Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Local obit writer expands beat to the living

On Monday afternoon, the light was green at Passaic Street and Summit Avenue, a busy intersection in Hackensack without turn lanes, but no one moved, because they were stuck behind a turning vehicle. Good luck trying to reach the Bergen County department that could do something to fix the notorious bottleneck.


The New York World's Fair opened 50 years ago today in Queens? Who cares?

In a testament to how much newspapers love anniversaries as a way of ignoring current events, The Record's front page today carries a story about a New Milford man who is called  "a prominent collector of memorabilia from the 1964-65 exposition" (A-1).

But there's more: A long editorial on A-8 that waxes nostalgic over the smell of Belgian waffles.

The story is written by Jay Levin, whose regular beat is crafting obituaries -- life stories of local residents who have died.

Mayor for the birds

Another front-page story quotes Fair Lawn Mayor John Cosgrove complaining it will cost $20,000 to delay painting an aging water tower until "baby ravens hatch and fly away" (A-1).

But the story makes no attempt to explain why the job "already has been put off for more than two years" or say how much that cost taxpayers.

Sounds like Fair Lawn is another town that raises and collects property taxes and then shortchanges residents on services, whether it is repainting a water tower or repairing potholes.

If you car hasn't hit any potholes, you must be a shut-in like Road Warrior John Cichowski, whose premature pothole columns ran several weeks ago with no follow-up.

Big Hackensack news

Don't miss today's big local news -- a photo of a three-vehicle accident on Route 4 west in Hackensack that injured four, including a baby -- on the front of Local (L-1).

Two SUVs and a car were involved, but the caption doesn't say whether drivers of the gas guzzlers were speeding or tailgating or both.

The accident photo gets better play than a group of mayors pushing for extension of NJ Transit light-rail service to Englewood (L-1).

Streets in Fort Lee, above, and Leonia were closed Monday, but none of the work was to repair numerous potholes on Fort Lee's Main Street or Fort Lee Road in Leonia. See L-3 in The Record today. Other potholes have drivers cursing on Routes 4 and 17, and just about everywhere else.

Anti-light rail editors

The Record has run anti-light rail coverage for years, and the paper rolled over and played dead when Tenafly officials killed a plan to extend the electrified line to the borough, where wealthy residents believe they have a constitutional right to drive wasteful SUVs into the city. 

It's unclear whether Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who lives in a $3.65 million Tenafly McMansion, had anything to do with The Record's lukewarm support for light rail.

Even though Englewood officials say they will build new parking garages for light-rail users, the plan might be doomed by a required 50% state match for the $1 billion project.

As commuters know, Governor Christie hates mass transit, but he may be out of office when the extension from Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen is ready to be built (L-7). 

Greed isn't good

Hackensack residents who lived under the yoke of the Zisa family for decades might get a kick out of another Zisa, this one an author.

The Better Living cover reports Mike Zisa will sign his book, "The Early Investor: How Teens & Young Adults Can Become Wealthy," at the Ramsey Public Library on Wednesday night (BL-1).

That's refreshing: A Zisa who wants to help others become wealthy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ex-boxer 'battled' cancer -- and more newspaper fiction

Two of the unrepaired potholes on Hackensack's Euclid Avenue, near Summit Avenue, above and below, part of a veritable minefield left over from our brutal winter that slows drivers to 10 mph, but unleashes a stream of curses directed at city officials and The Record's local-news editors.


Today's front-page headline on The Record's story about ex-boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter is confusing.

The trite main headline says Carter "loses his final bout," but the sub-headline notes he "fought years to clear his name and died a free man."

The writer assumes readers knew Carter had prostate cancer, which apparently was "his final bout."

Still, "final bout" is too close to "fought years to clear his name," and the headline writer failed to communicate Carter's death clearly.

Even more disturbing is The Record and other media always reporting that a subject "lost his/her battle" with the disease that killed them.

Judging from John Artis, Carter's friend and co-defendant in a triple-murder trial, it wasn't much of a battle.

"I'm sad he is gone, but relieved that the pain and suffering is over. There will be no more pain," Artis says (A-6).

More problems

This story has other problems of sloppy caption writing and lazy reporting.

On the continuation page, a caption notes, "Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter knocking out Italian Fabio Bettini in Paris in 1965 (A-6).

Yet the photo show both men in the ring, and no contact, hardly what you'd describe as "knocking out."

Even worse is the silly sidebar by Staff Writer Jim Norman, who was assigned to see what had changed at the Lafayette Grill nearly 50 years after the murders that led to the wrongful conviction of Carter and Artis (A-6).

Dissing Paterson

In keeping with The Record's slanted coverage of Paterson as a hell on earth, Norman claims "the neighborhood has changed over the nearly half-century that has left much of Paterson crumbling into dust."

Where has this reporter been? 

Hasn't he ever visited the Eastside's glorious mansions; the city's Great Falls or the bustling Middle Eastern bazaar known as South Paterson?

Shame on Norman and shame on the Woodland Park daily for continuing to mine all of Paterson's negativity while ignoring the Silk City's many attractions.

Other questions

Another front-page story today -- on the death of 76-year-old Dolores Bellina in a Carlstadt house fire -- never asks or answers a natural question:

Did the woman, who lived alone, smoke (A-1)?

Governor Christie's decision on whether to keep New Jersey Chief Justice Stewart Rabner is still about five weeks away, according to Staff Writer Charles Stile's column on Page 1 today.

Stile has written this column about Christie's image numerous times by just changing names and situations, but fails to deliver what every reader wants from a columnist: 

A strong opinion.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

More old ground in disappointing Sunday edition

On the ferry to Manhattan. Crossing the Hudson this way is a lot more civilized -- and far more expensive -- than taking a crowded NJ Transit bus or train.


My car is still hitting big potholes on streets and highways, even in the parking lot of the Weehawken ferry.

But The Record's Sunday edition today is nearly devoid of municipal news or even any attempt to explain why towns and the state can't afford to repair hundreds of these driving hazards.

Instead, Editor Marty Gottlieb cedes precious front-page space to two burned-out columnists and a second-day story that elevates the suffering of dogs above that of humans in Paterson (A-1).

Many questions

The main element on Page 1 -- "County cop fights for life after crash" -- doesn't discuss whether Officer Daniel Breslin was following procedure when he stopped his marked SUV in a travel lane of Route 46.

Breslin was in critical condition after a car driven by an allegedly drunk driver slammed into his police vehicle around 1:50 a.m. Saturday.

Columnist Mike Kelly wonders whether local police departments are prepared to deal with domestic terrorism (A-1).

He mentions the Teaneck department, which is best known for a Cedar Lane speed trap that catches unsuspecting drivers crossing the Anderson Street Bridge from Hackensack.

Media fog

Columnist Charles Stile claims the George Washington Bridge scandal has exposed Governor Christie "as a bully who attacks opponents in unmercifully harsh, dismissive language" (A-1 and A-8).

But only Stile and other Record reporters and columnists have ignored the GOP bully's mean-spirited policies, dating to 2010, as they fell all over themselves to promote him as a presidential contender.

Ignoring towns

In Local, a brief on this week's school board election in Hackensack doesn't tell readers anything about the two incumbents and two challengers who are seeking two vacancies beyond listing their names (L-2). 

Business continues to ignore Main Street and lavish coverage on such chain retailers as Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond (B-1).

Somehow, a food truck serving naturally raised, grass-fed beef short ribs and organic polenta has broken through all the publicity in Better Living for low-quality, drug- and hormone-filled meat (BL-2).

Margulies, Oxford

The only thing worth looking at in Opinion is the Margulies cartoon, which lampoons all the work Christie has given to lawyers while New Jerseyans join growing unemployment lines (O-2).

Oxford, England, has never been on my must-see list.

But today's thin Travel section contains nearly two pages about the university city, thanks to a story by former Record reporter Tatiana Schlossberg, daughter of Caroline Kennedy.

Schlossberg informs readers she is studying history at Oxford (T-1).

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 CliffviewPilot.com 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