Thursday, November 10, 2011

Editors ditch their objectivity

Railroad TracksImage by Eric Rice via Flickr
Along Railroad Avenue in Hackensack, many blocks of tracks are unfenced.

Interim Editor Doug Clancy gives The Record's front page a strong North Jersey slant today, but drops the ball badly with inaccurate headlines, incomplete stories and a serious loss of objectivity.

If the reborn Xanadu shopping and entertainment complex will be getting a $400 million tax break over 20 years, then an A-1 drop headline declaring "taxpayers are safe" is speculative at best.

Of course, Clancy could do much better than to use the front page for a complex, eye-glazing process story on financing of the Meadowlands project, but the developer made its pitch directly to unidentified members of the paper's Editorial Board, who appear to be solidly behind business interests.

Train deaths drive new approach to safety
Message needs to get to kids and adults

These headlines on a second A-1 story are so inaccurate, you have to wonder what Editor Liz Houlton, supervisor of the news copy desk, is smoking.

The story by Staff Writer Karen Rouse doesn't outline a "new approach," but merely regurgitates NJ Transit's old campaign of blaming the victims and labeling pedestrians who are killed by trains as "trespassers."

Where is the "new approach"? There is not a word here about improving the safety of crossings and unfenced tracks or posting transit police at busy stations before someone is killed (A-6).

Lazy editors

In fact, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her minions are so lazy, they have never sent Rouse or another reporter to the neighborhood where a 12-year-old Hackensack Middle School student was killed by a train in 2010 -- along a multi-block stretch of unfenced track.

No resident has ever been interviewed about the safety of trains roaring down what is basically the middle of the street. Hackensack officials are mulling a name change from Railroad Avenue to Railroad Death Avenue.

Copping out

A third A-1 story -- on arrests in a detective's killing in Paterson -- is incomplete, containing not a word on the alleged role of the suspect's girlfriend.

However, the assignment editors found room to list police brass at the press conference -- including Paterson Chief James Wittig -- but they've never attempted to assess what a poor job Whittig has done in controlling gun violence in the Silk City.

Finally, Clancy shied away from trying to find independent observers to discuss the poor showing of Governor Christie's candidates in Tuesday's election.

So, he went with Columnist Charle Stile, who merely perpetuates the partisan rhetoric that has paralyzed the legislative process (A-1).

Parade of teachers

Check out today's Local section, Sykes' pride and joy. The main element on the front is a photo-and-text package about a cop's motorcycle bursting into flames. Wowwee. Gee whiz. Golly. Did you see that? Amazing.

The sergeant's pants were burned, but he wasn't injured. His gonads are intact.    Is there a product liability lawsuit here or was the motorcycle poorly maintained?

There is a ton of news today about teachers and education -- the state rejects a contract (L-1), a teacher is charged with theft (also L-1), Columnist Mike Kelly comes to the defense of a teacher's freedom of speech (L-3), a fired teacher files a lawsuit (also L-3) and Teaneck fights a charter school (also L-3).

Hackensack news? C'mon. What do you think this is, your local newspaper?

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