Thursday, November 3, 2011

Storm coverage marks new low for paper

Campers at the Island Beach State Park, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia
The Record says it's never too early to plan an outing to Island Beach State Park.

Can you imagine entering your fifth day without lights, heat and hot water, and picking up today's edition of The Record? As you stare at the front page in disbelief, big black letters declare:

New fees
planned for
state parks

What the f___? Is it suddenly spring -- and not several days after one of the worst snowstorms in memory hit North Jersey and knocked out power to, what, 175,000? 

And what's this photo topped with small letters? "PROGRESS SLOW ON POWER LINES." 

Where's the story about the glacial pace of repairing storm damage? Geez. It's on L-2, a page that usually carries the Dean's List.

Editors in LA LA Land

What are interim Editor Doug Clancy and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes thinking? How out of touch can they be with the misery of an estimated 56,000 utility customers who are still without power in Bergen and Passaic counties?

I can just hear Clancy in the news meeting on Wednesday afternoon:

"The people who lost power ... well, it's like they're camping out inside their houses, with no heat or hot water ....Why not run a Page 1 story about state parks, where people camp out? They can really relate to that."

So far, Clancy is a disappointment, even when you compare him to the flawed Francis Scandale, the editor who was shown the door on Monday. 

Borg fires Scandale

Publisher Stephen A. Borg didn't give a reason for firing Scandale after more than a decade. The day before, the paper's first-day storm coverage was pathetically weak, based almost completely on telephone reporting.

The Record's coverage paled when compared to Cliffview, the news site run by Jerry DeMarco, the daily's former breaking news editor. 

Even though Scandale is ultimately responsible for everything that appears in the paper, could Borg have reacted so quickly to the substandard storm coverage and canned the editor?

Also on the front page today is a story about generators that readers really could have used on Tuesday. Today, it's too little, too late.

Readers silenced

In none of the coverage since Sunday has Public Service Electric and Gas Co. been challenged on why repairs are taking so long or why more crews aren't working on the outages.

Readers have just seen excuses, served up by the editors from press statements.

Why put today's wrap-up on L-2, when some understandably angry customers have threatened utility crews? Even Governor Christie is quoted urging residents to remain patient, but all of that is buried near the end of the story.

Where are the editors of this once-great local paper? Why do they seem intent on playing down customers' mounting frustration and anger?

Irrelevant columns

Where were the editors when Mike Kelly submitted his inane column (L-3)? The elitist admits his biggest problem was deciding which of his hotel suite's two flat-screen TVs to watch.

Where were the editors when Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski submitted an irrelevant column on trees that fall and kill people, followed by a column where he argued against burying power lines underground?

Neither have anything to do with commuting problems, which is what his column is supposed to deal with.

Jersey, not Thailand

On Wednesday, Clancy ran a photo of flooding in Thailand with a Page 1 story on freakish weather, instead of a photo of Saturday's nor'easter in North Jersey. 

Above that, he ran a photo of the fatal crash of a car driven by a 70-year-old man that was linked to a malfunctioning traffic light. But readers may have done double takes when they turned to the story on L-3 and found another photo of the collision, apparently as a space filler.

Also on Wednesday, on L-7, a story on restaurants raising their prices is confined to McDonald's and other chains, with no mention of local restaurants.

Sunday paper

On Sunday's Business front, a story on the low number of women in banking might have readers wondering why stop with that industry and where are the stories on widespread age discrimination in the corporate world?

On Sunday's Better Living front, so few readers responded to a request for restaurant pet peeves, Staff Writer Elisa Ung had to pad her column with several paragraphs of quotes from a William Paterson University communications professor.

That tells us at least two things. The column was ill-conceived. And Ung apparently has almost completely turned off readers of The Corner Table.

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  1. Clancy brings nothing to the table. You are dead on re: "leadership" shown in the first two days of this (hopefully short) interim regime. Herald News not exactly a model edition of this now woeful product. No one should trust him or respect him. Rumor has it that Stephen wanted to show him the door when Waixel was still there; he should have.

  2. You have to give Clancy the interim job because there is no one else. He'll suck, but any of the other higher-ups would suck worse.

    I'd offer the job to Glenn Proctor, who recently retired as editor in Richmond. Before that he was a glass office at the Star-Ledger, so he knows Jersey well enough. At 65 he's still young enough to do the job for a few years and he is a notorious ass-kicker, which is just what that newsroom needs.

    In this climate, every editor is a dog with fleas because every newspaper is struggling. They just need someone smarter, more in touch with the world and more ethical than Frankie, which should be very doable even if you approached the selection process with a goldfish bowl and a blindfold.

  3. Maybe someone will finally dig into the "frequent flyer miles" issue ...


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