Thursday, January 13, 2011

An emotionally cold editor

Candlight vigil for Gabrielle Giffords & Arizo...Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

The Arizona shootings are back on the front page again today. 

Even though it's the most talked-about story in the nation, Editor Frank Scandale again demonstrated his famously flawed news judgment by underplaying it badly on Sunday on The Record's front page.

Then, he played catch-up on Monday, allowed it to play second fiddle on Tuesday to the dismemberment of a Cliffside Park man and knocked it off the front altogether on Wednesday.

Running a huge photo of a Jets football player on Sunday's front page -- and squeezing the attempted assassination  of Gabrielle Giffords under a one-column headline -- is so insensitive that it could only come from an editor like Scandale.

Remember, he shamelessly wallowed in the bloodshed of Columbine in 1999,  took credit for the Pulitzer Prize awarded to The Denver Post for its coverage of the high school massacre and did nothing to advance the nation's gun laws. 

Even the choice of today's A-1 photo is suspect. It shows astronaut and husband Mark Kelly seated and first lady Michelle Obama standing as both applaud during a memorial service for Giffords. 

Contrast that to what I saw on TV: The first lady seated next to Kelly and grasping his hands after President Obama told the gathering the congresswoman opened her eyes for the first time Wednesday.

A cold fish

When I worked at The Record, before the move to Woodland Park, many newsroom workers found Scandale to be emotionally cold. (On a personal note, he avoided my gaze completely during his 90-minute deposition on Dec. 9, 2009, in my age-discrimination lawsuit, which named him as a defendant.)

Also on A-1, a different perspective on snowstorms and the challenges they pose for funeral homes and cemeteries comes from Staff Writer Jay Levin, who writes local obituaries. He also answers the question every newsroom has at this time of the year: Why do so many people die after Christmas?  

Juvenile journalism

A Charles Stile column on the state Supreme Court also starts on Page 1, and it contains one of the most ridiculous and inappropriate comparisons a journalist can make: "Associate Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto ... is evolving ... into a judicial version of Paris Hilton, the moth-to-flame exhibitionist who thrives on notoriety." What is Stile thinking? Why is this drivel on A-1?

Again today, Stile's column is color-blind when discussing the departure of Associate Justice John Wallace, who was the only black on the high court, and a Star-Ledger story on A-4, the continuation page, also doesn't identify him as black and Governor Christie's nominee to replace him as white. 

If you need any more evidence of how little reporting The Record does on mass transit, take a look at an editorial praising NJ Transit's use of "quiet [rail] cars" -- written off a story in The New York Times (A-18).

The selling out of Local

Two ads appear across the front of Local, one above the fold and one at the bottom of the page, as head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes again rolls over and plays dead for the advertising department.

On L-3, a story on "the final investigative report" -- released after a public records request filed by the newspaper -- is silent on defects in the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor that crashed at high speed and killed Teaneck Officer John Abraham on Oct. 23. 

None of the many stories on Abraham reported the Ford police cruiser has a history of safety problems, including power steering that "freezes up" in high-speed turns, the defect that killed a Paramus police officer. Here is an excerpt from an online forum called
When Paramus, N.J., police officer Vincent Brock skidded out of control on New Jersey's Route 4 in 1993 and died after hitting a pole, it set off a chain reaction that caused jurisdictions in New Jersey, Connecticut and Ontario to pull their cruisers off the street or refuse delivery of new ones.
Bergen County Prosecutor Fahy and U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., called for a recall investigation.
Eight departments filed formal complaints with the NHTSA. Four police deaths were blamed on the failures, and several more cited them as cause for accidents.
The NHTSA recall investigation found the four deaths — including Brock's — were not caused by the steering problems. It decided against a recall because the steering lockups occurred during "extremely aggressive but foreseeable driving maneuvers."
Ultimately, a jury awarded a $1.9 million judgment in 2003 against Ford in favor of Brock's widow. Ford appealed and later settled.

 You'll find more at the following link:

There's nothing in today's story on Officer Abraham about whether his family will be filing a lawsuit against the Teaneck department, Police Chief Robert Wilson and Ford Motor Co.

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