Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another snafu at a blood-thirsty paper

grilled squidImage by Joits via Flickr
North Jersey restaurants love the big profits they get from serving squid.

If you need more evidence people working for Production Director Liz Houlton are on autopilot, just turn to Page A-12 of The Record, where today's story on the shooting of a congresswoman ends in mid-sentence. 

On Page 1, the thumb-nail photo of the suspected gunman appears over his last name, even though his full name isn't given until the continuation page. And the big, sunny smiles on his face and Gabrielle Giffords' face seem inappropriate in view of the shooting deaths of a federal judge and five others during the rampage.

You can't get any sloppier than that, especially in view of the promise Publisher Stephen A. Borg made to readers about providing education and food news every day. Instead, the Woodland Park daily continues to damage its reputation and credibility with embarrassing production errors and inaccurate headlines and captions almost every day.

Borg crows about his decision several years ago to move printing from Hackensack to Rockaway -- far from the newsroom -- but the cost-cutter in him apparently was too stupid to realize, or didn't really care, that he had sacrificed a crucial step in the production of the paper.

Once, as many as 10 copy and layout editors in Hackensack pored over the first copies off the press, looking for and fixing errors, but apparently no one does that today. And Houlton -- notorious for all the errors her cursor passed over and her proofers missed when she ran the features copy desk -- was promoted to production director of the whole newspaper. 

How ugly. She's now known by the informal title of Queen of Errors.

Blood on his hands

The A-1 play of the Arizona shooting story is relatively modest. Editor Francis Scandale helped direct the Denver Post's coverage of the massacre at Columbine High School more than a decade ago, and shared in the paper's Pulitzer Prize.

That probably figured in his winning his job at The Record in 2001, but can this editor claim to have done anything to advance gun control or has he simply splashed one bloody shooting after another all over the front page? 

Today, apparently, his lust for sports overcame his baser instincts or was he just disappointed the congresswoman didn't die?

Elsewhere on A-1, Staff Writer Jeff Pillets has another expose -- this one on land purchases and consultants' fees in connection with the Hudson River rail tunnels Governor Christie killed.

Bowing to King Christie

At the bottom of A-1 and all over A-10, the paper cranks up its public relations machine for Christie, reporting his "big plans" for this year in advance of his State of the State speech Tuesday.

Four of his colorful quotes appear on the front and more appear on A-10. Four photos of his body and face show just how large this man is. But nowhere does Staff Writer John Reitmeyer ask Christie whether the governor, who loves the limelight, might be presenting the wrong image during the obesity epidemic.

And it's difficult to understand how Reitmeyer can claim to be a journalist. Again, he leaves out of his Supreme Court synopsis (A-10) the salient information that the governor dumped a black associate justice and nominated a white woman to take his place. Charles Stile, in his overlong L-3 column about the high court today, also omits these highly relevant racial identifications.

On A-3, a Star-Ledger story reports on the sad state of Rahway's downtown, even though The Record has completely ignored Hackensack's and Englewood's struggling downtowns.

Deirdre Sykes and bimbos

Does head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes identify with the bimbos on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey"? How else to explain the appearance of one of them as a "2011 People to Watch" on L-1 today.

Are there no local officials or residents we should be watching this year? Are all of them the chopped liver Sykes thinks they are? And there's that six-column auto dealer's ad across her L-1 page again.

Fortunately, L-1 also carries an inspirational story on the dedication of Community Baptist Church, which put up a $13 million building in Englewood. 

Sykes and Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano have virtually ignored that city's African-American and Jamaican residents, but this story was written by Sachi Fujimori, a talented features section writer who was on periodic weekend duty.

Readers sound off

In Opinion, almost a full page of letters from readers discuss Christie's absence during the post-Christmas blizzard and botched cleanup -- pro and con -- a story it took Scandale and Sykes almost a week to catch up to and they still failed to run a photo of the governor at Disney World.

In the letters, readers call the Republican governor "lazy and incompetent," equipped with "an ego as large as his belly," "never wrong," and "out of touch" with average citizens. 

Hmm. Sounds just like Sykes.

Cheap ingredient, big profits

In Better Living today, "The Corner Table" column from Elisa Ung publicizes nearly a dozen chefs and restaurants that offer new and imaginative squid dishes, but curiously, she fails to mention one of their chief motives is the big profits they make from this cheap seafood (F-4). 

Isn't she supposed to be in the consumer's corner?

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  1. Really, a story ending in midsentence falls under the category of "shit happens." But the gross underplaying of the Arizona shootings is chimpanzee-level news judgment.

    I wish I could honestly say this qualifies Scandale as the dumbest top editor for whom I've worked, but sadly he remains the second-dumbest (you would not believe the stories about the dumbest). He remains No. 1 in overestimating his ability, though. The dumbest editor at least would recognize a screwup in hindsight, perhaps days later and not necessarily learning from it. But when Scandale badly botches a call, he rationalizes it as zigging while other newspapers zag and gives himself a pat on the back.

    This was an unquestionably stupid news call, unless you are editing some shitkicker paper in South Dakota, someplace like that.


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