Monday, January 17, 2011

Straight from the locker room

Sixburgh - Pittsburgh Steelers - Six time Supe...Image by wstera2 via Flickr
On Sunday, the Jets will face the Pittsburgh Steelers for a Super Bowl berth.

The way things are going, expect an enormous photo of the Jets on Page 1, if they get into the Super Bowl, plus a scratch-off panel that allows readers to breathe in the pungent aroma of the locker room, where Editor Francis Scandale seems to be hanging out a lot during the playoffs.

Scandale wanted to include a DVD with each copy of The Record of Woodland Park, showing how he and the other male editors bond over sports coverage, complete with ass-slapping, high-fiving and jock-strap waving at their news meeting.

"Hey, Ron." Smack! "Hey, Gary." Smack! "Hey, Randy." Smack! "Hey, Corny." Smack!

Today, readers will have to content themselves with two Jets photos on the front page and two of the most boring process stories the desperate editors scrambled to get into shape over the weekend. Could the headline on the lead story be any duller?

aides for
cost $17M

That "for" at the end of the second line is a no-no. Is $17 million a lot or a little compared to congressional delegations from other states? The headline is so uninformative, the paper might as well run a headline that says:

The Record
still costs
only 50 cents

Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson throws a lot of numbers around and there's a big, gee-whiz photo-graphic inside, but the one number readers need to put the story in context is missing. 

A House resolution to trim spending is supposed to save $35 million -- out of how much? Is that largely symbolic, literally a drop in the Oradell Reservoir? Who knows? Jackson is not telling, and the editors are on autopilot. 

Let's see: $35 million is a 5% savings. So what do I multiply $35 million by to find out the total cost? What is this story doing on Page 1?

On the front of Better Living, Staff Writer Colleen Diskin provides no information in her story on Community Supported Agriculture about the cost of weekly purchases of produce and eggs from local farms.

Blame the victim

On the front of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, a six-column auto dealer's ad continues to appear above the fold.

On L-6, a six-paragraph story reports that a second teenager (in a week) was killed by an NJ Transit train, but this story and others never discuss whether the railroad takes any measures to prevent pedestrians from walking on the tracks.

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  1. The closest Scandale ever got to real sports is when the ballplayers gave him locker-room wedgies. Accounts for the high-pitched squeal, I suspect.

    At least Rivera is an athlete.

    In fairness; You have to understand the role of sports in society. It's a great unifier. I live in Giants country, yet everywhere I was last night and earlier today, all anyone talked about is the Jets.

    The Patriots set all kinds of records this year and were expected to waltz to the title. This literally is on par with Namath's team beating the unbeatable Colts in Supe 3. And they did it up there.

    And remember: Although it might seem odd to you, the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry (probably the greatest in sports) spills over into Jets-Pats. And there are a lot of ex-pats (no pun intended) living in either metro area.

    It would have taken a disaster of major proportions to move that story anyplace else, if I were editor. And I like to think I have fairly decent judgment.

  2. i love the scratch-and-sniff idea. Might as well make a lottery-type card with different numbers for different-type stories:

    (1) locker room (sports)
    (2) garbage dump (dupont)
    (3) bullshit (Christie stories)
    (4) Christie's actual shit (Doblin columns)
    (5) skunk (restaurant reviews)
    (6) no smell at all/not even a whiff (local stories)

  3. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Jets as the focal point today? Good idea. Jets as the focal point eight days earlier instead of the Arizona shootings? Monumentally stupid idea.

    Can't edit by formula, can't overplan, can't abdicate human thought and passion. Every day is different and if the paper cannot reflect that, you are going to consistently bore the crap out of people, which is what The Record usually does under Scandale. This is also what happens when you want to make all the calls yourself in afternoon meetings rather than trusting people to inject some spontaneity when a good story or photo turns up after Frankie goes home. A great newspaper is a product of collaboration under pressure among people with intellectual curiosity, a passion for fresh news and a feel for what interests most people who are likely to be newspaper readers.


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