They're mowing them down on the streets of Paterson, and The Record of Woodland Park is there with its body-count journalism. A distraught teen and an equally distraught chef apparently jump to their deaths from the George Washington Bridge two days apart. A man falls off a roof on top of another man.
The Record's crack assignment desk, under the leadership of Deirdre "Loafs A Lot" Sykes, covers it all, with stories as detailed as today's front-page takeout on the Ridgewood teen suicide to others with so little detail they are merely filler. No names, no comment.
Desperate Editor Francis Scandale probably wakes up every day in his Glen Rock home, shaking from a nightmare of having no real news to run on the front page. So he has made sports, police, fire and court news the new local news, especially when Sykes has sacrificed local coverage to embark on endless investigative voyages that get lost in the doldrums.
The stories lack detail, because a lot of reporters are encouraged by their lazy editors to do them by phone; who has time to do legwork? We don't pay overtime. People are charged with crimes, then hide behind their high-priced lawyers' "no comment."
I'm waiting for a Record reporter to confront a lawyer who has pocketed a big retainer, but who suddenly loses his tongue, and say "no comment" isn't good enough.
You certainly don't see that in today's "Ridgewood teen takes life" on A-1, paired with a story about that wasteful high school sports organization and another shamelessly hyped piece on horse racing. Could the headline be any duller? Was Vinny Byrne supervising the copy desk Wednesday night? Did he allow this clunker to get past him?
The New York Times and The Star-Ledger did far better:
That's weird, because The Record quoted the Facebook message in its lead paragraph this way: "Going to jump off the gw bridge sorry."
Then, four of the paper's best reporters tell us way too much about this troubled Rutgers student, and way too little about the dorm mates who exposed him in an Internet video showing his intimate encounter with another male student.
Why run thumbnail photos of the two 18-year-old perpetrators with big smiles on their faces? Where are their mug shots? What was their relationship? Were they doing it? Is there video of that, too? Is this a case of two know-it-all Asian kids ganging up on the white guy?
An A-5 story about the arrest of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei appeared in The Record on Wednesday, but there was no mention of the suicide seven days before by Ravi's roommate, Tyler Clementi, who left his wallet behind. His leap from the GWB on Sept. 22 was followed two days later by the suicide of Chef Joseph Cerniglia of Campania restaurant in Fair Lawn.
The chef's death led the paper on Monday -- three days after it happened -- but the staff was never able to pin down whether financial problems were the cause. Apparently, no reporter spoke with family members or the restaurant's staff.
Will these two bridge suicides prompt editors to assign a story on what the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is doing to prevent people from jumping? If it can be done by phone, maybe. But the suicides, like the deaths of pedestrians killed by NJ Transit trains along unfenced stretches of track, make far better copy.