Sunday, August 14, 2011

Laziness is infecting the newsroom

Hoboken-bound train at the World Trade Center ...Image via Wikipedia
Car dealers have threatened to pull their advertising if Road Warrior John Cichowski and other reporters at The Record of Woodland Park write about mass transit woes.

Staff Writer Shawn Boburg is assigned to cover the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Road Warrior John Chichowski is supposed to write about commuting problems.

So why is The Record publishing Opinion columns today by two outsiders on issues those reporters have been ignoring?

The laissez-faire laziness of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her minions is clearly infecting the newsroom.

The Record has long been an editor-driven newspaper, where Sykes and her sub-editors are supposed to generate most of the local and regional stories that appear in the paper, as well as handle the heavy editing.

Under Sykes and Editor Francis Scandale, the news copy desk has been relegated to a minor role -- headline and photo-caption writing -- and even warned against trying to do any meaningful editing.

The copy desk under Editor Liz Houlton is at its nadir, producing confusing and inaccurate captions, as in today's paper. Sloppy editing is everywhere.

Sleeping reporters

On the Opinion front, a column by Philip Barbara discusses the continuing impact on commuters of Governor Christie's decision to cancel the Hudson River rail tunnels.

On O-2, Columnist Brigid Harrison exposes Christie's double standard on how he treats public transportation agencies, especially the free hand he's given the Port Authority.

"Governor," Harrison writes, "the state has been yours for a year and a half now. It is time to man up and take responsibility for it: the good, the bad and the mistakes."

Slipshod editing

Editor Francis Scandale has petitioned Congress to conduct a census every two years, instead of every 10 years, so he'll be able to publish more of the results on Page 1, instead of having his staff do any local reporting.

The copy desk really screwed up today's A-1 census story on same-sex couples moving to the suburbs. 

The photo caption identifies one of three youths shown as the male couple's "granddaughter," but the text on the continuation page (A-6) says they have "three children."

The heart-breaking obituary of a 6-year-old New Milford girl (A-1) includes a  family photo (A-6) that recalls the paper's once-great photojournalism -- before Sykes reduced photographers to ambulance chasers.

Sykes' pride and joy

Today's Local news section is a joke, especially for a Sunday.

The big news from Cresskill is higher fees on pet licenses (L-2). 

The first paragraph of a story on L-3 says a car crashed "through" a town house, even though the photo shows nothing of the kind.

In Better Living, Staff Writer Elisa Ung is out of ideas for The Corner Table, her Sunday column on issues facing restaurant-goers, so she literally throws them crumbs (F-1).

In Real Estate, more poor editing detracts from a story on recent grads getting their first apartments. On R-5, a paragraph starts, "Like Arnett...." But the full name doesn't appear anywhere in the story.

If there is a lazier operation than The Record's assignment desk east of Kansas City, Mo., then it's the news copy desk.


  1. I think you mean to say that the Record has the laziest copy desk south of the Mississippi. Just thought I'd make note of that before Mister Anonymous GPS points out that Kansas City is in Iowa and not Missouri.

  2. Your continuing portrait of poor performance behind the pitiable product you analyze ably each day suggests an editorial asset of declining value that the fat cats ought to cash in on before it falls further. They built this thing by putting together so many weekly properties that get in each other's way and at the same time claiming geography incongrously, like Napoleon and his mentors. Maybe the idea now is that the pieces will be worth more in total if broken off one at a time than trying to dump everything at once. A good paper doesn't have to be daily, even in metro NYC. I think Our Town (Pearl River, Rockland County, NY) is terrific, when I allow for typos and grammatical and stylistic lapses that seem universal.


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