Saturday, April 19, 2014

Editors are exploiting every misery in Paterson

As commuters streamed by on a chilly spring day this week, homeless men and women warmed themselves with coffee inside the main NJ Transit entrance of Penn Station in Manhattan.


I pity readers who rely on The Record of Woodland Park for their knowledge of Paterson, a pioneering industrial center that harnessed the power of the Great Falls and immigrant workers to earn the title of "Silk City."

Under former Editor Francis "Frank" Scandale, Paterson was most often portrayed as a drug bazaar that lured white suburbanites, many of whom overdosed and met untimely deaths.

In a boneheaded decision, Scandale even ran a map showing readers where they could find drug dealers, and never put the city's Police Department on the spot for lax enforcement.

Editor Marty Gottlieb exploited that same Paterson theme in a 2013 series on North Jersey's heroin epidemic, and the stories were among the finalists in this year's Pulitzer Prize competition.

Drive-by shootings and murders, spectacular and often deadly fires in slum dwellings, failing schools, greedy public officials, South Paterson as the neighborhood that harbored 9/11 hijackers -- every negative has been exploited by The Record's editors to sell papers.

Today, Page 1 screams about "shocking ... blood and cruelty" after two people were arrested for running a dog-fighting ring and 21 pit bulls were rescued by Paterson's John DeCando, North Jersey's most-visible animal control officer (A-1).

Race based?

Another front-page story today doesn't discuss the racial makeup of Ramapo, N.Y., where Ford Motor Co. has been ordered to remove "almost all of the toxic paint sludge" the automaker dumped there decades ago, in contrast to a plan to cap much more Ford waste a few miles away in Ringwood. (A-1).

Readers have no way of knowing whether the Rockland County, N.Y., town is being treated differently than the Upper Ringwood neighborhood, because of discrimination against mixed-race Ramapoughs who live in the North Jersey community.

GWB scandal

Readers who have called on The Record and other media "to move on" and stop writing about the George Washington Bridge scandal were greeted by another front-page story today that explores for the first time lawyer David Samson's influence in the Christie administration (A-1).

Samson has been called a mentor and father figure to Governor Christie, who named the lawyer chairman of the Port Authority, where he ran interference for clients of his law firm, Wolff & Samson.

The powerful lawyer is among members of Christie's inner circle who resigned in the wake of allegations of political retribution against Democrats in the months before last November's election.

Christ and potholes

The Local section today manages to wrap up in a single story Easter, the suffering of Christ and how an actor injured himself on a Paterson pothole that hasn't been repaired weeks after the end of a brutal winter (L-1).

Why does it take a Good Friday procession to get the editors to dramatize the danger of all of those still-gaping potholes on streets and highways in North Jersey? 

Second looks

The Record's lazy local-news editors ran a Page 1 story on Thursday, praising Hackensack Police Officer Victor Vazquez for saving the life of an elderly woman, arresting a suspect in a violent robbery and assisting in the arrest of two drug suspects on Route 80.

But the story wasn't based on original reporting. 

Jerry DeMarco's ran a piece on the cop's exploits two days earlier. 

Meanwhile, a concerned reader e-mailed managers and editors of The Record, reporting that Road Warrior John Cichowski "confused and misled readers in his Sunday and Tuesday columns about the dangers, state regulations and a recent crackdown on driving while talking or texting on handheld cellphones."

See the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers, which chronicles all of the befuddled reporter's many errors in these and past columns:

More errors on a familiar Road Warrior theme

Facts can't curb out-of-control Road Warrior

Friday, April 18, 2014

When you add up the numbers, we're screwed

NJ Transit says you cannot take a bus from Hackensack to the ferry terminal off of River Road (Port Imperial Boulevard) in Weehawken, above. Parking in a lot near the terminal is $13 or $15 in a garage, and the round-trip senior fare is $16.50. 

The ferry approaching the Manhattan terminal.


One of the funniest things I've read in The Record appears on Page 1 today.

Jane Huang of Alpine says of the parcel she sold for $5 million -- more than doubling what she paid in 2002:

"Where can you find 2 acres 15 minutes from midtown Manhattan?" 

Doesn't add up

Let's hope she didn't use that bit of fiction as a selling point, because the sad state of mass transit and growing traffic congestion makes that trip possible only in the middle of the night.

Why is this gee-whiz real estate story out front when readers find only a few paragraphs on Page 1 about the sad state of New Jersey's economy under Governor Christie?

New Jersey has lost 1,900 jobs so far this year (A-1 and B-1).

"New Jersey's labor market is going nowhere slowly," said one researcher. "Nothing stands out as a reason to be optimistic about where we are going."

Lazy editors

Other numbers could lift our spirits, but The Record's lazy editors didn't bother localizing the lead Page 1 story on the Affordable Care Act signing up 8 million people (A-1).

So, The Associated Press story tells readers California's state-run insurance exchange signed up 1.4 million, outpacing estimates.

But there are no numbers for New Jersey, where Christie sabotaged the roll-out by refusing to set up a state exchange or even use more than $7 million in federal funds to market federal health insurance.

Christie, Zisa

In a letter to the editor, Paula Rogovin of Teaneck says she and other taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for the whitewash report clearing Christie of any wrongdoing in the George Washington Bridge lane closures (A-12).

Christie hired the lawyers that wrote the report, and their firm donated money to the Republican Governors Association, which the GOP bully chairs.

"Instead," she wrote, "let's use the $1 million to pay for health and mental health services, jobs, education and housing for ... veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan."

In a second letter, this one reacting to an editorial about the corrupt Ken Zisa, Hackensack City Councilman Leo Battaglia notes:

 "The city was was too tightly controlled by the political machine headed by Zisa and his circle of powerful political cronies for anyone to challenge their power."

Battaglia, a member of the reform slate that took office last July, says, "The abuse of power and the intimidation of employees and citizens will not be tolerated by this council."

Editors on vacation

Today's Local section is filled mostly with Law & Order news.

Does the hanging of a portrait of Fair Lawn Officer Mary Ann Collura 11 years after her death really merit all of that coverage on L-1 today?

A story on vacant retail highway sites (B-1) has many readers wondering why Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza continues to ignore all of the empty storefronts in Englewood, Hackensack and other downtowns.

Bridge crowd

Fort Lee's mayor eats there, and you can read the resumes of the owner and chef in Staff Writer Elisa Ung's lukewarm review (BL-16). 

Who cares? G.W. Grill sounds like it is still finding its way as a restaurant:

"Chewy" salmon, "rather resilient rings of calamari," "heavy fusilli," "searing hot" desserts and a cocktail served with "a dirty straw."

Really disgusting.

Ung notes the owner believed Fort Lee, now dominated by Asian restaurants, needed "more of a neighborhood watering hole with American and Italian favorites."

This ain't it. I'll stick with ramen, sashimi, soft tofu and fiery kimchi.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Christie the bully ensures his survival, not ours

After a breather on Monday and Tuesday, the first two days of Passover, the New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel was as congested as ever this morning.


As New Jersey goes down the tubes, Governor Christie is spending more and more time raising money to ensure his political future.

Today and Wednesday, The Record's front page reports about contributions to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads and which he credits with electing him in 2009 to his first term.

On Wednesday, the Woodland Park daily reported that the law firm of Gibson Dunn gave $10,000 to the group, nine days before its lawyers issued a reporting clearing Christie of any wrongdoing in the George Washington Bridge lane closures (A-1).

That self-serving whitewash will cost taxpayers as much as $1 million, according to media reports.

Drug deal

Today, the paper reports the GOP bully appeared at a groundbreaking for Celgene, a drug company that donated $26,00o last year to the RGA (A-1).

The year before, the drug company hired Rich Bagger, a former Christie chief of staff, as senior vice president.

Then, Christie named Bagger to the Port Authority's board of commissioners. And in 2013, Bagger gave $10,000 to the RGA.

All of this really stinks.

Where's the fire?

Why does anybody move into Elmwood Park, where liquor is served at the borough's firehouses and where a reportedly intoxicated fireman crashed a ladder truck into utility poles (A-1)?

Today's Page 1 story doesn't say whether the borough has a volunteer or professional fire department, but it mentions that River Edge ended and Lodi restricts firehouse drinking (A-8).

I'm a pretty close reader of the Local news section, and have been for years, and can't recall every reading a story about firehouses that serve liquor.

What exactly are the local-news editors doing?

Horsing around

As the onetime owner of a 1966 Ford Mustang GT, I enjoyed the Better Living cover story on the iconic car's 50th anniversary (BL-1).

But what was the point of running two photos of owner John Pestrichelli of River Edge and his 1973 Mustang, especially the shocking shot of the grossly overweight man behind the wheel on BL-3?

Two other photos of a second Mustang owner also run with the story. Couldn't the editors find four different Mustang owners?

And the story deserves a less-amateurish headline then: 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Page 1 errors, bird shit and drug-filled ham

Hackensack residents awoke on Wednesday morning to find a crusty layer of snow covering their solar panels, above, and car windshields.


Page 1 is often considered the most important in a newspaper, but at The Record, you're as likely to find serious errors there as on any other page.

Today, a front-page photo caption contains a boneheaded mistake, and Mike Kelly's Page 1 column on the Boston Marathon bombing brings a dead cop back to life. (A-1 and A-7).

Wrecking a story

The A-1 photo caption claims "demolition began Tuesday on LG Electronics buildings in Englewood Cliffs" (A-1).

That's ridiculous. 

The demolition -- to make way for a new, taller headquarters on the east side of Sylvan Avenue, atop the Palisades -- was of vacant buildings "where LG plans to build its new North American headquarters," as the story on L-1 reports in the first paragraph.

The Record's reporters and editors have written so many stories about LG's controversial plan they don't even bother to say precisely where the new building will be located or what was there before, leading to the kind of serious error that appears on Page 1 today.

And, it appears, six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton no longer has her staff proof Page 1 before it goes to press or after the paper is printed.  

Readers' marathon

Readers can only hope Kelly stays in Boston after covering the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing (A-1).

Forget about his monotonous first paragraph, where he uses the verb "gaze" for perhaps the thousandth time.

On the continuation page, Kelly reports "relatives of the three spectators who perished ... and a police officer who was fatally shot later in a confrontation with the alleged bombers visited the finish line" (A-7).

Of course, the dead cop is still in his grave. 

But no one caught this mistake -- not the assignment editor who read it first or the news editor who made up the page or the copy editor who supposedly edited the story or the supervisor of the copy desk who supposedly went over his or her work, and approved it for publication.

Parking-lot news

What are two photos showing a man with homing pigeons, all from Stony Point, N.Y., doing on L-3 today, in the Local news section?

They happen to be in the parking lot of 1 Garret Mountain Plaza, and in the background, readers can see the nondescript office building the Woodland Park daily has called home since leaving Hackensack in 2009.

Gee whiz. I guess Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza didn't have any legitimate municipal news for his section today. 

Did that lazy editor send a photographer to the parking lot for a shitty "story" about flying birds?

Shameless plug

A day after Better Living editors debuted a "health page" with a strong focus on food, a story on Easter Brunch today recommends readers buy a smoked ham that is apparently filled with harmful preservatives and animal antibiotics (BL-1).

The piece, by a free-lancer, is a shameless plug for a single pork store in Fair Lawn, and doesn't mention readers can buy uncured, naturally raised hams at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's and other stores that would be a lot better for them.