Sunday, December 26, 2010

We've lost confidence in all of you

Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Looking west.Image via Wikipedia
St. Paul remains the capitol of Minnesota, despite a map published today in The Record.

How sloppy can The Record of Woodland Park get? In seemingly every section of today's paper, readers find lazy journalism, laughable reporting, writing and copy editing; errors, and omissions. Columnists just push around words, masking their subjects, afraid readers will protest, "Again!"

What are Editor Francis Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, Production Editor Liz Houlton and their minions doing to earn their inflated salaries? They're certainly not concerned with the rapid decline in the quality of the paper.

On Page 1, the otherwise interesting story on the personal wealth of North Jersey's congressional delegation by Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson gives the age of only one of the five members, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. Great copy editing.

On the front of Local, Columnist John Cichowski continues in his self-appointed roles of the region's driving instructor and the paper's chief space filler with, what, his 20th column on tips for traveling by car in bad weather.

Sykes had no "LOCAL ISSUE" for today's L-1, so we get a story on the first year of the New Meadowlands Stadium, which was used by a fraction of readers. What about real issues -- such as aircraft noise, decrepit local buses and lots of other stuff the lazy editors ignore?  

Staff Writer John Brennan's lead paragraph sounds like he is summing up the weather in the last year. He then quotes the stadium CEO: "I can certainly say we've been battle-tested, but the problem is you have to go through the battles to get there." Huh? Get where?

The driver-centric newspaper does, however, have some mass-transit reporting today -- a hilarious filler story on an issue of huge importance in Cresskill: The location of a new bus stop (L-3). It's only five paragraphs, but they are so imprecise, unanswered questions abound.

Another John Brennan?

The reporter says: "Because it's new, government officials are expecting little traffic." Is that a reference to the bus route being new? What does that have to do with the amount of traffic? "Government officials" usually is used to refer to the federal government. Is this bus stop a federal case?

Cresskill Councilman John Brennan seems to be as dim-witted as his namesake, the John Brennan who wrote the stadium piece: "We don't think it [the bus stop] will be a big deal. It won't be highly used. If there is nobody [bus rider] there, nobody [the bus driver] will be stopping there." Oh, is that how it works?

Pie in our faces

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung surprises me today by not mentioning her chief obsession -- dessert -- once in "The Corner Table" column on the "best of 2010 in dining," but she also ignores restaurants that serve organic produce and naturally raised meat (F-1).

She did a column on food professionals' "holiday wishes," but not one on the wishes of readers, whom she is supposed to serve. Today, she expresses her own wish -- that restaurants would make her job easier by identifying their specialties, apparently so she can confine herself to reviewing their best dishes and not waste time eating anything else on the menu.

Where would that leave readers who don't order specialties? And isn't she motivated by the paper's budgetary cutbacks? 

Though Ung hasn't told readers, penny-pincher Features Director Barbara Jaeger apparently is limiting her to one guest -- instead of three -- on each of two visits to restaurants, meaning she can sample only about half the dishes she did before. So most reviews discuss a limited number of appetizers and entrees, but Ung insists on sampling four desserts at each place.

Jaeger long has denied Ung reimbursement for wine or other alcoholic beverages, though that doesn't stop the editor from running a three-year-old photo of the reviewer's chin and pudgy cheeks poised above a glass of wine.

Numbers challenged

Columnist Mike Kelly's lead paragraph on the front of Opinion today is almost word for word what appeared in the lead paragraph of the paper 22 years ago, when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown apart above Scotland. 

Twenty-two years is closer to 20 years than to 25, so why does he begin, "Almost a quarter century ago...."? He's one of the paper's chief word pushers, that's why. Just say 22 years ago and be done with it.

Thank God for Margulies

The best page in the paper today is O-4, with a review of Margulies cartoons in 2010 (and another on O-1). 

They dramatize how honest the cartoonist is in assessing Governor Christie, compared to all the apologists on the reporting and Editorial Page staffs who have done such a good public relations job for the Republican bully. Remember, he balanced the state budget on the backs of the middle and working classes in New Jersey.

Unreal estate

Since it was created by Publisher Stephen A. Borg three or four years ago, the Real Estate section has polished the image of the real estate industry, while publishing distorted "Moving Up" profiles of such communities as Paterson and Englewood, and running a feature on second homes in far off places that is of interest to only the wealthiest readers.

An exception is today's R-1 story by Staff Writer Kathleen Lynn on how a bank is trying to screw a family that has fallen on hard times.

But also on R-1, a map of Minnesota with the "Getting Away" feature substitutes St. Louis for St. Paul as the capitol.

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