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|Today's local news amounts to little more than a pile of manure.|
Readers looking for local news won't find much of it on Page 1 today and if they turn to the local-news section, they'll probably end up staring at an unusual amount of horse manure.
You can smell this story as soon you unfold The Record -- an upbeat profile of a new general manager for the dying Meadowlands Racetrack.
Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes could not have strayed farther from her mission of covering local news, but she has long relied on Staff Writer John Brennan's sports-business stories to fill all that yawning space in Local she faces every day.
Brennan pushed this story for the front page, arguing many readers say Editor Francis Scandale and his minions "don't give a shit."
"My glowing profile will show readers we have a lot of shit to give them," the former sports reporter said.
Sykes grabbed the story for the Local front after her assignment desk failed for the umpteenth time this year to find any municipal news in Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck and many other towns.
The head assignment editor also knew her decision would be supported by the local-news layout editor and one of the supervisors of the news copy desk -- both of whom are big fans of horse racing.
More big holes
Even all that horse manure couldn't plug the many holes in the section -- Sykes needed two candidate-debate stories, a federal trial and a police story just to fill out L-1.
She was lucky to have health-care news for L-2, but her desperation returned on L-3, where she grabbed at a photo of a downed traffic-light pole and ran the continuations of three stories from the front.
Sykes also was fortunate to have two strong local obituaries for L-6.
Page 1 scramble
To critics who say Scandale fills Page 1 with garbage, the editor answers with an off-lead A-1 story about the influence in Trenton of the smelly garbage industry.
The editor did provide a ray of light on A-1 in Staff Writer Barbara Williams' saga of Mike Stanzione of Saddle Brook, a hospital patient who battled the medical bureaucracy for four years and is finally going home.
But Scandale stumbled by putting an international story at the bottom of the page.
A far better story for Page 1 would have been opening arguments in the federal murder conspiracy trial of prominent criminal-defense attorney Paul Bergrin -- a tangled tale that is destined for the big screen.
This rare story of a lawyer fighting for his own freedom is out of place on Sykes' Local front, but she probably warned Scandale she'd sit on him if he tried to take it for A-1.
And why couldn't Scandale find room on A-1 for the rebuke of Governor Christie by a Superior Court judge, who ruled the state's revised pension-and- benefit system violates the constitution's ban on cutting judicial salaries?
Is Scandale trying to protect the GOP bully again?
Christie wailed, calling the judge's decision "self-serving" and claiming it "is why the public has grown to have such little faith in the objectivity of the judiciary."
Really? Did he ever say that in the years he rolled up a long string of official-corruption convictions as U.S. attorney?
On A-10 today, a letter to the editor from Arnold Korotkin of Little Falls blasts an L-1 story that ran this past Sunday under the headline, "North Jersey not running to join Wall Street protesters."
Korotkin says he is dismayed "the article neglected" to report that in New Jersey, there is "an active,visible movement showing support for the Occupy Wall Street" protesters.
Demonstration and vigils have taken place in Little Falls, Trenton and Jersey City, among other places, he said.
Gee, did Sykes' crack assignment desk deliberately slant the story?
Watch for a spike in emergency room visits, if Better Living readers take Staff Writer Sachi Fujimori's advice to shuck their own oysters (F-1 and F-3).
The bivalves will be red with blood -- not hot sauce -- if the amateur shuckers don't use a protective glove ($139.95 at Cooking.com).