|A Park Ridge police car (Credit: flickr.com)|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
Today's sensational front page leaves readers of The Record wondering whether two college athletes from Morris County threw their lives away by ignoring a basic safety measure:
Not using their seat belts.
Their luxury SUV hurtled off Route 287 in Mahwah on Sunday, ejecting both of them from the vehicle and killing them (A-1).
Meanwhile, Editor Deirdre Sykes seems to be saying that the lives of former Don Bosco Prep students Sam Cali and Leo Vagias, both 19, are worth more than a pedestrian who was run down and killed by a driver in Park Ridge on the same day.
That person is treated as so much road kill, with Sykes burying the story deep in the local section.
The victim and a second pedestrian, who was injured in the same incident, aren't identified, and there is no information about whether the unidentified driver has been charged in the death.
To make up for that, Sykes is running a large photo of a damaged barrier "at the scene of a fatal accident Sunday on Park Avenue near Park Ridge Borough Hall" (L-6).
Staff Writers Abbott Koloff and Stefanie Dazio handled both the story about the childhood friends who died in the crash off of Route 287 and the one about the dead pedestrian.
Dazio is the paper's overworked police reporter, and Koloff is one of the people on rewrite who produces the account that appears in the paper based on her reporting from the field and information supplied by police and prosecutors -- or not supplied, as in these stories.
As you can see in today's report on the highway fatalities, The Record often ignores the basics -- was the driver and passenger wearing seat belts, was the driver speeding or had he been drinking?
Readers also don't know whether the Park Ridge pedestrians were in a crosswalk when they were struck.
This wouldn't be such a big issue for readers, if Sykes didn't rely so heavily on routine police, fire and court news to fill gaping holes in her municipal news report.
As an example, look at today's huge photo of two firemen on the roof of a home in Paramus during a "fast-moving fire Monday" (L-1).
This kind of coverage changes the well-worn admonition, "Where there's smoke, there's fire" to "Where there's a smoky fire photo, there's no news."