Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why this blast from the past?

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 8:  A TV videographer...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
A cameraman focuses on a flower outside Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office.

The 30th anniversary of the release of Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days? Covering more than one-third of the front page in The Record of Woodland Park? Are Editor Francis Scandale and Columnist Mike Kelly kidding? 

Kelly is inconsistent, but Staff Writer John Brennan is bad all the time, and today we have two stories about the Jets' Super Bowl playoff game in Pittsburgh -- one by him on the front and one by another reporter inside.

The move of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to rehab leads the paper, as it should, but readers must be wondering why they haven't seen any photos of her since the shootings in Tuscon, Ariz., two weeks ago.

'We goofed again'

Page A-2 brings two corrections, one from Better Living, which seems to get dates, telephone numbers and other basic information wrong almost every day. 

An L-1 headline on a lawsuit story by Jean Rimbach, one of the paper's investigative reporters, also was wrong Friday -- really wrong. 

The original headline says, "Papers sealed in suit alleging coverup by prosecutor," and to be fair to the news copy desk, the story mentions a prosecutor's office -- "apparently the one in Bergen County" -- a number of times, and includes the Bergen prosecutor's name. 

The correction says, "The headline should have said that the suit alleges a coverup by the investigator's bosses in the state criminal justice system," even though that isn't clear from the story. 

The reporter worked on this sensitive story how long -- weeks or months? Did  Sykes edit it before it was sent over to the copy desk for a headline, and did she order the desk not to alter a word or challenge any vagueness, as she has done so many times in the past?

The other remarkable thing about this correction is that it's one of the few errors acknowledged by the dysfunctional copy desk under Vinny Byrne and Liz Houlton.

The front page promoted Governor Christie's charter-school initiative three days in a row this week, but an editorial today deplores his systematic attack on public schools, including vouchers (A-13).

Sometimes reporter

Does anybody besides head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes take Lou Dobbs seriously as a congressional candidate? That 2011 PEOPLE TO WATCH feature is "brought to you by" a German luxury car dealer whose ad appears above the fold on the Local front.

Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano has her first story about municipal affairs in 17 days today -- on a plan to cut the city budget by privatizing trash pickup and eliminating the volunteer ambulance corps. 

When is the last time Sykes' Local section had anything about budget deliberations in Hackensack by Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado?

Pie in our faces

Features Director Barbara Jaeger deserves a pie in her face for wasting readers' time on pies as "the latest hot food trend" (Better Living front).

Jaeger rolled over and played dead when Publisher Stephen A. Borg folded the Food section about four years ago, and food coverage has been all downhill since then. 

She also reduced how much the paper reimburses Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung -- limiting the number of dishes she can sample -- and added more photos and bigger headlines to distract readers. 

At the same time, Ung's obsession for dessert has displaced any concern over whether restaurants are serving food that is raised or grown naturally.

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