Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pass the popcorn and amphetamines

Reading the quality of work produced by the northern region’s top news editors can be a stark reminder of why the small- to mid-sized dailies they preside over appear to be going nowhere but downhill. And fast.

Normally, a statement like that would be followed by the mention of a certain managing editor on Lake Avenue. But this time, the recalcitrance award goes to the Post Star city editor Bob Condon, who produced this gem of a narrated slideshow on the paper’s Web site after making a trip to the Crescent city last month. To his credit, it’s a short account, which is fortunate, seeing as though another few graphs would have needed counter-balancing with handfuls of amphetamines.

First, let’s point out some basics. Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2004, which was more than 14 months ago. There’s no breaking news, no anniversary follow-up, no new local news, other than Condon hits the Big Easy for a conference. This basically means that the story of Katrina recovery is dead for most readers in northern New York, barring usual circumstances warranting a feature, say a local group of blind Jehovah’s Witnesses single-handedly rebuilding New Orleans’ 9th Ward using stacks of surplus bibles and duct tape. But for everything else, it’s best to leave it to the Time Picayune or any of the host of other news agencies that toil in Louisiana.

Second, a travel journal of any distant venture can be interesting, provided it’s written with zeal and from the angle of an imbedded tourist, feasting on the marrow of a culture foreign to the readers. But when such writing is a quote-free account of what appears to be a bus ride through an impoverished neighborhood of a city that was in bad shape even before Katrina hit, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi that is lost for even the most Byronesque writers.

Condon blasts right by these precepts and a dozen or so others he’d probably apply to his bullpen of writers to produce a pictorial that would make boring uncle Fred’s holiday slideshow about his recent trip to Gettysburg seem like a box office smash. No interviews, no color commentary, no insight, just New Orleans is recovering in places. And in others, it’s not.

For those who lack the fortitude to get through this 19-picture and 229-word account, here’s a quick recap: the Riverwalk Mall food court still hasn’t fully reopened and one of the poor saps that bit it after the hurricane struck is still dead and buried. Thanks for the news update, Bob. Perhaps you should stick to paginating.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I normally enjoy your commentary and find it right on the mark, but that's just plain mean.

Obviously, the paper's trying to jump on the Web bandwagon (albeit clumsily, and several years after it left the station) and this seems to have been an extra effort from an editor to help out in his spare time. So, maybe he's never going to be a professional documentarian. Big deal. It's a "Web extra," not the paper's main news content.

Now take those reindeer antlers off your little dog and return the presents to Whoville, please.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Admittedly, a bit Grinch-spirited at a time when there’s no reason to trample on poor Whoville; touché, I’ll say.

Occasionally, the mornings rifling through these articles leave me with incredibly little forgiveness, especially when it comes to pieces produced by local editors, who are and should be held to the highest of standards.

However I do stand by my criticism of Mr. Condon’s lackluster work by saying an editor of his acclaim should know the difference between something that’s a good read and something that’s just haphazardly thrown online so that the paper can boast more Web content.

And if that was an honest attempt at a photo journal, then the good editor should really step back and reflect on that piece for a moment. Good photo journals have vibrant pictures and compelling writing; mediocre photo journals usually have one or the other. This, however, was lacking in all senses of the term; certainly not what I expected from the longtime city editor of a normally creative paper that was once challenging for the best in northern region.

7:55 AM  

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