Monday, June 27, 2011

Reporting the news by the numbers

Malia Obama makes her way through the crowd at...Image via Wikipedia
Bill Ervolino's blog on was shut down in 2010 after he made an inappropriate comment about Malia Obama, above. Now, The Record staff writer has won first place for humor columns.


Is it just coincidence, desperation or inept planning?

The three major stories on the front page of The Record today are jammed pack with so many numbers you'd think the paper was catering to CPAs.

Editor Francis Scandale's by-the-numbers stories on a municipal ticket blitz, a public-school staff exodus and home foreclosures  follow by one day a mind-numbing, numbers-crunching A-1 piece on funding for road and transit projects.

Eye patch

For the A-1 patch today, Staff Writer Zach Patberg interviewed drivers who complained about getting summonses, but didn't talk to taxpayers who welcome any extra revenue in their inefficient, home-rule communities. 

Of course, even tens of thousands of extra dollars don't justify the bloated salaries and benefits of local police chiefs. 

But ticket quotas? Red-light cameras? What's not to love?

An A-2 correction fixes the embarrassing error in a front-page caption Sunday that said a middle-age woman was 3 years old.

On A-11, both cartoonist Margulies and Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin weigh in on the giveaway of NJN by Governor Christie.

I've said NJN's evening news show can be boring, but I found last week's coverage of the budget crisis in Trenton more compelling than what I saw in the Woodland Park daily.

In view of today's deadly dull front page, why relegate the killing of a gas station owner from Paramus over $4 to Local -- unless Editor Deirdre Sykes' assignment desk had nothing else (L-1)?

Sykes had no Hackensack or Teaneck news for today's section, but made sure she found room for a revaluation story from her hometown of Harrington Park (L-6).

They win, we lose

What can you say about journalism awards? 

A bunch of editors and reporters get together to pat each other on the back, ignoring readers who howl over the crappy prose they turn out day after day.

Now, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, which I've never heard of before, reveals its 2011 contest winners for work published in 2010.

"The society’s traditional top prize (its Best Motion Picture or Album of the Year, if you please) is for general-interest columns in large newspapers. 

"First prize this year went to Mike Kelly of The Record of Bergen County, N.J. 

"The judge’s comments included this: 'These are what metro columns should be: elegantly written, with a clear point of view, but — above all — well-reported.'"

Many readers believe Kelly just pushes around words and is a terrible reporter, as he showed recently in a column about noise from planes that use Teterboro Airport.

He wrote that noisy business jets "float" before landing, and described Hackensack as a city of "working-class neighborhoods."

In a major piece on Asbury Park for The Sunday Record in 2000, Kelly failed miserably as a journalist by not saying a single word about the urban gays who were leading the way on reviving the faded shore resort -- as reported by The New York Times the very same day. 

Yeah, he's some reporter.

Bill Ervolino of The Record won first place for humor columns in newspapers with over 50,000 circulation.

The society's Web site is silent on Ervolino's blog, which shut down in 2010 after he made an inappropriate comment about President Obama's daughter, Malia.

Maybe the award to Ervolino should be for perverted humor.

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