Sunday, January 1, 2017

When journalism and politics collide, readers are big losers

Cartoonist Dave Granlund speaks for tens of millions of people across the United States.


In a major disservice to readers, Columnists Charles Stile and Mike Kelly of The Record aren't giving up their focus on partisan politics.

Stile's front-page piece discusses the coming political battles over a number of issues in Trenton and Washington, ignoring which outcomes would be good for the state and the nation (1A).

On the Opinion front, Kelly tackles Governor Christie's declining popularity, and such compelling questions as "can the Democrats [who control the state Legislature] find their mojo?"

'One nation'

The Record is part of Gannett's USA Today network, which explains why a woman in far-off Virginia is the first "exceptional American" featured in a new series, "One Nation" (1A and 1O).

The series will focus on someone "who unites, rather than divides, our communities" -- an apparent reference to the hate speech that got President-in-Waiting Donald J. Trump elected on Nov. 8.

Past and present

Today and Saturday, editors and reporters looked at the past year in "Remembering North Jerseyans we mourned in 2016" and forward in "17 people to watch in 2017."

On Friday's front page, an article discussed the medical basis for concluding that Debbie Reynolds died of a broken heart one day after the death of her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher.

But when Teaneck Mayor Lizette Parker died at 44 in 2016, as noted on Saturday's front page, The Record never attempted to explain in medical terms why she and so many other African-Americans die in their 40s and 50s.

'Oh shoot!'

In November, when Gannett launched an unannounced redesign of The Record, production of the paper was shifted to Neptune from Woodland Park.

As a result, errors have soared to a new level, especially in photo captions.

On Saturday, probably because of the enormous amount of space devoted to a fire in a garbage compactor chute in Paterson, one error jumped out.

"Chute" was spelled "shoot" in the caption for an enormous photo showing firefighters in front of a high-rise on Presidential Boulevard (3L on Saturday).

A second photo caption that day, this one on 6L, apparently was taken from, because it is in the present tense: 

"A wrong-way accident is causing traffic problems on Route 21 ....[italics added]." 

Also, the day of the accident is given as "Friday morning on Dec. 30, 2016."  

Group of the day

The editors continue to run Page 1 stories on groups:

On Thursday, a so-called Analysis declared environmentalists are "optimistic" about 2017. 

On Friday, adoptees were said to be looking forward to Jan. 1 and a new state law calling for the release of their birth certificates, which could identify their mothers.

Food crawl

Ridgewood and Englewood are two Bergen County towns known for their restaurants, but Friday's "food crawl" in the Better Living section suggested readers jump into their cars for a much longer trip to Nyack, N.Y.

The article carries the byline of Liz Johnson, and guess what, she is the former food editor at a Gannett newspaper who lives in Nyack, and helped conduct a similar food crawl in the town last summer.

How convenient for her, and how inconvenient for Bergen County readers.

Another problem is that Johnson provides no prices for any of the dishes she sampled at four restaurants.

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