Friday, January 16, 2009

What's up with the New Paltz Times?

Is it me, or was this week's issue of the New Paltz Times particularly tough to read?

I'm not talking about emotionally wrenching or frustrating stories - of which there were plenty, mind you - but the sheer density of bizarre errors that riddled the latest issue like termites through a lonely widow's home.  The volume and variety of mistakes make it clear that no one person could possibly be to blame, even if the paper is shortstaffed, which I suspect is true.  I had a tough time getting through it, because by the time I got to the end of an article the only thing I could remember was strange mistake that made it unique.  Let's take a look at a smattering, in no particular order:
  1. The page one article Change in Chairs does not continue on page 6 - you'll need to turn to page eight.
  2. In that same article, it was noted that Lloyd ZBA member John DiLorenzo "formerly submitted a letter asking not to be reappointed."  I'm sure it happened before the article, but I think formally was the word that the reporter was looking for.  In fact, it's the very word used further down the page when discussing a quote by outgoing ZBA member Joan deVries Kelley.
  3. The article itself, which was exclusively about appointment by the Lloyd Town Board, is inexplicably topped by a picture of the New Paltz Town Board at its reorganizational meeting.
  4. Futon Life, about the closing of the Foreign Wide, amused me.  Two lines below the where the word "wholesale" is correctly spelled, it's used again - but incorrectly spelled as two words.
  5. On page seven, in side-by-side articles two different reporters shared the same redundant phrasing.  We read about how "members of the Town Planning Board members" discussed changes to the sign ordinance, while two columns away Jonathan Wright, "a member of the planning board member," is quoted on a separate issue.
That's five errors that took me about five minutes to find, in a paper that's only twenty-eight pages long.  I know that all newspapers have mistakes, and I certainly make my own fair share, but that's errors on 17.8% of the pages without me looking particularly hard.  In fact, I avoided looking over another front-page article entirely because that piece almost sent my wife the English and Journalism teacher into apoplexy, and I figured I'd let her provide her own reaction to that one if she chose.  So, what's up with errors?

Now I know three Ulster Publishing employees that are involved with this paper personally, and I like and respect them all.  I also have exchanged frequent emails with the editor, who has remained professional, pleasant, and cordial even when my frustration with decisions made over her head certainly put her patience to the test.  All of my contacts  with New Paltz Times staff members leave me the impression that these are bright, talented people who are more than capable of putting together a fine weekly community paper.

I won't claim to be a fan of Ulster Publishing or its head honcho, who sits in an ivory tower dictating editorial decisions that regularly draw ire if the letters page is any indication, but I'm more than a little worried here.  Is he making life so miserable that his skilled staff is losing heart?  Will the drudgery of working for someone that cuts obituaries in favor of ads going to sap their wills so deeply that the New Paltz Times will lose readers faster even than other print newspapers?  I still like having a community newspaper, even one steering a course I don't agree with.  If our little paper gets so bad that it tanks, I doubt it will be easily replaced (unless the publisher of the Chronogram gets a hankering for weekly news, but Christmas is over by a long shot).

I'm probably being melodramatic; the New Paltz Times will exist as long as people buy it, and people in New Paltz would rather have news riddled with problems than no news at all.  But I really do hope that working conditions improve at Ulster Publishing.


kt said...

um... was this on purpose?

"Now I know three Ulster Publishing employees that are involved with this paper personally, and I like and respect them both."

Terence said...

Well, I did say that I certainly make my own fair share.

Brian Mahoney said...

Re the errors in the recent issue of the New Paltz Times: As someone who tries to keep the errors in his own publication to a minimum but often fails miserably in that regard, I have unconditional empathy Debbie Alexsa and the staff of the NP Times. Understaffing and tight deadlines are the Scylla and Charybdis of local publishing. That being said, Terrence is right to call the paper on the carpet for its errors.
The NP Times, however, plays an important role as a source of local-generated journalism for NP and the surrounding area. I hope that Ulster Publishing will be able to continue

Robin said...

Having recovered from the near-apoplexy referenced by my husband, I thought it would be appropriate to post here the letter that I send to the NPT editor this week:

I see by your staff box, New Paltz Times, that you have an Managing Editor. You also have Contributing Editors and a Production Manager.

Maybe it's time to spring for a Proofreader?

Never mind that the last issue offered two briefs (one on page 2 and one on page 6) offering virtually identical information about a biomass products forum...

Or that I'm frequently frustrated by certain reporters' biased or purple prose...

No, this week I'm twitching after reading "The Next Loop," one of the most obvious examples that nobody at your newspaper proofreads material before it goes to print. A few of the problems:
no byline (so I don't even know the name of the reporter who made the following ridiculous mistakes that didn't get caught before going to print);
numerous sentence fragments, none of which could be explained away as choices of "style" -- stylistically, they were utterly ineffective, and clearly the product of terrible basic writing skills;
multiple mistakes of usage with there/their/they're -- I'm certain any of my high school English or journalism students could help you out with these.
Honestly, NPT...I love you, but you're not a daily. You've got the time to do it right. Once a week, have somebody check the text -- I beg you.

J. Robin Ward
New Paltz

Robin said...

Of course, NOW I notice an inappropriate "an" where "a" should have been. D'oh!

Anonymous said...

YES! I just sent a letter to the NPT about typos in an article about Hawai'i 2 weeks ago, and was happy to see your letter as well, Robin. My family and friends (many of us writers, some of us editors and professional journalists, and all of us passionate and snobby readers) all make a weekly ritual to point out the myriad typos, errors, and inaccuracies in our otherwise lovely local paper.

I am so proud we have a local paper with local news, local writers, local ads, all that. But it would be doing our community a disservice to pretend to be proud of the craftsmanship of the paper. We can do better!

Also-can someone please explain to me the mystery of Marlborough/Marlboro? Does this town honestly not know how to spell its own name?

tg said...

Both Marlboro and Marlborough know how to spell their names. Five seconds on google reveals that "[t]he town of Marlborough is made up of the hamlets of Marlboro and Milton."