Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Record's telephone reporting cheats readers

On Wednesday morning, I saw freshly patched potholes on Prospect Avenue in Hackensack, near the Camelot high-rise, but Euclid and Prospect avenues, above, looked like this on Wednesday afternoon and today.


A front-page headline in The Record today declares, "It's too soon to assess health law."

But Staff Writer Colleen Diskin, one of the least productive veterans in the Woodland Park newsroom, apparently did her news gathering with a telephone and a computer.

Diskin and her assignment editor saw no need for the reporter to leave the building and interview North Jersey residents in search of answers to all of the questions the story raises  (A-1 and A-8).

"Time will tell if it lowers
costs, adds subscribers"

That's the awkward sub-headline on the story, which cites "a paucity of data on a number of key questions."

Gee. What about going to a mall, and interviewing people who signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and seeking answers to those "key questions"?

That's Reporting 101. This tortured story cheats readers.

To complicate things, the story is labeled an "ANALYSIS," and filled with talking heads -- so-called experts and others who caution against drawing quick conclusions. 

One source's title consumes three lines on the continuation page.

Money talks

The Supreme Court has reaffirmed that money talks, freeing wealthy donors to give to as many political candidates and campaigns as they want (A-1).

An editorial appears to be displeased with the high court declaring that campaign contributions are a form of "free speech" (A-18).

But The Record covered Governor Christie's last campaign against Democrat Barbara Buono based almost totally on how much money each candidate raised.

The editors anointed Christie, who had a huge lead in fund-raising, as the winner months before the November election.

Sloppy reporting

In many cases, Buono's campaign appearances were buried inside the paper, while Christie hogged Page 1 time and again.

Somehow, the Christie-loving editors, columnists and reporters never discovered just how desperate the GOP bully was, judging from this year's allegations of political retribution against Democrats who refused to endorse him for a second term.

For example, another Page 1 story today reports state employees sought Christie campaign endorsements from the same public officials they worked with in their taxpayer-funded jobs (A-1).

The Tesla Model S, an all-electric, four-door luxury sedan. The company is fighting a proposed ban on direct sales in New Jersey.

Law & Order

For the third or fourth day in a row, Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza relies heavily on police, fire and court news to flesh out another thin local report (L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-6).

Instead of running a photo of a traffic jam caused by the lack of mass transit, Sforza runs a photo of a fuel spill in Fair Lawn that tied up traffic in several towns, thanks to our antiquated road system (L-2).

In Tuesday's Road Warrior column on L-1, Staff Writer John Cichowski made major errors in reprising parts of an interim state report on the benefits of red-light cameras.

See the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

DOT makes a fool of the Road Warrior

Cheap reporting

The lamest form of business reporting is the anniversary story.

Today, Staff Writer Joan Verdon profiles Tony Conza, who copied an Italian hero sandwich and helped start the Blimpie fast-food chain 50 years ago (L-7).

Why waste the space? It's not as if Blimpie's low-quality, preservative-filled cold cuts broke any new nutritional ground.

In other business news, California-based Tesla is appealing the state Motor Vehicle Commission's decision to bar direct sale of the all-electric Model S after April 15 (L-8).

Tesla has showrooms in Paramus and Short Hills.

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