It's Academic: 'Star-Ledger' Footnotes Major Series

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By: Joe Strupp In an unusual book-type approach to news, The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. is running a 15-part series on a local convicted killer, but with a twist. In an effort to use a long-form narrative, which Editor Jim Willse says lends itself better to the unusual story, the paper is including footnotes with each installment, both online and in print.

"This is our answer to a classic challenge in long form - how do you attribute without breaking up the narrative?" Willse said Monday, a day after the series began. "In this kind of series, when we are going back in time, we are recounting conversations. It is terribly important for the reader to know how we could give such verbatim conversations."

The series, by Robin Gaby Fisher and Judith Lucas, focuses on Robert Zarinsky, who is up for parole this fall for the unusual killing of one Rose Mary Calendriello, whose body was never found.

He also was acquitted in the 1958 killing of a police officer, Charles Bernoskie, but lost a civil law suit by Bernoskie's widow, who won a $150,000 judgment against him. Recently, however, a judge ordered the widow to return the money, adding even more intrigue to his situation.

All of this sparked the newspaper to reexamine Zarinsky's life in total, beginning with the police officers' death nearly 50 years ago. "The guy keeps getting in the news," Willse said about the recent court ruling and potential parole. "We got interested in it because he is periodically up for parole and has a review in November and could be freed."

Willse called Zarinsky "a classic jailhouse lawyer. He's got various appeals going all the time."

The Star-Ledger also is offering what appears to be its largest podcast ever online, with veteran newsroom features editor Wallace Stroby reading the series for the audio files, available at no charge on the paper's site, www.nj.com .

"We thought he had the right sensibility for it," Willse said of Stroby, who has written two murder mysteries of his own. "We will reprint the series and offer an audio CD of the podcast."

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