Monday, May 18, 2015

Self-serve gasoline could be bad for air quality in N.J.

This two-pump gas station on Sylvan Avenue in Englewood Cliffs will probably never convert to self-service, even if the law is changed to allow it.


The Record's front-page story on a proposal to allow self-serve gas stations in New Jersey raises a lot of questions about prices that are never answered.

The story claims drivers pay a "full-service premium ... at the pump" estimated "at 8 cents to 18 cents a gallon," but doesn't say whether prices will be cut, if self-serve is approved (A-6).

Nor does The Record say how much the gasoline tax might be raised, and whether the net effect will be lower prices at the pump.

Cutting gasoline prices would transform a quality of life report into an environmental story, if lower prices encourage more driving and discourage the purchase of hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars.

Of course, the New Jersey Gasoline C-Store Automotive Association probably wouldn't pass along labor savings to the consumer.

Members of the owners group have been charged with numerous wage violations.

Confusing numbers

At one point, the story reports self-serve pumps "would mean the loss of hundreds of part-time jobs," but a few paragraphs later notes gas stations employ about 5,000 attendants who pump gas, most of them part time (A-6).

Today's lead story on A-1 reports air pollution is getting worse in New Jersey. 

A proposal that might lead to lower gas prices and encourage more driving certainly isn't welcome in the Garden State, where mass transit is already operating at capacity.

Letterman effect

If the page proofer, news and copy editors, and other members of the newsroom production staff are still watching David Letterman, readers might finally have an explanation for the dramatic spike in errors in recent years (BL-1).

Letterman's "Late Show" was a fixture in the newsroom before the Borg family's North Jersey Media Group abandoned Hackensack in 2009.

Even more significant, moving the printing of The Record to Rockaway Township from Hackensack a couple of years earlier apparently ended the tradition of checking the first copies for errors, stopping the presses and fixing them.

Six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton has done a miserable job of ensuring accurate headlines, and all editing seems to have ended, allowing reporters and columnists to write on and on, and spin fiction if they want.

All this coverage -- today and Sunday -- of Letterman's final show on Wednesday is a waste of space. 

After I left the paper, I never watched the comedian again.

Second looks

Take a look at the corrections on Saturday's A-2 for examples of what a crappy job Houlton and the news and copy editors under her are doing.

One headline "gave the incorrect town in which seven people face prostitution-related charges."

Another correction fixed the misspelling of a Bergen County official's name, but also gave the name of his agency incorrectly.

Adam Strobel was identified as "division director for open space." The division isn't named.

The Strobel correction noted the "impact" of raising the open-space tax also was wrong in a story on Friday's L-6.

Death Valley

Sunday's Travel section cover story on California's Death Valley National Park was beautifully written by Staff Writer Lindy Washburn, the paper's chief medical reporter.

Her description of the landscape and "a silence as immense as any on earth" makes me want to visit even more than I did before (T-1).

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