Saturday, November 21, 2009

No local news today

Location of Hackensack within Bergen County, N...Image via Wikipedia

The front page of The Record of Woodland Park screams no meaningful local news today, with a lead story on a non-fatal standoff with police in lily white Ho-Ho-Kus. How did this story get on A-1? In some lazy editor's opinion, the photos were better than those with a far more compelling story, the arrest of a suspect in the Jan. 24 immigrant-on-immigrant slaying of a Garfield deli clerk.

The biggest photo with the standoff story is the perp on a gurney. Real dramatic, don't you think? Three other photos show police officers and police vehicles.

But who isn't moved by the big L-1 photo of the clerk's grieving father, owner of the deli, who told a reporter he visits his son's grave every day since the slaying nearly 10 months ago? The entire Local section contains eight inconsequential Bergen stories and photos, two less than from Passaic and Morris counties.

There is no news from highly diverse Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood, a trend that accelerated when The Record moved its newsroom many months ago out of Bergen County, to the former West Paterson. Yet, on A-2, the Borg family still lists the newspaper's address as 150 River St., Hackensack.

A letter to the editor on A-11 today suggests the nation launch a "Cash for Pounds" program to attack the obesity epidemic, a subject the newspaper has been trying to ignore for more than a decade. Maybe some of the obese -- or verging on obese -- editors will read this letter and launch an obesity project.

That surely would be of greater service to readers than the interminable investigation now in its third year that is being led by Deirdre "Laughs A Lot" Sykes, head of the local news assignment desk. This probe has sucked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff salaries and tied up several reporters, including Monsy Alvarado, the woman who is supposed to be covering Hackensack, where the paper was founded in 1895.
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  1. I would humbly suggest, Victor, that you continue to point readers toward, which not only had the full story of the chase, crash and subsequent suicide at the GWB (an astounding event witnessed by countless people stuck in rush-hour traffic), but also published an exclusive interview with the driver of the car that was struck, who gave an up-close-and-personal account of what happened.

    I continue to get exclusives such as these, primarily because of my integrity with law enforcement and justice types -- as contrasted to the reckless the-public-had-a-right-to-know demands of the clueless representatives of the institution of which you speak.

    This interminable investigation involves an LEO who retired in the middle of it; it has served to irritate those who hold him in high regard and force many to question the newspaper's motives, especially given its blind support of a particular losing candidate in this fall's election who has had a (if you'll pardon the expression) hard-on for certain law enforcement officers who have worked hard to keep her and her family safe.

    That is an ENORMOUS constituency to be alienating, from the cops on the beat, to the supervisors, to the civilians who work in law enforcement -- and all of their relatives. Everky person they try to "bring down" costs them another chunk of their audience, while gaining them nothing in the churn. Pretty soon there won't be anyone left. They'll be reduced to going after each other (FEATURES EDITOR STOLE TWINKIES FROM FOOD DRIVE!).

  2. Perhaps someday you can tell the story of Officer Spath -- who, while making a tragic decision, didn't need to be virtually crucified by the newspaper. People have long memories, and many of them remember how the incident tore this dedicated public servant apart. Instead of compassion, understanding and empathy, however, the newspaper (which, at the time, was respected) simply piled on -- if, for no other reason, than to pump up sales of a book about the shooting.

    It's easy to criticize someone for a job you wouldn't have the balls to do. Confronted with even the slightest danger, you could be sure Skull Cap, Shirt Crumbs and even Corey "Hockey Puck" Feldman himself would promptly soil themselves. They're the same kind of people who think it's realistic to shoot a dangerous assailant in the leg.

    The saving grace is that readers aren't stupid. This whole "dumbing down" concept is a cop-out editors came up with to deflect attention from the fact that they longer sent reporters into the communities to find out what was really going on, so that stories could "bubble up." Oh, no, the approach now is like a convertible in Sonoma: top down. Prize-oriented. As if any media organization in history ever gained a single reader or made an extra penny in advertising coinage after winning an award.

    It's the arrogance of newspaper editors that sliced the brakeline of this cement truck as it cleared the crest of the 00's. They were warned, over and again. And instead of doing something, they floored it. A roomful of reporters is an army of researchers who could have easily told editors what people want. When I was a reporter back in Denver (sorry, I meant Newark), I tapped countless people to find out what they were interested in; then I tailored my writing AND subject coverage to them. Simple.

    And before I forget: I wouldn't make fun of someone's weight or eating habits. I recall a night or two when you and your copy desk cohorts shoved fried pieces of God-knows-what into your pie holes as if you were double-parked. You'd surround your takeout containers like prisoners, afraid someone might snatch a McNugget.

    I would characterize the draintrust as clueless, obstinate, tired and weak. So many good reporters, so few good leaders. One need look no further than the Sport department to see efficiency, hard work, collaboration, effectiveness. There's a "whatever has to be done" approach, versus the bunker mentality.

    The person who runs that division isn't a miserable two-faced, backstabbing hack. The one who runs the Assignment Desk is.

    When you've seen proof of that, day in and day out, nothing that they do is suprising anywhere.

    Peace out. Enjoy every sandwich.

  3. When someone like Jerry DeMarco relates his experiences at The Record, all of us should pay close attention. But I have to defend my news copy desk colleagues against his apparent description of our weekly Friday night takeout meal, which we ate in a conference room. We had fried food once in a while, but generally ordered from good restaurants. True, he wasn't invited nor were any of the other assistant assignment editors -- mortal enemies of the copy editors. The rest of the nights me and the other copy editors worked, we were denied a dinner hour, because expected screw-ups down the line in the press room and by a rag-tag crew of deliverers forced the paper to print early almost every night.

    As for the interminable investigation, now in its third year, one of the puzzles is that the alleged target didn't get that high in the agency where he worked. He certainly wasn't at the top, I don't recall, and his name was common knowledge in the newsroom among reporters and copy editors who weren't involved in the newspaper's probe. Instead of cutting their losses after two or so years, the Borgs and the editors are keeping this folly afloat for reasons that aren't clear.

  4. "The rest of the nights me and the other copy editors worked,..."


    Victor! All that greasy food has atrophied the arteries to your brain.

    Tsk, tsk.

    What an unexpected screw-up.



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