Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Soft news is no news

New MTA Trains at George Washington BridgeImage by p_x_g via Flickr

The Record of Woodland Park has cranked up its elaborate publicity machine for Governor Christie. Today, it presents a flattering Page 1 account of the governor's plans for the Meadowlands by reporter John Brennan, master of schlock.

The story begins by saying Christie faces a "constellation" of problems. Wouldn't that be thousands of problems? Then, the reporter says, Christie intends to use "the same pugnacious style that marked his campaign." How much did the Governor's Office pay for that line?

This is the same reporter who wrote a long profile of Jayson Williams and downplayed the former athlete's problems with alcohol that led to the killing of his limo drive.

Today's Christie story doesn't even have a "peg," the event on which a lot of stories hang. No. This is a long, speculative piece that would be more appropriate for the Opinion section. There is no real news in the other front page stories today, including a second by Brennan.

How about a consolation prize in the Local section today? Sorry, residents of Teaneck, Hackensack, Englewood and many other important Bergen County towns, you won't find any education, municipal or development news about your town.

Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano jumps on manhole explosions in the shopping district, interviewing people as if it was a terrorist attack, and there is a color photo of  PSE&G employees standing around and doing nothing. No one was hurt. 

But the death of an Englewood woman who was run down in Union Township is treated as "filler," with no attempt to tell readers anything about a 28-year-old killed in the prime of her life while crossing the street and talking on her cellphone.

Last year, Stephen A. Borg, president of North Jersey Media Group, pledged during a symposium in Fair Lawn to continue "an editorial focus on downtowns." He added: "It's important that we continue to let people know about the depth and diversity of Bergen County."

Since he gave that speech in May, The Record has published three long stories about downtown Ridgewood, but none about Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood -- three of the most diverse communities in the paper's circulation area.

Today's paper, like so many others before it, shows the Borgs are merely absentee landlords. More troubling, is whether Stephen Borg's speech was yet another attempt to deceive --  much like listing the paper's headquarters as 150 River St., Hackensack, on Page 2 every day, or telling staffers at his first meeting with them in 2006, "I'm not in this for the money"?

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