Monday, October 4, 2010

More problems on the news copy desk

Wordmark of Headlines Today. Trademarked by He...Image via Wikipedia

Two headlines on A-6 of today's edition give me pause and prompt me to ask once again: What is going on with the news copy desk at The Record of Woodland Park?

The copy editors represent damage control. They are supposed to fix all the problems in a news story, but now they have become the problem. Where is the copy desk supervisor -- the slot, in newspaper lingo -- asleep at the computer?

Dull and uninspiring headlines are one thing, but more and more I am seeing inaccurate or questionable headlines that are in poor taste.

On A-6 today, the continuation of the Page 1 Tyler Clementi vigil story carries this jump headline: 

Vigil: Tyler Clementi mourned

Mourned? That's the word used when reporting funeral services, not a candlelight vigil at Rutgers, where Clementi's homosexual encounter was shown in an Internet video, prompting him to jump off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22.

I have a bigger problem with the jump headline on the front-page story about the reelection bid of Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., who is shown on A-6 in a Paterson classroom talking to a third-grade girl who stands next to him:

Pascrell: Seven-term congressman still enjoys little things

You mean, like the little girl in the photo? I scanned the story, and I'm not even sure what the headline writer is referring to as "little things." 

This embarrassing headline comes just a day after the continuation of a sex slave story on A-1 ran opposite an ad showing the makeovers of six young teenage girls, who looked a lot more alluring than they should for their age.

Of course, after The Record's new publisher, Greedy Stevie Borg, made the incredibly stupid decision to move printing of the paper to Rockaway Township from Hackensack, the copy desk no longer received the first copies off the press so copy editors could look for and correct such problems.

From the looks of things, the copy desk in Woodland Park still doesn't see "good copies," meaning all of these bad headlines, typos and errors are delivered straight to readers.

You've got to wonder where Editor Francis Scandale is on the decline of news copy editing and headline writing. He has done everything in his power to thwart the copy desk, working in concert with head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, but he once scolded copy editors for their dull headlines, which, in his opinion, weren't selling enough papers.

The third, A-1 story today -- about a political battle over the bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund -- notes that Governor Christie "has vehemently opposed increasing the gas tax" to pay for road repairs and mass transit improvements, but doesn't say why he is against it. Another great story from The Star-Ledger.

You can thank Sykes for another crappy Local news section. As we have come to expect on Mondays, there is no news from Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood, Westwood, Norwood, Ringwood, Deadwood or Peckerwood.

Sykes is the problem, along with the dead wood on her assignment desk and reporting staff.

See two more new posts below
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  1. While headlines at the Record could use a bit of improvement in general, it's not entirely correct to blame errant jump heads on the slot person being asleep at the wheel. From what I understand -- having never set foot in the Record newsroom, but having some friends who used to work there -- jump heads are often written by layout editors who are SUPPOSED to run them past the copy desk but often do not. I imagine in recent times, with shorter staffs and heavier workloads, that practice by the layout editors has increased rather than decreased. Of course, the poor reader has little knowledge of how this system works and is thus victimized by the layout editors' lack of jumphead writing expertise.

  2. I always wrote my jump heads before I left in May 2008. So I'm not sure your information is correct. If the layout editors are doing it now, it should stop.


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