Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting it all wrong on Page 1

Governor Whitman frisking Sherron Rolax (1996)Image via Wikipedia
Then-Gov. Christie Whitman frisking a suspect in 2004. The Record's "Political Stile" columnist today actually calls her one of  "Jersey's groundbreaking heroines," right up there with Molly Pitcher, Clara Barton and Althea Gibson.

Parting leader pays up

"Pays up." Doesn't that sound as if Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney owed a debt or faced a fine, and paid it? 

But that's not the case, as you learn in the drop headline and story on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park today -- he gave big raises to non-union employees as one of his parting shots before he leaves office. And what's with the awkward "parting leader"? Do you really need the word "parting"? Just call him what he is: "Dem pol spends big."

Also, if McNerney has the power to give the 3.5 percent raises to about 200 employees, doesn't incoming Republican County Executive Kathleen Donovan have the power to rescind them? Staff Writer Michael Gartland, who has been reporting on all the political cronies being hired by the defeated Democrats, doesn't even ask Donovan that question.

As if the lead head isn't bad enough, the headline on the second A-1 story -- on DWI arrests -- is about as inaccurate as they get. Although the graphic and text show drunken-driving arrests were down 3 percent in 2009, the headline declares:

Penalties aren't reducing DWIs

Well, something is reducing DWI arrests, and the headline should have said that. The story says "drunken-driving arrests last year were the fewest recorded in the past decade."

Breaking ranks?

Columnist Charles Stile appears to be breaking ranks with all the Governor Christie apologists at The Record, but his L-1 "Political Stile" column is so poorly written and so poorly organized today, it's hard to tell just what he is getting at.

His lead paragraph says the woman Christie nominated to replace John E. Wallace on the New Jersey Supreme Court could be a heroine "for the next generation of New Jersey girls if she ever joins" the court, becoming its fourth female member.

What he doesn't do is mention Wallace or criticize Christie for not naming a black man or woman to replace the court's only African-American justice, who was denied lifetime tenure by the governor, in defiance of decades of precedent. Then, Stile lists Christie Whitman, one of the worst governors ever, as among "groundbreaking Jersey heroines."

At this point, Stile veers  off and starts attacking two  female Republican senators -- who back the nomination of Anne Patterson to the court -- for refusing to help overturn Christie's veto of $7.4 million for family planning clinics, which serve poor, uninsured women.

He blasts Christie as "the party's brook-no-dissent leader." C'mon, Charlie, you can do better than that.

Another bad head

On L-3, a story on Hackensack residents finally returning to their Prospect Avenue apartments more than five months after they were evacuated carries a real puzzling headline:

Residents return to scene of garage collapse

It's probably time to acknowledge the news copy desk's sharp decline in quality and accuracy since copy editors from the Herald News replaced veteran Record copy editors, who left when Publisher Stephen A. Borg merged the two news staffs. 
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  1. Whitman definitely was groundbreaking, first governor I can think of who was a tax cheat, claiming her personal residence as a farm because it was over 5 acres.

  2. You say the paper lost veteran copy editors when the staffs were merged. But it looks like they just lost a guy who slept through work, a guy whose only contributions were punny headlines and you, whose contribution may have been offset by some factors. It just seems like you are contradicting yourself. You also lost a slot editor who you hated. Can you really have it both ways? I guess youcan if it's your blog.

  3. I think you're discounting the years of experience of all the copy editors who left, their ability to fix bad writing and catch mistakes, and their knowledge of North Jersey.

    Even if I thought the slot was unfair to me and others in evaluating our performance, she had high standards and could detect bad and inaccurate heads, compared to a slot who cares only about getting the paper out, no matter how flawed it is.

    Now, with Herald News copy editors, there is no attempt at good heads and no pride in the job. Plus, there is no backstop, as in prior years, and the copy desk doesn't even see the first copies off the press, so bad and inaccurate heads and typos aren't even fixed.

    Readers get a poor-quality paper every day.


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