Monday, March 14, 2011

No escaping editors' laziness

Earthquake in Japan by GoogleImage by Klim Andreev via Flickr
Since Saturday, The Record has carried only one story about Japanese residents of North Jersey.

You can hear the snoring above all that laughter from head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and the pounding of the keyboard by sub-assignment editor Rich Whitby, assuming they aren't contributing to The Record's newsroom snooze fest.

You also can hear snoring from the office of Editor Francis Scandale, who quickly ran out of ideas for covering the disaster in Japan through the eyes of North Jersey residents who might have relatives or friends living there.

You know the editors are lazy by all the junk in the Woodland Park daily today -- filling the space of legitimate stories they didn't generate.

Wire-story filler

On Page A-11 -- opposite a full jump page on the earthquake and tsunami -- more than a quarter of a page is wasted on a floating restaurant that was moved back to shore in Kentucky -- with no injuries and no starvation.

In Sykes' Local section, nearly a third of L-3 is devoted to Lyndhurst news -- an exercise class and a single restaurant being allowed to have outdoor tables. The lead paragraph of the fitness piece will put you to sleep.

Editor covers hometown

More filler appears on L-6: A doctor is honored for his service on the Health Board in Sykes' hometown.

Now, take a look at the messy story leading Local today (L-1). The reporter gets the official run-around on the identity of a Fort Lee fire victim -- no name, no sex and no age appear in the story -- but the headline on the continuation page says, "Woman dies."

That reminds me of what a lousy job the paper did on Sunday in reporting the death of Robert Ellis, 48, in a shootout with police early Saturday in Washington Township. There's not a single word of follow-up in today's paper.

Fort Lee Police ERT PatchImage via Wikipedia

Shame on Scandale

Scandale is especially insensitive. He had a couple of heart-to-heart talks with News Copy Editor Michael Thaler before he died of cancer in 2008, and was well aware the copy editor had spent three transformational years teaching English at a junior high in Japan.

Does it occur to Scandale there might be other North Jersey residents living in Japan and teaching English now?  Do their families know where they are or even if they are alive? Does Scandale care? Can someone check if he's napping in his chair.

Sleepy assignment desk

Why aren't reporters sent to the airport, the Japanese-American Society in Fort Lee or the big Japanese supermarket in Edgewater to interview Japanese residents about their search for relatives in their homeland?

Television coverage of the disaster is putting the paper to shame. The Today Show located an American woman teaching English in Japan and connected her by cellphone to her relatives back home.

Coverage this morning also showed a Japanese couple finding the family dog in a tsunami-devastated neighborhood, and other residents recovering photo albums from the wreckage of their home -- all of which readers can relate to.

Green with mold

On Sunday, Columnist Mike Kelly defended Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who held a hearing on Islamic terrorists even as the congressman deflected any focus on his own support for the Irish Republican Army.

Today, Kelly is back with a long column on Englewood officials' quixotic bid to collect taxes on the East Hill mansion that has been owned by the Libyan government since late 1982 (L-1). 

In the process, Kelly gives more publicity to Schmuley Boteach, a rabbi and author who bought the house next door, knowing full well who lived there, but who has cried bloody murder ever since.

It apparently doesn't bother Kelly that Englewood appears to be doing little to improve the education of black and Hispanic children -- 99% of the enrollment -- in its public elementary and middle schools.

Or that city officials decided it was "too expensive" to convert the shuttered Lincoln Elementary School -- a 100-year-old building in a working-class neighborhood near downtown -- into a community center.

Hackensack readers still haven't seen any stories about budget deliberations or the tax rate from reporter Monsy Alvarado, although those meetings have been reported by other municipal reporters in Teaneck (L-1 today) and other towns.

Two-faced Christie

The lead story on A-1 today is another example of Governor Christie trying to score points with his conservative supporters across the country, while desperately accepting cash from anywhere he can get it to avoid taxing millionaires.

The state has already received $39 million and is asking for another $40 million under the new federal health insurance law he has denounced as "Obamacare," Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson reports.

A second look

The same quarter-page story on the NCAA pool appeared on opposite pages Sunday in the four-page Wall Street Journal insert carried by The Record Business section (B-4 and B-5).

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