stealing fund when he was a Gallaudet University President of SBG. Yeah, show us balance sheet...
     
  14. Mookie

    Mookie Guest

    I forgot to input my recent post.

    An interesting theory is that how did he have money to establish his own entertainment company.
     

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