By VICTOR E. SASSON
If you're a reporter covering state or federal courts, you soon get used to stupid questions from the editors directing coverage in the newsroom.
"When is the jury coming back?" is an especially annoying question courthouse reporters hear -- in view of the jurors' secret deliberations.
You can bet editors asking stupid questions led to Page 1 stories today and Tuesday trying to predict what will happen at the federal trial of two former allies of Governor Christie in the George Washington Bridge lane closures three years ago.
On Tuesday, Staff Writer Paul Berger, who covers the Port Authority, weighed the chances of Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, the former aides and confidants, being convicted -- like the 190 other men and women facing "federal charges in New Jersey in the past six years."
Today, Berger and Peter J. Sampson, who covers federal court in Newark for The Record, provide readers with another tutorial -- Jury Selection 101 (A-1).
The headlines are especially ridiculous, because the jurors are the triers of facts, and will decide the guilt or innocence of the defendants:
"Judge's first challenge
is finding unbiased panel"
And on the continuation page:
"JURY: May swing GWB trial"
No. They definitely will "swing" the trial.
A Bridgegate editorial appears on A-8, noting Christie once joked he moved the traffic cones himself to close access lanes to the bridge, triggering five mornings of gridlock in Fort Lee.
"Little would surprise New Jersey residents ... even if Christie's jest turned out to have been the truth."
And for the first time, The Record is calling the publicly funded $8 million report from a law firm that exonerated Christie "a whitewash."
New York skyline
The star of today's front page is the story on the renewal of the Manhattan skyline, part of The Record's coverage of the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America (A-1).
Don't miss the centerfold by Staff Writer James M. O'Neill -- "REACHING NEW HEIGHTS" -- which amounts to a love letter from North Jersey residents who have watched the transformation of the skyline since the Twin Towers were leveled (A-4 and A-5).
9/11 flag recovered
The story on recovery of the flag raised over the rubble of the World Trade Center recalls one of the darkest days in The Record's Hackensack newsroom, which was in use until 2009 (L-1).
The events had nothing to do with the terrorist attack itself or the column of black smoke rising from the rubble -- clearly visible through the big windows of the fourth-floor newsroom, where the staff had just put out an extra and were working on the morning edition of Sept. 12, 2001.
When the flag-raising photo captured by Staff Photographer Thomas E. Franklin was transmitted to the newsroom, the front page had already been made up with a photo showing pretty much what every other paper had -- an image of the smoking towers or a plane flying into one of them.
Photo Director Rich Gigli couldn't persuade Editor Frank Scandale and the woman he succeeded, Vivian Waixel, to put Franklin's photo on Page 1, because bean counters decided remaking the front page would be too expensive.
Franklin's photo ended up on a back page in the paper of Sept. 12, 2001, and that likely destroyed his chances of winning a Pulitzer Prize for Photography.
That same business mentality was used when The Record reprinted thousands of copies of the Sept. 11, 2001, extra without correcting a front-page photo caption that misidentified the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center.
In the years that followed, Jennifer A. Borg, then vice president and general counsel of The Record, jealously guarded the copyright of Franklin's iconic photo.
But that didn't stop the advertising department from inserting a glossy 8-inch-by-11-inch copy of the 9/11 flag-raising image into the paper one day.
On the flip side was an ad for All American Ford in Hackensack.