Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Discriminatory journalism

Lake Michigan? Nope a Pothole!Image by live w mcs via Flickr
A pothole that appeared in March 2009 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Potholes. Overgrown weeds. Damaged guardrails. Trash. These complaints from drivers -- and in the case of trash, about other drivers -- don't make for riveting news, and certainly don't belong on Page 1, except for the daily garbage can of a front page in The Record of Woodland Park.

Not only is the main headline on today's story a stupid play on words ("no brake" for "no break"), a photographer apparently couldn't find a DOT crew repairing a pothole or a guardrail, cutting down weeds or clearing trash. The headline should have read:

No break for readers

Transportation reporter Karen Rouse, who wrote the story, is stealing Desk Warrior John Cichowski's thunder in writing about potholes. He does it annually and at great length -- until readers' eyes glaze over.

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes apparently won't allow Rouse to leave the office, or so it seems from all the telephone and Internet stories on surveys and reports she does. A while back, one of her Page 1 stories listed complaints about toll takers.

More troubling, Sykes, Rouse, Cichowski, Editor Francis Scandale, Assignment Editor Dan Sforza and former transportation reporter Tom Davis have for years turned their backs on minorities who can't afford cars and who have to make do with NJ Transit's fleet of decrepit, decades-old local buses -- white elephants that are literally falling apart. 

You'd think Rouse, who is African-American, would be outraged at this clear case of discrimination against local bus riders, while the transit agency routinely replaces buses on routes to Manhattan every decade or so. But no transportation reporter in memory has ever taken mass transit -- buses or trains -- and given voice to the complaints of riders.

If I didn't know better, I'd think Rouse and the others are merely doing the bidding of the advertising department, which rakes in a huge amount of revenue from ads sold to car dealers, and hardly any from NJ Transit.

Local education coverage

First, readers lost local news. Then, they lost food coverage. Now, they've apparently lost "daily" education coverage, which appeared on Page L-2 of Local during the school year, under the 2006 or 2007 edict of marketing wizard and Publisher Stephen. A. "Greedy Stevie" Borg.

Sykes has had trouble supplying enough education news to fill L-2, and has resorted to Dean's List filler, but now apparently, any old story can go on L-2, as today's page demonstrates. The layout editor even had to resort to three house ads to fill space. The "Education" bug is missing, as well.

The dominant photo on L-1 today is the aftermath of a police chase and a collision.

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