Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Editing out Christie's role in health-care problems

If you take the train, count yourself lucky to get one of NJ Transit's comfortable double-deckers, but find a seat on the lower level, above, to avoid cracking your skull on the upper level's low, poorly designed luggage rack.


As one of The Record's top reporters, veteran Lindy Washburn should know better.

In stories dating to at least July, Washburn and her unnamed assignment editor have been reporting on the lack of choice and the higher premiums facing New Jersey residents under Affordable Care Act reforms.

On the front page July 17, Washburn reported:

"In New Jersey, only four companies have announced plans to offer coverage through the federally run exchange. New York, by contrast, has 17 companies providing room for more competition."

But on July 17, the editors were reluctant to tell readers the reason was Governor Christie's refusal to set up a New Jersey exchange, in contrast to his Democratic counterpart in New York.

So, they politicized the blame by putting the words into the mouth of one of New Jersey's Democratic congressman, who was quoted on the continuation page:

"The absence of information was a frustration to U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews, a Haddon Heights Democrat, who blamed it on Governor Christie’s 'regrettable decision' to opt out of a state-run exchange."

Since then, stories on the problem-plagued roll-out of the Affordable Care Act in New Jersey have completely omitted Christie's attempt to sabotage federal reforms, such as the Washburn story on A-3 today.

Where is background?

In July, the GOP bully was running for a second term and it's understandable why The Record's adoring staff tried to sanitize the front-page story.

But now that he won the election and has set his sights on the White House, why don't The Record's editors and reporters level with readers?

What's missing on A-3 today is an essential ingredient in every newspaper story from time immemorial: background. 

Hyping the mess 

On Page 1 today, the inconvenience of closing Fort Lee access lanes to upper level tollbooths on the George Washington Bridge in September has been exaggerated into "a four-day ... traffic nightmare."

The truth is drivers using the lower-level on those days saw no delays, and a Fort Lee access lane to that level's tollbooths remained open.

Can't touch Borgs

The front-page story on incomes in Bergen and Passaic counties remaining well below the levels of 2000 doesn't include the Borg publishing family, whose great wealth has likely increased (A-1).

Another A-1 story on a $120,000 settlement for each of the three boys who filed suit after they were locked in a Fort Lee police van overnight doesn't mention that about $40,000 from each check will go to the plaintiffs' lawyers.

Police and court news

Three of the five stories on the Local front today make the page look like a police blotter (L-1).

On L-6, the obituary for Edward Oldziey, 90, of Wyckoff -- an architect who survived both terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center -- doesn't name the president who was the object of his anger in a letter published in The New York Times 13 days after 9/11.

Have a heart

The Record's Better Living section continues to use recipes from clueless food blogger Kate Morgan Jackson of Upper Saddle River.

Today, Jackson describes the surest way to turn heart-healthy sea scallops into an artery clogging, preservative-filled nightmare (BL-2).

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