Thursday, December 9, 2010

How to ruin the front page

The Dakota building as seen from "Strawbe...Image via Wikipedia
The Dakota as seen from Strawberry Fields in Manhattan's Central Park.

Any reporter knows how lucky The Record's Mike Kelly was in finding a North Jersey connection for his story on the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death in Manhattan. Then, the veteran journalist loses readers in just his second paragraph on Page 1 of the Woodland Park daily -- as he desperately tries to craft an introduction that will hook them.

That's Kelly big flaw. He can't write it straight and allow the power of the event to come through. He has to push around words, and in the process, his awkward, occasionally inaccurate sentences stun readers with their stupidity.

On his assignment Wednesday, he encountered Bill Purdy, a former Passaic County assistant prosecutor who specialized in homicide cases, so he reports in his first paragraph that Purdy "made his way to an old murder scene." Interesting, even if Kelly is unclear on whether the onetime prosecutor went to the Dakota, where Lennon was shot dead, or to Central Park. 

Then, Kelly blows it:
"He [Purdy] didn't carry his prosecutor's tools, though -- no handcuffs or law books or subpoenas. Purdy carried his guitar."

Reporting is laughable

Can you hear lawyers and detectives guffawing in North Jersey prosecutor's offices? Prosecutors don't carry handcuffs. And they wouldn't bring their heavy law books with them. It's also unlikely they would bring a subpoena to a murder scene. Who would a prosecutor serve -- the body?

Where was Kelly's assignment editor or the news copy editor on weeding out this laughably inaccurate copy?

The headlines were a puzzle, too, but at least they got me into the story. But Kelly stopped me cold. If he was so inaccurate there, where else did he err? Quotes, observations, conclusions?

Editor Francis Scandale allowed Kelly and Road Warrior John Cichowski to continue as columnists, but got rid of the former Hackensack daily's only Hispanic and only black columnists, and its only female news columnist. What a great editor he's been.

List all cast members

The lead story on A-1 -- about the Democratic-controlled Bergen County Freeholder Board bailing out bergenPAC in Englewood -- makes no mention of the role of Frank Huttle III, a lawyer who now is mayor of that city, in reopening the John Harms Theater, the performance venue. 

Huttle, listed as founder on the bergenPac Web site, is married to Assemblywoman Valerie Vaineri, a former Democratic freeholder in Bergen County.

News about police

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section has another L-1 story on the Hackensack police -- the best-covered police department in North Jersey, though Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado keeps residents in the dark on just about every other city agency.

The Local section is filled with police, accident and court news, as is becoming commonplace. An L-1 story on a plea by an ex-councilwoman doesn't say she appeared in state Superior Court.

Kibret Markos, the reporter covering the courts, again fails to include any information on how much of $1.5 million awarded to an Oakland woman injured in a three-car pileup might be going to the lawyer (L-3). 

Also on L-3, you'll find a gripping story on leaf removal in Paramus.

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