Monday, November 9, 2009

'Ageism' determines news coverage

Dawn Zimmer Voted Mayor of Hoboken, Chris Chri...

The Record today is a prime example of how "ageism" may determine what news is covered by the former Hackensack daily.

The front page is filled with a truck-car safety crackdown under the scary headline, "Drivers beware." But a far more troubling phenomenon is on Page L-1, where a story reports that a 77-year-old man woke up from a coma four days after ramming his car into a building.

In recent years, the paper has carried numerous individual stories, like this one, about elderly drivers hitting stores, other cars, even pedestrians, sometimes with fatal results. But The Record has never written a series of articles on the challenges facing older drivers and whether driver re-training or other state or private programs are available to help them.

Another example of apparent ageism is the newspaper's devotion in recent years to covering autism, giving hundreds of hours of staff time to articles that often run on Page 1. But has The Record made a similar effort in covering Alzheimer's disease?

The second big story on Page 1 today reports how conservatives are pinning their hopes to radically remake government on Governor-elect Chris Christie. "He has ... to be prepared to close government," one former mayor says. Close government? Is there some reason The Record didn't report this story before the election.

The Local section continues its boycott of municipal news from highly diverse Teaneck, Englewood and Hackensack. An annual story about white suburban high school students spending the night in boxes to get a firsthand look at homelessness doesn't explain why the newspaper has missed the apparent completion of a new homeless shelter in Hackensack, next to the county jail.

Better Living today has the usual single recipe for vegetarians to represent food coverage in a Monday paper, but there's also an item about a free pie-tasting in charming Chester. I wonder if restaurant reviewer Elisa Ung -- who has made no secret of her affection for dessert -- will claim her share?
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