Editor’s Note: The following is an editorial written by Jeff Stein, editor of the Ithaca Voice.

As always, we are eager to reprint alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To submit a guest piece, contact me anytime at jstein@ithacavoice.com.


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ITHACA, N.Y. — Yes, someone was wrong to spray-paint a small stretch of the recently opened Cascadilla Gorge Trail.

Yes, they shouldn’t have done that. No, the graffiti does not constitute “art” — and, yes, it is a crime.

The gorge trail. Courtesy of University Photography

But let’s keep things in perspective. The graffiti amounts to a tiny portion of what is one of Ithaca’s most iconic natural landmarks, which connects downtown Ithaca to Cornell University’s campus.

In the grand scheme of things, the vandalism amounts to little more than a small blip in the overwhelming success of the trail’s recent restoration. Above all: It should not discourage anyone from visiting the magnificent sight.

See related: Cornell, Ithaca celebrate restoration of gorge trail connecting East Hill with downtown

Ignore media’s deep bias toward negativity

You could be forgiven for not realizing this based on local news reports.

The Ithaca Voice has published three stories about the new gorge trail: 1) A positive piece about the trail’s reopening, and 2-3) Two negative stories about the recent graffiti, one which termed the vandalism “terrible.”

The Ithaca Journal has also written news stories about the graffiti. Additionally, last week The Journal published an editorial, a screenshot of which is below, which called for the vandals to be punished in an imaginary “10th circle in hell.”

The editorial had the headline: “Thumbs down: Vandals spoil an Ithaca gem.”

This seems, to me at least, to be a step too far. I went for a few walks on the trail this weekend with a friend, and he didn’t notice the graffiti until I pointed it out.

I’d imagine that no more than a handful of hikers noticed the vandalism, and would guess that even fewer were actively bothered by it.

More to the point: If I were a betting man, I’d wager that a vanishingly small percentage of people — bordering on none at all — would regret visiting the trail because of the graffiti.

A screen shot of the Ithaca Voice’s coverage of the gorge trail. While 2/3rds of our stories to date about the trail have been negative, the trail overall is unequivocally a positive development for the community.
Mayor Myrick at an event to celebrate the trail’s reopening this fall. Photo courtesy of University Photography

Why has the media’s coverage of the trail been so negative, if the trail itself — in general — is such an unalloyed good?

As Vox’s Ezra Klein recently noted, newspapers’ deepest bias is not necessarily ideological in nature. Instead, the real prejudice seems to be that we emphasize the deeply negative — highlighting tragedy and disaster — while downplaying positive developments.

That’s true of the national media — but it is also, as I am certainly guilty of as editor of the Ithaca Voice, true of local media as well.

So, let me say it unequivocally, in an attempt to get at least this one right: The Cascadilla Gorge Trail is pretty epic. I’m lucky to have gotten the chance to visit the +10,000-year-old waterfall this weekend. And you should go see it, too, because it’s a remarkably beautiful asset for our community.

Here are some photos of the trail, sans the graffiti:

(Side note: Does anyone else like to imagine they’re in “Lord of the Rings” when walking up the gorge trail? Or is that just me? Okay, that’s just me.)

It took five years and $2.8 million to repair the trail. It’s 7,800 feet long. As frustrating as it is, about 15 feet of graffiti shouldn’t distract us from celebrating this wonderful accomplishment — both for Cornell and the city of Ithaca.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.