Star-Ledger Death Watch - Does This Wheel Roate?
Journalists, in my experience, truly agonize over typos. At least the serious ones do. And I write this even as I also recognize that, no matter how many pairs of eyes look over a "piece" of copy (which of course is no longer in hard copy form), things can and will slip through. Serious journalists, however, often wish to kill themselves when something like this occurs.Yes, they take it that seriously.
Still, in the Star-Ledger this past Sunday, there was this, in headline-sized type on page 5 of Section Five (meaning the Sunday Sports section), in a story about the Yankees as they begin spring training: ""Questions abound: Aging roation a key cog." All but the biggest numbnuts out there will note the missing "t" in the word "rotation," but perhaps those ranks include the Star-Ledger's editors.
Now, this is a terrible headline in the first place, and as such it probably should have led into a Jerry Izenberg column. But worse than that, it is the sort of reason journalists and reporters ponder falling on their swords. And type is no longer set in the traditional fashion, so that excuse, that a piece somehow got "lost" while being set, isn't viable.
At a paper where one can clearly prove on a daily basis that so few apparently know the difference between "it's" and "its," however, this kind of contempt for one's own craft seems disastrous. Just another indication that the Ledger is in its death throes, writhing on the newsroom floor while coughing up blood.
More's The Pity
In a possibly related development, and perhaps the dumbest-sounding remark I've ever read in a Jersey newspaper (which is saying something in this state), the Star-Ledger's editor Kevin Whitmer, in a story Sunday on how his paper did for 2012 in the New Jersey Press Association's "Better Newspaper Contest," said that "Winning awards in New Jersey is difficult because there is so much competition." And when he made this utterance (which seems to me on the level of Senator Menendez's pitiful attempts at public literacy), somewhere Homer Simpson said the loudest, most sustained 'Doh!" he has ever said.
Nonetheless, our plucky Ledger editor also opined that 2012 was "a year of remarkable accomplishments." I'm reasonably sure he didn't mean either the Ledger's economic woes, its recent layoffs or even the fact that Jerry Izenberg keeps churning out dreck for his employer.
It Gets Worse
Intrigued by the Ledger's proud announcement that it had won 42 NJPA awards for 2012, I went to the NJPA's own website. Where I naturally expected to find proud headlines about the NJPA's awards. (And I really don't begrudge the Ledger its awards, they seem to still be "big fish" in a rapidly draining journalistic pond and that's fine.)
Still, the opening page of the NJPA's own website doesn't include so much as one stirring quote from the likes of Thomas Jefferson or Lenin or even Jerry Springer (I read it's his birthday day, if so we should all go and do as Jerry once did: get elected mayor of a large city, solicit a prostitute and get busted for that by a cop who doesn't recognize him as his ultimate superior) as to the value of a free press. And it certainly doesn't proudly tout its own supposedly prestigious journalism awards.
Rather, and this is truly terrifying, the cover page encourages visitors to its website to place either their statewide classified or display ad "Now." In some circles, this is termed pandering of the worst sort. It definitely does not inspire confidence as to the common desire and moral resolution of Jersey's daily and weekly papers alike to hold high the banner of a free, independent press as long as possible.
Interestingly, too, in the Ledger's own story on those 42 awards (it's credited to "Star-Ledger staff," as well it might), the claim is made that "the Star-Ledger competes against daily newspapers with daily circulations of more than 35,000." But last year, in its own story on its NJ.com website, written by the Ledger's Jessica Calefati and about the awards the paper picked up from the NJPA for its 2011 efforts, the claim was that the Ledger competes against dailies with daily circs of more than 45,000 (italics mine).
So it's either a simple factual error (fairly common in all of Jersey's dailies, if distressing) or a major "readjustment" downwards by the NJPA of the criteria for its own lead awards category. The latter possibility is deeply chilling. Things may indeed be this bad for Jersey newspapers.