Thursday, January 20, 2011

The lazy, hazy days of winter

Garden State Parkway shieldImage via Wikipedia
Why won't saving millions in salaries and benefits by switching to private toll collection on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway lead to lower tolls?

When newspaper editors practice lazy journalism, they can't hide it from readers, as The Record of Woodland Park amply demonstrates today, especially on the front page. 

You'd think staff cutbacks, the merger of The Record and Herald News, a wage freeze and other austerity measures would spur greater productivity, but some newsroom employees are doing much less now and getting away with it.
Of course, you can't discount the corrosive effect of Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who has no journalism background and whose "good enough" standard undermines the quality of reporting, writing, editing and photo journalism. His chief concern seems to be his own finances.

Lazy editors

In the newsroom, failed Editor Francis Scandale and lazy lifer Deirdre Sykes, who is head of the assignment desk, haven't been able to inspire their staff for many years now. Their backup -- such sub-editors as Barbara Jaeger, Liz Houlton, Tim Nostrand, Jim McGarvey, Dan Sforza, Christina Joseph and Rich Whitby -- essentially are useless.

Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson leads the paper today, reporting that New Jersey Republicans and Democrats relied on "shaky and sometimes contradictory" statistics about health-care reform, but the debate has been going on for months, so why didn't he write this story before the House voted to repeal it?
In fact, Jackson seems only to be expanding on a wire-service story that ran inside a couple of days ago. And the headline is baffling. It says the same thing in the main and drop heads. Hey, it's "good enough."

Lazy reporting

At the bottom of A-1 today, Staff Writer Karen Rouse reports the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is seeking proposals to privatize toll collections on the turnpike and Garden State Parkway, but in this second front-page story on the subject, she is silent on why the millions of dollars in anticipated savings won't lead to lower tolls.

Rouse wrote a rare winter story on the plight of pedestrians who, because of uncleared sidewalks,  have to walk in the street, in danger of being hit by passing cars. But she ventured only a few blocks from her Hackensack apartment, and never reported on uncleared bus stops or mounds of snow between parking meters and sidewalks.

Hey, it's "good enough."

More lazy reporting

For the third day in a row, the front page promotes Governor Christie's charter-school initiative, But why doesn't veteran education reporter Leslie Brody, in today's and Wednesday's stories, tell readers how many of their tax dollars Englewood and other public school districts will have to fork over to help run the 23 charter schools approved by the state on Tuesday?

Guess what? It's "good enough."

I can just see the Orthodox Jews on Englewood's East Hill laughing all the way to the bank, if a charter Hebrew immersion academy opens in that segregated city to serve children now attending hugely expensive Jewish day schools.

On A-5, a photo of Christie and wife Mary Pat arriving at the White house for dinner Wednesday night speaks volumes about why the governor scuttled the Hudson River rail tunnels and a new station under Macy's. He said at the time his wife -- who doesn't appear to be very fit -- complained she would have to walk too far to connect to the subway.

Now you see them ...

On Sykes' Local front, the 2011 PEOPLE TO WATCH are two assemblymen. The editor still is unable to find any local people we should be watching for this feature, which is "brought to you by" Benzel-Busch Motor Car Corp., according to the six-column ad above the fold.

What a concept. Why not attach an ad to every story? For example, the story on neighbors fighting a 19-story, acute-care hospital proposal in Hackensack could be "brought to you by" Hackensack University Medical Center. Charles Stile's political column could be "brought to you by" the Governor's Office or the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado's byline appears today for the first time since Jan. 13.

Also on L-1, a story on a new hospice by Staff Writer Mary Jo Layton -- one of those now you see her, now you don't reporters -- appears to err in her list of other hospices in New Jersey. She omits the Prospect Heights hospice in Hackensack, where News Copy Editor Michael Thaler died three years ago.

 Waiting for inspiration

On L-3, a story reports that the first and only African-American on the Bergen County bench is retiring -- disappointed there are no other black or Asian-American Superior Court judges, despite large ethnic communities in the county. He also expresses the hope courts become more "user-friendly."

Gee, I can't recall Staff Writer Kibret Markos, who wrote this profile of departing Superior Court Judge Elijah I. Miller Jr., ever before reporting on the lack of diversity on the Bergen bench or on access to the courts. 

Not only has he covered the Bergen County Courthouse for three to four years, he is black himself. He actually works out of a press office in the building five days a week, so you'd think he knows it pretty well.

Markos' stories could be "brought to you by" the Bergen County Bar Association or the Administrative Office of the Courts. Only if he writes them, of course.

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  1. Victor, I think you're missing the bright side of the Benzel Busch ad across L-1. It's not only probably paying the salary of some poor shmo who'd otherwise be shown the door, but it's in theory keeping car crash pictures off of L-1. Unless, of course, I suppose, the crashee is a Volvo.

  2. You have a point. I don't recall seeing those photos, which ran daily it seems on L-1 or inside.

    Reminds me of those layouts with airline ads stamped, "No air crash news on this page."


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