Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Pulitzer finalist emerges from the mediocrity

At CNBC headquarters in Englewood Cliffs this morning, Porsche Cars North America introduced the 918 Spyder, a plug-in hybrid sports car with 887 horsepower and a base price of $845,000, above and below.


A photo on Page A-3 of The Record today shows Staff Writer Rebecca O'Brien being congratulated by Editor Marty Gottlieb and colleagues on Monday -- a rare glimpse inside a newsroom that fosters mediocrity.

The paper's series on the North Jersey heroin epidemic by O'Brien and Tom Mashberg was named a Pulitzer Prize "finalist" in the local news category.

But the actual prize was given to the Tampa Bay Times for  a probe of housing for the homeless that led "to swift reforms" (A-3).


Meanwhile, the hard-working O'Brien is surrounded by mediocre colleagues, as columns on A-1 and L-1, and a health story on the Better Living cover demonstrate today.

The Record is no different than other media in being unable to resist anniversaries.

Today, burned-out Columnist Mike Kelly rehashes last year's Boston Marathon Bombing, which readers are already sick and tired of (A-1).

On the Local front, Road Warrior John Cichowski claims police are pulling over "a record number of motorists as if they were stray cattle at a roundup" (L-1).

What an odd phrase to describe drivers using cellphones in North Jersey. 

And I haven't noticed any unusual enforcement of distracted driving, just as I hardly ever see drivers stopped for speeding or blowing through stop signs, far more dangerous behavior.

No local news

There is so little local news today, L-6 carries four obituaries of obscure people most readers have never heard of.

The really bad news today is on Page 1.

The state budget gap keeps growing -- $145 million for March -- and The Record still has not reported what programs were cut by Governor Christie, who claims to have trimmed $700 million in spending (A-1).

The lead story today adds a great deal of detail to Christie's "intertwined government and political operations," which led to the George Washington Bridge scandal, among other things (A-1). 

Crappy reporting

The Better Living editors debut Your Health, a "new weekly health page," but the first major story is disappointing (BL-1).

The reporter, John Petrick, says "organic," "natural" and "free-range" are "seemingly healthy buzz terms" that don't mean "much." 

Yet on the continuation page, he concedes "organic at least has meaning, if not proven benefits" (BL-2).

What crappy reporting and editing. 

In  fact, organic food is grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are banned.

Organic meat and poultry are grass fed or raised on a vegetarian diet without harmful animal antibiotics and growth hormones.

Back from exile?

A decade ago, Petrick became a features writer at The Record, beating out at least one reporter who sought the promotion from then-Editor Francis "Frank" Scandale.

Then, another editor decided to exile Petrick to covering criminal and civil trials at the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson. Is he back in features now?

He did a great job as a courthouse reporter, but this first health story isn't up to that standard.

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