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December 21, 2022 - 2:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian.
November 1, 2022 - 11:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, Shop Local.

With the holidays upon us it is a good time to remind Genesee County residents that we're fortunate to live in a community with a strong base of locally owned businesses.

Locally owned businesses are the backbone of any local community.  Local owners give back to the community in ways that chains do not, through their donations, their sponsorships, and their service on civic organizations and charities.

Communities with a vibrant local business community thrive, so we encourage you to do what you can this holiday season and throughout the year to support locally owned businesses.

These businesses support the community by supporting local news coverage.  Local news coverage is also critical to a community's health.  Facebook, Tik Tok or Instagram are never going to send a reporter to a City Council meeting or a school board meeting or cover a budget hearing or hold elected officials accountable for how they spend your tax money.  It takes local news businesses such as The Batavian that rely on your support and the support of local businesses to help keep you informed.

We're all here to make Genesee County a great place to live, work, be active, and to be entertained.

October 6, 2022 - 5:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, news.

The Batavian newsroom will be out of town today through Wednesday for personal time.

We will travel with laptops, of course, and post the news we can remotely.  There will naturally be things we can't cover in person during that time but will strive to get assistance on those stories where we can.

July 20, 2022 - 6:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian.

UPDATE 1:11 p.m.: Our control of the page appears to be restored.  The feed of news headlines to the page should resume soon.

The Batavian's page on Facebook is not currently controlled by any person associated with The Batavian.  It was hijacked.

We have notified Facebook and are working with a local news association to try and regain control of the page.

We initially lost control of the page on Monday morning and regained control by the afternoon.  We lost control again on Tuesday morning and have been unable to regain control.

It's my fault, in a way.  I downloaded an app from the Apple Store called Pages Manager Suite from a developer called Meta Sun Company Limited. That app appears to be the most likely culprit in the hijack.  The hijackers appear to have used Facebook's programming interface to take over my business manager account, demoting me to "employee," removing all business information and access to my business pages, and installing themselves as "business admin(s)."  

The Apple Store is supposed to be a "walled garden" with security features to prevent malicious apps from appearing in the store.  This same app is in the store, I now see, multiple times from multiple "developers."  So beware if you have a Facebook business account and come across an app you think might help you manage your Facebook business pages.  Facebook (Meta, now, really, at a corporate level) does offer an app called Business Suite. Stick to that app no matter how much you may find it annoying.

A security advisor's biggest concern is that the hijackers wanted to use the page to buy Facebook ads using my credit card.  Fortunately, they were unable to remove my access to my ad manager account, and I've deactivated the account.

So far, there is nothing amiss with our page.  There is no evidence of it being used to install malware or post false information or spam.  The hijackers could potentially use messenger to fool people into downloading something malicious but I've received no complaints of any such attempt.

For the time being, we are unable to post news links to the page.

I'm told it may take weeks for Facebook to resolve the issue but that Facebook will likely eventually resolve it satisfactorily.  

July 9, 2022 - 4:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, news, Opinion.

The Batavian now has an opinion section.

This will become our central hub for community discussions about a variety of issues.  We welcome submissions of op-ed pieces and letters to the editor (we've never accepted letters before).  Submissions must be made either through the website (register for an account and login in the box on the left side of the page) or through email to [email protected].

All points of view are welcome.

We do have rules and guidelines.  You can read them here.

We will no longer have comments on stories but we do have comments on opinion pieces posted to the opinion section.  Posts to the opinion section will not be shared on The Batavian's Facebook page but will remain exclusive to the website.

The "recent comments" box remains on the left side of the home page and this will contain links to comments made on posts in the opinion section.

June 2, 2022 - 12:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, news, notify.
Joanne Beck

Joanne Beck, a Batavia native and well-regarded journalist in the community, has been named news editor of The Batavian.

Beck became a freelance writer for The Batavian in August and began her new staff position last month.

In addition to her duties as editor, Beck will primarily cover the City of Batavia, county government, and Batavia City Schools.

She assumed the city and county beats in May from Mike Pettinella, a freelance writer, who has stepped back from regular beat coverage. 

Beck has been in the communications field for more than two decades, working as an award-winning newspaper journalist for 15 years.

In 2007, she received a Fabulous Female award from the YWCA of Genesee County.  Her journalism awards include writing and reporting honors from Associated Press. She was also honored by the NYS Mental Health Association for her reporting on mental health issues.

She has a bachelor's in communications/media and has special interests in animal welfare, adoption and rescue stories, health and nutrition, running, sharing one’s struggles and triumphs, giving the underdog a voice, and helping to promote local businesses and organizations by putting a spotlight on their special events and participation in the community.

Howard Owens, who has been the publisher and executive editor of The Batavian since its inception in May 2008, will cover spot news, criminal justice, Western Regional OTB, GCEDC, and Le Roy Central  Schools. He's also the staff photographer and videographer, assisted by several local freelancers.  Owens and Beck will share the other beats in the county, such as town and village governments, other school districts, and business.

Lisa Ace is the organization's creative manager and handles, as she has for the past 11 years, the business operations of The Batavian.

The Batavian began publishing on May 1, 2008 and has become a staple of Genesee County's news diet reaching more than 12,000 local news readers on a daily basis. In 2009, The Batavian was named Genesee County's Innovative Enterprise of the Year. It was named a 2013 BID "Spirit of Downtown" award winner, and in 2018 was the City of Batavia's Business of the Year.  It's also received awards from the Inland Press Association, the New York Press Association, and Local Independent Online News Publishers. 

Contact info:

March 20, 2022 - 7:11pm


Three years after taking a stand for First Amendment rights by requesting a transcript from Genesee County Family Court, The Batavian received vindication with a ruling that stated such information cannot be denied to the media company.

Stemming from a Family Court case in November 2019, the request was made after Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian, was barred access to Genesee County Family Court. Attorney Thomas Burns, who represented a woman accused of hitting her child with an object, had filed a motion alleging that prosecuting attorney Durin Rogers had a conflict of interest because he was also a part-time City Court judge. Burns filed the motion claiming that as a City Court judge, Rogers would also be able to interact with other members of the county’s criminal justice system, and he should be disqualified from that particular case. 

Niagara County Family Court Judge Erin DeLabio barred Owens from access to the courtroom for the conflict of interest hearing, and also ruled against the request for a transcript of the hearing. She cited “confidentiality” concerns that outweighed The Batavian’s belief that the transcript was public information that should be accessible to the press. 

DeLabio’s decision was also partially due to her belief that Rogers had already been elected to the full-time City Court judge position and any potential conflict of interest would therefore have no bearing on the election. The election was not the basis for the initial motion filed by Burns, but, rather, the two roles served simultaneously by Rogers.

Owens and his legal team, led by Heather Murray, managing attorney for The Local Journalism Project at Cornell First Amendment Clinic, filed an appeal on that ruling in December 2020.

A final decision, issued by the Fourth Judicial Department of the Appellate Division on March 18, stated:

“To the extent that the court determined that the attorney disqualification hearing was no longer relevant because Rogers had already been elected to the full-time judgeship, we agree with appellant that the court improperly ignored both the continued importance of appellant’s role in reporting accusations of ethical violations or conflicts of interest on the part of a judge and the principle that, here, it was within the province of the appellant to determine whether the hearing on the disqualification motion remained newsworthy.”

“On the merits, appellant contends that the court violated its right to attend the disqualification hearing and that it is therefore entitled to a transcript of the hearing, the release of which, with appropriate redaction, would be consistent with Family Court Act § 166 … we agree.”

It was a determination expected by Owens based on his knowledge of the First Amendment and state law and assistance from Cornell University, he said. 

“When I was first excluded from the courtroom, I knew the law was on my side. This ruling affirms that all courts in New York are open to the public and can’t be closed to the public without a hearing and factual findings within the perimeters of the law. I knew from my initial research on our exclusion from the hearing that there isn’t much case law affirming this principle for Family Court, so this ruling is especially significant,” he said Saturday.

“The language of the law governing access to courts, including Family Court, is very clear and easy to understand.  It doesn’t surprise me that The Batavian prevailed with its appeal.

“It’s long been my belief that local journalists have an obligation to stand up for transparency in government and the right to public access to public business.  I’m grateful to the Cornell First Amendment Clinic for taking up this case. Mark Jackson and Heather Murray recognized the principles involved in this case and all of the students -- notably Ashley Stamegna -- who did the hard work of researching case law, writing briefs, and presenting arguments, were dedicated to the First Amendment issues at stake.

“One of the principles in this case that I’m glad the court recognized, is that journalists and not government officials, even judges, make editorial decisions and determine what is newsworthy.  When the presiding judge in this case ruled that the material we sought was no longer newsworthy as a reason for her denial of our request for a transcript, it was particularly galling.  It was important that such an egregiously reasoned ruling not be allowed to stand.

“The ruling is also significant because the justices were unequivocal in their reasoning.  There is no wiggle room in this ruling for judges in future courtrooms to close off access without ensuring they are properly following the law.

“It’s important to note, the law still gives Family Court judges great authority to protect the privacy of children in Family Court matters.  This ruling doesn't change that but it does emphasize that judges cannot arbitrarily exclude the public from proceedings.”  

The decision will remand the issue back to Genesee County Family Court to provide Owens with a copy of a redacted (blacking out items of confidentiality) transcript. That’s all he was asking for in the first place, Owens said.

“All we requested was a redacted transcript (to protect the privacy of the family involved in the case), so we were surprised and disappointed in DeLabio’s decision,” he had said at the time of appeal. “Most troubling in her ruling is her statement, ‘The motion was heard AFTER (her emphasis) the local elections. Reporting anything that the (sic) Batavian thinks is relevant to the election after the fact, would have no impact on the election …’”

“Judge DeLabio is not employed by The Batavian. She is not an editor. She is a judge. It is not her place to pass editorial judgments on what is newsworthy.”

We are thrilled by the complete victory for our client,” Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic student Ashley Stamegna said. “Without judicial transparency, we cannot ensure that justice is being done in our courts of law. The Fourth Department’s opinion reaffirms the New York courts’ commitment to providing the transparency that both the law and the public requires. The opinion also clearly demonstrates that it is the province of local journalists—not the courts—to determine what content is newsworthy.” 

Stamegna argued on behalf of The Batavian at the Fourth Department. The Cornell First Amendment Clinic team at the appellate level included lead attorney Heather Murray, Mark Jackson, Jared Carter and students Timothy Birchfield and Christopher Johnson. Murray and Cortelyou Kenney argued at the lower court with summer fellow Samuel Aber assisting with the briefing.

File Photo: Taken of Niagara  County Judge Erin P. DeLabio in 2019 from outside Genesee County Family Court through the doorway window.

To read the full decision, click here (PDF)


January 1, 2022 - 4:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, news, top posts.

Here are the most viewed stories of 2021:

In 2021, The Batavian was visited by readers 5.9 million times and we served 10 million page views.

Thank you to our readers and local business owners for your ongoing support of The Batavian.  In 2022, we will continue to work hard as a team to bring you the most comprehensive and widest variety of local news coverage available in the area.

November 10, 2021 - 6:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian.

We tried the Facebook comment plug-in and while it achieved the goal of increasing the number of comments on the site, it was also riddled with spam.

So we tried Disqus and many people find it confusing and difficult to use. I had complaints about an inability to login and with my personal account (instead of the moderator's account), I couldn't log in.

So now we're going back to our old, content management system's built-in comment tool.

Doing so does bring back a feature that was popular with frequent commenters when we used it before -- the "latest comments" box on the left side of the page.  

As I said when we switched to Disqus a few weeks ago: 

The rules remain the same:

  • You must post using a real name (no business names, no alias).
  • No personal attacks.  No name-calling.
  • No profanity.
  • No comments ridiculing, mocking, or insulting other people because of who they are.
  • No misinformation/false information.

We expect community conversations to be productive and respectful.  If you want to spout invective and "alternate facts," that's why Facebook exists (though we also police comments on The Batavian's Facebook page).

October 16, 2021 - 8:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Billie Owens, thebatavian, news, batavia, notify.


Billie Faye Owens, 63, editor of The Batavian from 2010 to 2021, died at Rochester General Hospital on Friday evening from complications from congestive heart failure.

She was taken to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia with health issues on July 26 and remained hospitalized for 81 days. At no time did she test positive for COVID-19.

She was born in 1958 in Charlotte, N.C., to Barbara Jean Carter and Billie Eugene McSwain. Her mother moved her when she was 5 to San Diego where she would eventually attend San Diego State University, earning a B.A. in Journalism.

She went to work for the Daily Californian in El Cajon, Calif. in 1989, where she met her second husband, Howard Owens, then a wire and copy editor at the Daily Californian, and currently publisher of The Batavian. They were married on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene College in 1993.

Her journalism career began with an internship at the Los Angeles Times and included stints at the San Diego Business Journal, the Ventura County Star, and the Canandaigua Daily Messenger.

She won numerous regional and statewide journalism awards in San Diego for her writing and reporting.

She was passionate about her craft and one thing Howard and Billie bonded over quickly was the fact they both had substantial collections of books about journalism, which has grown to more than 400 titles over the years.  They also both enjoyed old movies with main characters who were reporters and editors.

She loved animals and was upset by anybody who abused animals.  She made it a mission to publish reports of people leaving dogs in hot cars and made local animal abuse cases her beat in Genesee County.  She was also well-known for her colorful reports of lost and missing pets and shelter animals in need of adoption.

In 2015, Howard and Billie adopted Rocky, a mix-breed pit bull who had been abused by a previous owner.  Rocky succumbed to cancer on July 31.

Billie is survived by her husband and three grandchildren, whom she loved.  Her mother, Barbara France, passed away in December in San Diego. 

In lieu of flowers or condolences, donations can be made to Volunteers for Animals in the name of Billie and Rocky.  There will be no local service. Her wishes were that her ashes be deposited in the Pacific Ocean off the Ventura County Pier, where the ashes of her son, Charles Raymond Sutherland, were deposited in 2018.

October 4, 2021 - 10:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian.

We are now using a comment system from a company called Disqus for commenting on stories on The Batavian.

Disqus will allow you to use your favorite social media platform as a sign-in tool, or you can create an account with Disqus.  You will no longer need to have a Facebook account to comment.

Since we are no longer using the Facebook comment plug-in, comments will no longer appear on the home page.  On the bottom of stories is a comment link with a count of how many comments so far on the story.  To comment, you will need to click that link (or the headline).  

Disqus doesn't support multiple comment modules on a single page.

Disqus, we hope, will help us better block and control spam.  The prevalence of spam was the great shortcoming of the Facebook system. Disqus will still give us the tools we need to remove inappropriate comments, any spam that does get through, and enforce the comment rules of The Batavian.  

The rules remain the same:

  • You must post using a real name (no business names, no alias).
  • No personal attacks.  No name-calling.
  • No profanity.
  • No comments ridiculing, mocking, or insulting other people because of who they are.
  • No misinformation/false information.

We expect community conversations to be productive and respectful.  If you want to spout invective and "alternate facts," that's why Facebook exists (though we also police comments on The Batavian's Facebook page).

August 22, 2020 - 5:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian.

Billie and I are taking a little vacation -- some might call it a "staycation" since we're going to the Batavia Downs Hotel.

It's race night tonight and we'll have a good view.

But we'll also be without a scanner. That's the vacation part.

March 15, 2020 - 7:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, news.

This is a copy of an email I sent out earlier today to all the local business owners we have in our database, since that isn't everybody, and since emails are sometimes missed or misdelivered, I'm posting it to our home page to ensure all local business owners see it.

Dear Fellow Local Business Owner:
I know from personal discussions that many local business owners are concerned about the local impact of COVID-19. Even if nobody in our community – and we certainly hope this is the case – ever contracts this coronavirus, the effort underway to contain the spread of the disease is already being felt in Genesee County.
The state has said all events and gatherings of 500 people or more should be canceled, other events should have attendance reduced by 50 percent, and restaurants and bars should restrict customer access to 50 percent of capacity.
That last restriction, enforceable by police, fire, and health officials, is of great concern to our local business owners and their employees.
The restrictions are understandable. The main goal of these policies is to keep our health care system from becoming overwhelmed, as has already happened in places like Iran and Italy and happened early on in China. When health care systems become overwhelmed, more people die and the virus spreads faster.
At the same time, lives also depend on healthy economies. People need to work. Businesses need to remain successful.
We are looking for ways to help the local business community. We’re going to continue to ask our readers, of course, to support first and foremost our locally owned businesses.
For locally-owned restaurants, we want to hear from you if you’re offering curbside pickup or delivery. We want to compile a list and publish it at no charge for our readers. Please email details to [email protected]. Include business name, hours of pickup or delivery, location, and a link to an only menu if available. We will publish the list at no charge.
But also, to help promote these services we’re going to offer a discount on sponsored posts to businesses promoting curbside pickup and delivery. We’re taking $20 off the price of a sponsored post, making it $100. And to help increase and overlap exposure, we’ll boost that post on Facebook at no additional cost. For example, if you want to spend $50 to boost the post to our 19K followers on FB, we will only charge that $50 fee we pay to Facebook (no mark up).
If you’re interested, email [email protected].
And let me know any ideas you have for how The Batavian can help the local business community during this time.

February 14, 2020 - 1:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian.

It seems like a good idea to reiterate our comment policy, especially since some things might not be apparent since we now use Facebook's comment plug-in to manage comments: 

  • Even with Facebook registration, we still require real names. If we see a name we suspect is fictitious, we will check it against public databases. With Facebook, however, we also can now look at your profile. Fake accounts are usually easy to spot. We ban people from making comments with names we do not believe are the person's true identity. Interestingly, the way it works with Facebook, the person doesn't even appear to know they've been banned. I can still see their comments in our comment moderation tool even though the comments are not appearing on the website.
  • Attacks on public officials are a special case. The higher up in office, and the less directly connected to our local community, the more leeway is allowed, but name-calling and personal attacks rarely illuminate or add to a worthwhile discussion. We reserve the right in our sole judgment to hide comments that we find offensive or inappropriate.
  • Racism is never tolerated. 
  • We still do not allow personal insults. Some insults are obvious, others are more subtle, and we don't always catch them. Any comment we suspect of containing a personal insult, we hide. Only the person who made the comment and their Facebook-connected friends will see the comment. 
  • We don't allow profanity.  
  • We expect civil discourse and obvious trolls get their comments hidden and are subject to potential bans.
  • Comments that stray off topic are also subject to being hidden.

No comment is ever hidden because of the content of the comment. All opinions are welcome so long as the comments are within our guidelines.

January 3, 2020 - 5:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, news.


It takes a lot of work to cover the news of Genesee County but we would like to do more of it and do it better. That's where you come in: We need your financial support of The Batavian so we can keep doing what we've been doing for more than a decade.

We've signed on the Press Patron, an organization that handles the transactions of patronage for local news organizations. We're asking that you please support our effort to do the work of covering the news by clicking the "Support" button at the bottom of this post.

Thousands of people will see this post. It would take only 400 supporters at $5 a month to enable us to hire an additional staff member.  

An alternative to Press Patron is to subscribe through Facebook. Click Here.

December 31, 2019 - 9:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, news.

Billie are taking the rest of the day and most of tomorrow off. We'll be out of town.

Happy New Year! And thank you for being part of The Batavian Community.

There will be some coverage posted while we're gone and we have people who can help us if anything comes up while we're gone.

But one thing that would help us in the future maintain coverage when we go away is your financial support.  Please click the "Support" button below and help us get to a position where we can hire more help.  Local news can't survive without reader support so we're asking for you to support The Batavian.

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