Sunday, October 19, 2014

Are the reporters or editors the real problem?

NJ Transit's No. 165 Turnpike Express, which I boarded in Hackensack, approaching the ramp to the problem-plagued Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan on a wet Thursday morning. Why is The Record's chief transportation reporter writing about the rebuilding of a church today? 

One of the few improvements in recent months are touch-screen terminals to help commuters find the platform where they can catch the bus back to New Jersey. I have yet to see any mention of them in The Record.


In today's disappointing Sunday edition, don't look for stories and columns that are relevant to your life in North Jersey.

The only local dateline on the front page is Fairview, where Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado explores the problems of a family headed by an illegal immigrant who was arrested and thrown into a cell (A-1).

Columnist Mike Kelly is so burned out he's back on the Sayreville beat, which is way out of the circulation area, rehashing old cases of football hazing (A-1).

Kelly tackles another "local story" -- Ebola -- on the Opinion front (O-1).

Dog chases bus

Like an adoring lap dog, Staff Writer Melissa Hayes again follows Governor Christie around on his travels raising money for the mean-spirited Republican Party -- totally ignoring the mess he's left behind in New Jersey (A-1).

Christie has really screwed up the region's mass-transit network, but Staff Writer Christopher Maag, the chief transportation writer, was sent to the city to write about a church destroyed on 9/11 (A-3).

You will find a column about the problem-plagued Port Authority Bus Terminal in the Opinion section, but that was written by a daily bus commuter from Rockland County, N.Y. (O-2).

An escalator takes commuters from the upper-level bus platforms to a lower floor at the Manhattan bus terminal.

More road kill

On the Local front, addled Road Warrior John Cichowski is writing about yet another delayed road-construction project, this one in Passaic County, that affects only a small fraction of the readership.

This isn't news, and doesn't help commuters one bit.

Hackenack news

The most readable story in the paper today is also on L-1, where Kazmier Wysocki, 95, a three-time Hackensack mayor, is shown with his wife, son and grandson at his city manufacturing company.

It's refreshing to read about Hackensack history that doesn't involve the Zisa family, which ran the city for decades and stuck the county seat with the derogatory name of "Zisaville."

Staff vacation?

None of the stories in today's 8-page Business section appears to have been written by a staffer in the Woodland Park newsroom (B-1).

The cover story on "crowdfunding," which discusses North Jersey business people, carries the byline of Virginia M. Citrano, a freelancer.

The rest of the section was supplied by news services or The Wall Street Journal.

Ignoring local stores

The Better Living cover today is about the cheese department at Zabar's on the Upper West Side of Manhattan -- not about any of the great cheese departments in North Jersey (BL-1).

Ditzy Food Editor Esther Davidowitz profiles the Leonia woman who runs the department, and in the process, ignores tens of thousands of readers who are watching their weight and cholesterol.

How predictable. The head of Zabar's cheese department, Olga Dominguez, is called "a big cheese."

She is quoted as saying there are three basic types of cheeses -- hard, soft and semi-soft -- but to people watching their weight and cholesterol there are only two -- full fat and reduced fat.

Unfortunately, the sloppy six-figure production editor, Liz Houlton, missed a typo in Dominguez' name in the photo caption. 

Doesn't compute

There is an easy way to avoid the table-top computers Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung seems so fascinated with in her silly column today:

Don't go to Chili's and other chain restaurants to eat the crap they serve (BL-1).

More on Germany

For the third week in a row, a major wire-service story is needed to fill the thin Travel section.

This despite Travel Editor Jill Schensul telling a respected media blog,, that the paper negotiates favorable "press rates" for trips to minimize the use of canned wire copy.

As for Schensul's column today, a large part of it is based on one of those trips, her visit to Papenburg, Germany, where she went on a Royal Caribbean tour of a shipyard building two mega cruise ships.

The gushing story about the new ships appeared as her section's cover story on Sept. 14, though its relevance to most North Jersey residents eluded me.

Today, she describes the graveyard she found in Papenburg as "a veritable botanical garden."

The respect for the dead shown by these Germans only serves to remind me of the lack of respect they showed to millions of living and dead during of the Holocaust, and wonder why Schensul even bothered to write about the cemetery.

She also omitted any mention of the Day of the Dead, which is widely observed in the North Jersey's Mexican-American communities. 

The real questions

So, we know Editor Marty Gottlieb controls every word that appears on Page 1 -- including endless speculation about Christie's White House bid -- but why are the clueless local editors assigning the transportation reporter to non-transportation stories?

Why are Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza allowing Cichowski to write the majority of his Road Warrior columns off of complaining e-mails from readers whose only interest is seeing their names in print?

And when will Kelly stop making every new column seem old?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Editors taunt Hackensack with medical center's success

One of NJ Transit's roomy double-decker trains pulling into the Clifton station last Monday. Clifton is one of the few stations with a free parking lot for commuters.

Upper deck or lower? Avoid the train's poorly designed upper deck, with its low, head-cracking metal luggage rack. The lower deck, shown here, is a far better bet.


The Record's breathless front-page account today of another Hackensack University Medical Center expansion examines the deal from every angle except the one that means the most to residents of its host city.

"The new organization ... will employ 23,400 people and have more than $3.4 billion in revenues ...," the story reports in the second paragraph (A-1).

The medical center's building boom in Hackensack fundamentally changed the residential character of the neighborhood, and the city has little to show in terms of property tax revenue.

HUMC is non-profit, and hasn't returned anything in lieu of the tens of millions of dollars in taxes denied to the city.

Businesses and homeowners pay more as a result.

Yet, The Record's coverage of HUMC resembles boosterism, perhaps a legacy of the years North Jersey Media Group Vice President/General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg spent on the medical center board.

Localizing Ebola

The local assignment editors sent Staff Writer Christopher Maag to Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday, the first day of "targeted health screenings for the Ebola virus" (A-6).

But someone, likely as editor, screwed up Maag's lead paragraph:

"The first day of targeted health screenings ... was quiet Thursday ...."

Instead, this is how it should have read:

"Thursday, the first day of targeted health screenings ..., was quiet ...."

Why send Maag and not a medical writer? 

The reporter covers NJ Transit and other transportation issues, and the airport presumably is part of his beat, according to the assignment editors' tortured reasoning.

Back to the story. Let's hope Nana Smith of Hackensack doesn't suffer any fallout from being photographed at the airport "waiting for a friend from Ghana" (A-6).

More Garrett lies

Diane Callaghan of River Vale, a letter writer, says a TV ad promoting another term for Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, claims the six-termer hits the ground running every morning "to create better economic opportunities for women and their families" (A-18).

Callaghan notes Garrett voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which would have passed tougher sentences for those who commit crimes against women, as well as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthened laws against wage discrimination.

Add women to Superstorm Sandy aid, both of which the Garrett campaign claims the conservative Tea Party icon favored, contrary to the truth.

Garrett will say anything to win another term in the 5th Congressional District -- getting elected is his main concern.

Roy Cho advances

Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Roy Cho of Hackenack says two recent polls show he has "vaulted into a very competitive position within single digits" of Garrett.

Compared to Garrett, who is against anything that will help the middle class, Cho has a lot going for him, including his making his first bid for elective office.

Redistricting of the 5th District in 2011 added several heavily Democratic communities, including Hackensack.

Seventy percent of the voters in the district live in Bergen County. 

The boomerang-shaped district stretches from the Delaware to the Hudson rivers.

Stomach turning

Flies not only stand on poop, they eat it, so word that Staff Writer Elisa Ung "repeatedly waved away flies in the dining room" of S. Egidio in Ridgewood is an instant turnoff (BL-16).

Only an overweight restaurant reviewer who tops off full meals with a Nutella-stuffed calzone and cheesecake could love this Neapolitan pizzeria, on which she bestows 2.5 stars.

Restaurant names continue to puzzle me. 

This joint is named after saint I never heard of. What about the Indian restaurant called Dhoom?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A funny thing happened on my way to voting for Roy Cho

This morning, my vote for Roy Cho was signed, sealed and delivered to the Board of Elections in Hackensack


I've been using mail-in ballots for a few years, but for security always deliver them by hand to the Board of Elections in the Bergen County Administration Building in Hackensack.

On Wednesday, I drove there around 11:30 a.m.. only to be told by a security guard to park in the employees garage -- the visitors lot was full because of a weekly farmers' market.

He told me I could park only on the fourth or fifth floor of the parking deck, and with speed bumps, it took a long time just to get to the third level.

That's when I turned around, and drove to Englewood, where I arrived late for my volunteer shift at the medical center.

This morning, my ballot and my wife's ballot, marked for Democrats Cory Booker and Roy Cho, the 5th Congressional District challenger, were signed, sealed and delivered to the Elections Board.

My ballot marked for Roy Cho.

'In striking distance'

Today, The Record tries to minimize a poll showing Cho, an attorney who lives in Hackensack, trails the incumbent by only 5 points.

The story was played on the Local front and focused on Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, one of the most conservative members of Congress (L-1).

Garrett has ignored the needs of his constituents to focus on staying in office. He is seeking a seventh term in the Nov. 4 election. 

Click on the following link to read about the poll:

Challenger in striking distance

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Political columnist is feeding Obama critics' racial animus

The Record today tries to assess President Obama's popularity in New Jersey while ignoring incompetent officials running the 70 towns in Bergen County. Why not report on the sad state of affairs in Englewood, above, where officials are standing by as the downtown holds a permanent going-out-of-business sale? 


I'm not sure what point political Columnist Charles Stile is trying to make on Page 1 today -- unless he's channeling all of the racists who still cannot get over the election of our first black president.

President Obama doesn't draw New Jersey crowds at a fundraiser?

So what?

His Affordable Care Act is drawing crowds of people without health insurance, despite Governor Christie's attempts to derail the federal law and The Record looking the other way.

Obama made billions available for Sandy relief only to see the incompetent Christie administration bungle the distribution and allegedly discriminate against minority homeowners.

And how many hundreds of millions in federal mass-transit funds did the GOP bully convert to road and bridge repairs after he killed the sorely needed Hudson River rail tunnels in 2010?

Editor Martin Gottlieb puts Stile on the front page frequently, but still doesn't get that the reporter's relentless focus on "politics" is a huge turn-off for readers.



Stile's column became another exercise in masturbatory journalism when Obama cancelled his New Jersey campaign appearance today to stay in Washington and discuss the Ebola outbreak with Cabinet members.

Lawyers always win

Two other stories on Page 1 today have bar associations cheering over the extra legal fees that are being generated by Bergen County's judge shortage, and the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal (A-1).

Letter writer Patricia Pures of River Vale, reacting to all of the front-page sports stories championed by Gottlieb, urges the editor to "please place this news where it belongs," in Sports.

"Or do not have a section for sports," she says (A-8).

Another stupid column

The befuddled Road Warrior still can't find his way to relevant journalism.

Today's column by Staff Writer John Cichowski isn't even about driving, let along commuting (L-1).

Also on L-1 today, a large photo shows one lane of a three-lane section of Route 4 east in Teaneck closed for a minor three-car accident.

Readers can see two cops bullshitting with two firefighters, but no fire and no injured motorists.

The photo over line overstates the effects of the crash:


The photo and exaggerated over line are another example of the desperation of the lazy assignment editors, Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, to fill their local-news section.

Breaking bacon news

Better Living continues to publish unhealthy recipes from clueless freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson of Upple Saddle River (BL-2).

Her Pasta with Tomato Bacon Sauce recommends well-salted pasta water, added sugar and eight strips of bacon for 8 ounces of pasta.

Jackson doesn't even recommend uncured bacon without harmful preservatives. Any old crap will do.