Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snake-charming the readers

Snake charmer with cobra, IndiaImage by UW Digital Collections via Flickr
Editor Francis Scandale of The Record may have missed his calling.

Editor Francis Scandale hit the Jersey trifecta with his front-page today: stupid human almost dies from cobra bite, sewerage officials are arrested on corruption charges and apartments are proposed near Superfund site.

That snake-bite story is blown way out of proportion, which is what happens when you sic four reporters on it. It's not as if cobras and other venomous snakes are getting loose every day or listed on the agendas of municipal council meetings. 

The Record's Local front would have been better play for this freakish event -- unless, like Scandale, you're desperate to sell papers.

Eric Bortz -- a veterinary technician at an animal hospital in Park Ridge -- has a potential lawsuit against the unidentified dealer in Pennsylvania. The paper says the dealer assured Bortz the snake's venom gland had been removed. Ouch.

On A-13, an editorial criticizes Governor Christie for appointing the parents of private-school students to the state Board of Education -- a rare sour note from Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin, one of Christie's chief apologists.

Weak local news

After that strong front page, most of the rest of the paper disappoints, especially head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local news section.

Instead of getting off his ass and identifying home owners and businesses that don't clear their sidewalks of snow -- endangering pedestrians -- Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski tells readers to complain to police or other officials.

What about the poor schmucks who can't afford cars and who you'll see walking on the Hackensack Avenue roadway across Route 4 -- day and night -- because the sidewalk hasn't been cleared since the post-Christmas blizzard, in a jurisdictional dispute? Who do they complain to?

The Road Worrier also flips off bus riders, never cruising the streets to record how many bus stops are uncleared after storms. He long ago lost NJ Transit's number.

Chick apparently hasn't seen all the potholes that have developed in the past few weeks, but when he notices them, we'll get a half-dozen or more columns from one of Sykes' chief space fillers. He'll also probably find a handful of families on a pock-marked private street, and write several columns about them, as he has done in the past.

What's a budget?

Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado leads the Local section with another long, detailed story about the suspension of a Hackensack police officer, leaving crucial background information to the last paragraph.

Since the middle of 2009, Alvarado has devoted most of her time and effort to pursuing suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa and covering lawsuits against him -- ignoring almost all other municipal news, including council meetings, budget deliberations, the tax rate and the struggling downtown.

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  1. Whos the new Police Chief in Hackensack?
    Is he doing a good job?

  2. No new chief has been appointed, but a former officer is monitoring the Police Department for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

  3. Capt. Tomas Padilla is running the department. The monitor does just that -- monitor. Padilla running the show, and is doing it well. Morale has increased at least 100-fold (among the officers I've spoken with), and crimes are handled systematically, and not at the whim of a tyrant.

    Notices are good, and that's REALLY encouraging. What had become a cesspool -- not because of the rank-and-file but due to toxins at the top -- is beginning to show signs of coming back to life.

    I'm a newsman; this is what I do: I find out. Thank you for the opportunity, Victor.

    Everyone, please read (and contribute to) CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM when you can. We don't stick our heads in the sand -- or into our monitors. And if you have questions, feel free to ask; If I don't have the answer I'll get it for you. Victor, again: Thank you.

  4. Thank You Mr. JerryD, But Thank You even more Mr. Victor Sasson, cause you have the guts to take them to TRENTON!
    Will JerryD have the guts to write a story about you when you win? Victor the Victorious!!!!

  5. Mr. JerryD and Mr.Sasson. What is the standard operating procedure for a employeed Newpaper Reporter and/or a freelance reporter in reporting news at the hackensack police dept or any police Dept. Can each of you explain how you are able to get the stories and who at the police sation is responsible to give you the news and do they turn over documentation to you or is it all verbal.What are the New Jersey Laws on this? What are the steps. Thank you

  6. Jerry DeMarco can answer that last question better than me, but agencies like the state police and prosecutor's offices have sites where reporters can access news releases or they designate someone to deal with the media.

    Smaller departments sometimes insist a reporter speak with the chief or have a designated contact person.

    The Record and Hackensack Police Department once warred over the non-release of information.

  7. Thank you Mr.Sasson, Can you explain what you mean in more depth, (warred over the non release of information) how diferent is it today than years past? Have NJ laws changed this relationship?Thank You

  8. It's a little fuzzy, but I seem to recall the paper published a critical article about the Police Department and the chief retaliated by withholding routine police and crime news. It was a protracted struggle.

  9. When You say Chief do you mean Zisa?

    When is Mr. Demarco going to answer 2nd Anonymous
    did u tell him he has a fan?

  10. Yes. I believe Ken Zisa was chief at the time.


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