Saturday, October 2, 2010

More clunky editing and headlines

FAA airport diagram for Teterboro Airport (TEB...Image via Wikipedia
Teterboro Airport has two runways for the noisy aircraft that land there.

The sad story of Ridgewood's Tyler Clementi has spread far and wide, but his family's hometown daily newspaper continues to handle it with the competence of some crappy weekly. The headline over today's third-straight day of front-page coverage in The Record of Woodland Park is as clunky as ever:

"Emotions pour out"

Not only is the headline repeating the obvious, it duplicates words in a quotation printed just above it that came from the family of the Rutgers student, who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22 after his dorm mate outted him in an Internet video. Here is a far better headline:

"Call for compassion"

And for the third day, The Record's coverage contains almost nothing about the Clementi's roommate and a second perpetrator, and no comments from their lawyers or families about just what kind of people they are. The most telling comment I heard came from a student who appeared on television news. She said gay and lesbian students weren't "safe" in their own dorm rooms.

Another A-1 story -- about Palisades Park becoming the first New Jersey town to offer Korean language instruction in public schools -- fails to mention what a sea change this represents. No one at the paper seems to remember the bitter lawsuit Korean merchants filed when the town barred restaurants from staying open 24 hours a day -- a suit that was settled when restaurants agreed to close a few hours each night.

Today's Local section will help you catch up with police and court news you might have missed.  

All Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado could come up with is another story about cops, two of whom were charged with fraud in connection with an accident. One story she hasn't done is whether the quality of policing or public confidence in the department have been affected by suspended Chief Ken Zisa's legal troubles, all the lawsuits filed against him and the occasional rotten apple.

Another story she hasn't done appears in The County Seat, the weekly published by the Zisas, about an after-school haven for children who live in public housing. And apparently she could care less whether Hackensack can follow Teaneck's example and save $250,000 a year by merging the Police and Fire Departments.

Of course, those stories would take a little legwork, something that is discouraged by Deirdre "Loafs A Lot" Sykes, head assignment editor, who apparently spends more time menu planning than telling her local reporters to get out there and cover their towns. There is no Englewood or Teaneck news in the paper today.

Talk about bad editing. If so many lives were saved, why is the story about the runaway jet on L-3?

Nick Clunn's lead states unequivocally that an arrestor bed at Teterboro Airport stopped a jet from running off the end of the runway -- "saving the lives of nine people onboard and countless others on the ground." Countless? Even the business jet that hit cars on Route 46 and then a warehouse in 2005 didn't kill anybody.

Was it Clunn's assignment editor who wrote this fanciful lead paragraph? What about referring to concrete blocks as "a special cement"? Pathetic. What's wrong with arrestor bed? If the reporter or editor stopped spending so much time making things up to hype the story, we might have learned the names of the pilots and the passengers.

Now, will the paper do a follow to supply this information and ask the most important question of all: Was it pilot error, mechanical failure or overloading that caused this latest accident at Teterboro? 

I'm not hopeful. For years, Publisher Greedy Stevie Borg, Editor Francis Scandale and Sykes have turned their backs on residents who live near the airport and their concerns over safety and noise.

Blast from The Record's past: 

Steve Crabill was shopping at Fairway Market in Paramus on Saturday morning. He left the former Hackensack daily 10 years ago for The Star-Ledger, where he is business editor.
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