Saturday, January 30, 2010

Have we had enough?

A "tap tap" bus, used for public tra...Image via Wikipedia

The Record of Woodland Park has decided the best way to tell the story of the humanitarian crisis in Haiti is to give readers a detailed story on the experiences of almost every North Jersey doctor, nurse, clergyman and volunteer who goes there.

All over the front page today is the first account by Staff Writer Joseph Ax and Staff Photographer Tariq Zehawi, who accompanied a Saddle River doctor to the Dominican Republic. They are the first Record staffers sent there since the earthquake hit Jan. 12.

There is not much drama in Ax's story and that's because he decides to tell what happened chronologically, starting with the volunteers eating breakfast in their hotel lobby. How mundane can you get?

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - JANUARY 21: A nurse ad...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Apparently, this blunder didn't raise any alarms among the lazy, incompetent editors in the Woodland Park newsroom, including Frank Scandale, Frank Burgos, Deirdre Sykes, Ax's assignment editor and the news copy editor, who had to reach deep into the story for the headline:
"Tip of the iceberg." 

It is rare for an editor to tell a reporter his or her approach is all wrong -- as in this case -- and to rewrite the story. In fact, reporters at the former Hackensack daily aren't expected to do any rewriting. No. A reporter sits down next to the assignment editor, who goes through the story and makes changes, or the editor makes those changes after the reporter goes home -- often leading to inaccuracies. The news copy editors are forbidden to make any substantial changes without the permission of  the reporter or assignment editor, some of whom were once mediocre reporters themselves.

PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI - JANUARY 21:  US Army n...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Now you know why there are so many poorly reported, poorly written stories in the paper every day.

All Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado can muster today is a story on a Paramus man's Superior Court lawsuit against two city taverns. That's local news?

What is going on near the Bergen County Jail, where heavy equipment has been working for more than a week? Why doesn't the City Council look into all the allegations in lawsuits filed against Police Chief Ken Zisa, and perhaps suspend him until they are resolved? What do residents think of all the lawsuits? Have they lost confidence in the chief? What about the officers who didn't file suits, what do they have to say? Many residents will be dead by the time Alvarado and her assignment editor get around to those stories and others the paper ignores.

About the only good thing I can say about today's paper is that R.L. Rebach, one of the graphic artists, put together a detailed story under the headline, "Hunger in our neighborhood," reminding readers that neighbors are hurting, too, and telling them how they can help food pantries in North Jersey. The placement, on the front of the Better Living features section, seems odd, though.
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