Friday, December 24, 2010

Houlton, we have a problem

A Honda Accord which crashed into a small guar...Image via Wikipedia

The "accident-of-the-day photo" relied on so heavily by head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes to fill all that yawning space in Local has been grabbed today by Editor Francis Scandale, desperate in his own way to find something compelling for Page 1 every day.

But is it legitimate for The Record of Woodland Park to include crashes that result from police chases in classifying December as the most dangerous month on state roads? Maybe the real, untold story is a spike in crime during the holidays. 

Houlton's hooligans

The news copy desk continues to wreak havoc. This has gone on so long you'd think Production Director Liz Houlton, who supervises the desk, would realize how all the errors in the last few years reflect on the paper's credibility. 

Of course, the frumpy Houlton was the "Queen of Errors" in her previous role as supervisor of the dysfunctional features copy desk, but she is a pal of Features Director Barbara Jaeger and went on to a big promotion and, presumably, a big raise.

The photo-graphic-text package on A-1 refers readers to A-6, but -- oops -- you won't find anything about traffic accidents there. You'll have to turn to Page A-8, if you haven't had enough already. But there are other problems with the package, which seems slapped together.

Above the A-1 graphic, it says, "The seven days ending Dec. 23" are the most dangerous week in the most dangerous month. Yet, below the photo, big type says there were "1,059 wrecks per day" statewide in the week of Dec. 18 through Dec. 24. Dec 23? Dec. 24? Confused yet? The graphic is for Bergen and Passaic counties, not all of New Jersey. 

Below that package, the main headline is written in the present tense, the drop headline in the past tense -- a no-no. The heads echo: "reduce air pollution" in the main, "drop in emissions" in the subsidiary head.

Another plane crash

The big news in Local is the death of a doctor in the crash of his antiquated, single-engine plane, which went down in "freezing rain and sleet" (L-1). Is anyone surprised, given the weather?

This is one of hundreds of single-engine plane fatalities the newspaper has reported in the past few decades, but I have yet to see a story on why these noisy aircraft seem to be virtually unregulated and why their technology has never been updated.

Hackensack Chronicle, a weekly paper delivered with The Record on Fridays, has its second story on morale and leadership in the city Police Department -- stories I have yet to see in the former Hackensack daily, which covers the department as if it's the only agency in the entire city.

Hitting the sauce 

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung gives two and a half stars (Good to Excellent) to the food and service at Griffin's, a pub in Cresskill. In the data box on Page 14 of Better Living, she reports the pub is "less appropriate for [a] formal dinner." 

"Formal dinner" is a phrase she has used many times without ever defining it, and I can't imagine what she's talking about. But when you see the word "pub," wouldn't you know not to go there for a "formal dinner"?

Maybe the space in the data box could be used to tell readers if the restaurant being reviewed serves naturally raised food.
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  1. Hmmm. No. Invoking the use of a phrase used by those who have enough sense to know a real problem when they see one, this is a travesty. Those who employ it as intended are facing life-and -death circumstances, not making petty jabs at a fellow craftsperson. Perhaps the time spent in inventing this invective--five, or was it ten, minutes?--could be better spent in volunteering time to improve and hone the skills of rising or even existing talent? This author submits that it may be unworthy to make pointed jabs when the subject of them is a person whose character might possibly be of more sterling quality than may be surmised even in a working environment, because it does not lend itself to an easy read.

  2. I received this comment on Liz Houlton, who is now the production director at The Record, in an e-mail today:

    …not, “Houlton.” Here in “Rocket City,” we take a dim view of people outside the community who use that phrase lightly, twisted to suit one’s purposes or not. Having lived in close proximity and taken care of people who work in NASA for nearly 48 years, one finds your use of that phrase is unworthy of those whose blood, sweat, and yes, tears—my father, who survived Pearl Harbor having been awakened by his consequently deceased bunk mate only to spend days in the vain attempt to rescue their shipmates entrapped aboard the Oklahoma (you can read up in that state’s publications to find his memoirs as the only surviving member of the crew, come only lately to post of kisser-of-the-governor), cried only three times that anyone ever knew about: once, when his only daughter contracted a debilitating disease, once, when his mother died, and the only other time, when Apollo 1 and his friend Ed White, with the others, were destroyed by fire; my husband pushed the last button of command/communication transmitted to the Challenger before it exploded, and one has never seen a look on a human face like that which showed behind hands clenched in despair when taking him his welcoming-tea—have forged a path which in its execution has showed more benefit than any endeavor since discovering the fire on which to cook the food which you seem to view as your bailiwick. Your invocation of a phrase abused to accuse a woman whose character you have never discerned even in a working environment is abhorrent, completely unworthy of the profession which you claim as your own. Having known her for fifty years, one can reasonably surmise that you can only speak from the blind asperity born of space darker than any as yet explored by the men and women who are actually admired and befriended by those in the NASA community.

    Liz Houlton is to those who know her a pearl of great price. Just ask someone she assisted-as a child, with an instinct than could only have been an inborn gift--from a near-autistic personal purgatory into a place where she could live, love, and create. She gently invited one so shy she could scarcely speak into a world of wonder and imagination which was a revelation previously only hinted at in the beautiful illustrations of her beloved books, and which since has begun to comprise the world of her own artistic endeavors. You could do much worse than to take the time it took to write your invective to study—discreetly--someone who just might be more deserving of your respect than is reflected in your letter of 12/6/2010, 6:24pm. Your own discernment and ability call for it; your own character demands it.

    In sorrow,

    Mouse M.

  3. Of course, there is nothing in here about Liz Houlton's performance in the newsroom, whether as head of the features copy desk for many years or in her current job.

    As a so-called journalist, Houlton is a complete failure.

    She allowed hundreds of errors to get past her cursor and now supervises a news copy desk with a reputation for incorrect headlines and poor or non-existent editing.

    Like many editors at The Record, if she didn't hit it off with you, she made your life miserable.

  4. This is distressing;I made the second set of comments not as a reply to your own, but before I had learned of it, and as some further thoughts on the matter. I am so sorry to have rained down such a torrent; it was never my intention to do so.
    Perhaps time and a period of quiet contemplation would be useful in coming to terms with what appears to have been a misunderstanding of fairly profound proportions; a criticism of this depth must have its roots in some fundamental difference in points of view. Yours of my missive is absolutely correct and accurate; I have not addressed Liz's professional career, only what I have known of a thoroughly delightful intellect which has been informed by a thoughtful consideration undiluted by any undue sentimentality and only applied where judicious. If your experience and opinion are in basic conflict with such, yours is a loss to be mourned as surely as any other.

  5. As if you haven't read enough about Liz Houlton, here's another comment from one of the commentators above:

    I'm sorry. I did submit an apoloy to the blog, which was apparently not accepted for publication, so here goes.
    You are of course entitled to your opinion, diverse as it is from my own. I still can't imagine Liz behaving in a manner which would make anyone miserable, let alone in a workplace environment. Her delightful intellect, informed as it is by her compassionate nature, has never breached the boundaries of good sense in my experience, or that of anyone else of mutual acquaintance, let alone venturing into self-indulgence. In future, however, I will endeavor keep my own counsel, regardless of its nature.
    Nevertheless, where apology is merited, it is delivered; my comment was much too strong, not to mention long.


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