Sunday, March 6, 2011

Did anyone read past the front page?

Map of New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Pa...Image via Wikipedia
New Jersey's major toll roads. The Record has another "expose" on Page 1 today.

The three North Jersey stories on Page 1 today are so ho-hum, even the reporters who wrote them seem bored. How bored? As bored and boring as Editor Francis Scandale, who chose these dogs for A-1.

The lead story reports "general support" for teacher evaluation and pay changes being pushed by Governor Christie -- one prong of his war on public-employee unions -- and as always they are called "reforms."

There's a second story on the same subject -- from the viewpoint of educators -- on A-4, and an editorial on O-2, but I can't find anything on how teachers can be held accountable for the test scores of students who may spend several hours playing video games every night and refuse to do any extra reading. 

Mass-transit news takes a back seat once again to yet another story on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway -- the main element on Page 1 -- where toll collections seem to come up short by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. 

How does that affect you, if you use the roads only once in a while and pay with E-ZPass? Beats me.

Working with limited space and with the lead paragraph below the fold, the news copy desk sabotaged the toll story with a drop headline that is an instant turn-off: 

Toll collection errors amount to thousands

Thousands [of dollars]? Why is this on the front page?

The real loss is only four-one-hundredths of 1 percent. That's in the second paragraph.  (A 40-cent loss on every $1,000.) 

Why did Scandale, an assistant assignment editor and Staff Writer Karen Rouse, brought here from Denver, put this tripe on Page 1? Properly, it's a brief in "Around New Jersey."

Finally, the third A-1 story on pollution in Wallington is written as a feature, focusing on "2,000 old containers filled with chemicals." Local, county, state and federal officials aren't put on the spot for why a cleanup has dragged on since 1990. 

Local yokels

In head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local:

There's no explanation for why a business story on a Web site is leading the local-news report, or why Road Warrior John Cichowski is devoting an entire column to an accident that closed the Lincoln Tunnel 10 days ago and was all over radio and TV news that morning.

Only two municipal stories appear in the eight-page section, one from Englewood and another from Hackensack, where City Council action from Tuesday is finally being reported.

Scamming readers

In Business, Your Money's Worth Columnist Kevin DeMarrais returns to his core mission of alerting readers to scams and rip-offs after last week's article on a woman who sold best friends Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, the former publisher, and real estate mogul Jon Hanson a private jet that cost more than $10 million. 

In Better Living, a cover story on "healthful ethnic eating" includes a large photo of a sushi roll made with tuna, which is high in harmful mercury, and no discussion of poultry raised with unhealthy antibiotics, meat pumped full of growth hormones or artificially colored farmed salmon.

A Chipotle restaurant signImage via Wikipedia

And the article slams Chipotle Mexican Grill, a fast-food chain that serves organic vegetables and poultry and meat free of antibiotics, hormones and animal by-products. See:

Chipotle Mexican Grill earns bragging rights 

The Real Estate section, which seems designed to promote real estate agents and banks, has a useful article today on trying to trim your property tax bill by appealing your assessment.

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