Friday, March 23, 2007

Typos

People make mistakes. That’s why they put erasers on pencils. But when you’re getting paid the big bucks to be the managing editor of a daily newspaper and you’re still making the same bonehead mistakes a first-year reporter might make, it’s time to re-evaluate your position in journalism.

This is especially the case if you happen to be the head steward and guiding light of The Saratogian while making those mistakes. Such was the case in Barbara Lombardo’s slip-shod advertorial “localizing” the television shoot of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in neighboring Albany County.

It’s no secret that Lombardo is a nine-to-fiver, who relies heavily on Microsoft Word and her crew of copy editors to clean up the prose that is routinely published with glaring typos and grammatical errors. But when a news veteran of nearly three decades of editorial experience confuses the word “to” with “two” in a repetitious and verbose 43-word lead to a non-story, she also provides her critics with unequivocal proof of why her paper is such an abysmal publication.

Pushing all this aside, however, it’s a bit curious that Lombardo bothered to jump on the media circus bandwagon bound for Colonie. With the home located more than 30 miles away from the newsroom on Lake Avenue, it almost seems as if Lombardo can’t find enough news in the city or Saratoga County to fill the flimsy paper each day.

Lombardo did manage to get in a good shout-out for all the local businesses expected to contribute to the project, something which might pay dividends for The Saratogian’s ad department later down the road. After all, as long as the advertising dough keeps rolling in, the Journal Register Company’s bean counters shouldn’t be too concerned over small things like news content and the local paper serving as a vital information source for the local community.

Neither should Lombardo, who hasn’t shown an interest in changing the paper or challenging her newsroom since it was jettisoned by Gannett nearly a decade ago. In Lombardo’s extremely limited defense, the profit-hungry ad-pandering whores at JRC have never given much credence to improving the quality of their product; in essence, Lombardo is their perfect shill, an editor who has no problem cutting news content if it will make the corporate overlords a bit happier.

As some may recall, chief executive Robert Jelenic insisted JRC planned to increase the paper's size by as much as 50 percent, to at least 24 pages daily at the time of the sale in Februarys 1998. He also pledged not to layoff a single Saratogian worker. Less than a month later, JRC canned more than two dozen full- and part-time workers. These departures were followed a year later by Monte Trammer, the paper’s publisher of 13 years, who inconspicuously left for a new job with Gannett in lovely Elmira of all places. Meanwhile, Lombardo donned her best Sunday suit and smiled for her chiseling corporate overlords.

Since that time, the corner office on Lake Avenue has seen no less than six JRC publishers, including one on an interim basis and another recently transplanted from the Troy Record. The Saratogian continues to hang around 10,000 daily subscribers, making it the smallest daily publication in the region to report circulation numbers, despite being located in a city with a population of 31,000 and a rapidly growing county of more than 265,000 residents.

But the penny-pinching JRC swindlers seem very content with the increasingly recalcitrant Lombardo, who seems equally smug with doing virtually nothing to improve the quality of the newspaper. Of course, “to succeed in this market, you have to believe in evolution,” a veteran news editor was once quoted saying.

"You don't have to be the big guy to survive, but you have to be able to adapt," Lombardo told the Times Union during a journalism seminar in 1991.

Well, it’s high time for a true news organization to pluck The Saratogian from the corporate clutches of JRC and “adapt” Lombardo into an early retirement –or at least out of her job. Maybe then, some good community journalism can return to the Spa City

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