Sunday, August 30, 2015

Editors run fake and real horse races on the front page

At Newark Liberty International Airport's Terminal C this morning, this departure level was relatively calm. The airport's cellphone lot still is hard to find because there are no signs at airport entrances that direct drivers there. Follow signs for "rental car returns," then you'll see signs directing you to the lot.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Nearly 11 months before the major party conventions and nearly 15 months before the election itself, can anyone predict how close the 2016 presidential contest will be?

Of course not, but that doesn't stop the media from engaging in endless rounds of speculation on the nominees and who worries whom, such as today's Page 1 story in The Record.

Editors and reporters are so bored they have to manufacture a horse race every four years as a way of trying to engage readers whose real interest are the issues that affect their every day life -- such as the environment, gun control, Social Security and Medicare.

The Record's editor, New York Times veteran Martin Gottlieb, and the people running most of the nation's media shy away from exploring important issues, preferring to report extensively on the political conflict that has paralyzed Congress, and given birth to the "sound bite."

More manure

For the only real horse race on the front page today, see the disappointing performance of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, whose wealthy owner lives in Teaneck.

The report from the spa town of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was written by veteran sports reporter John Rowe, whose newsroom demeanor resembles that of a funeral director.

Gender change

A-1 is dominated today by a sensitive piece on a soldier's gender change from Staff Writer Todd South, the Hackensack reporter who is a veteran of the Afghanistan war.

In a Tweet today, South called the piece on Jennifer Long of Kearny "a story that took a lot of work but was worth it."

That may explain why Hackensack readers haven't seen any stories about the city from him recently, including in today's Local section.

The gender-change story continues on A-12 and A-13 -- totaling nearly two full newspaper pages -- making one wonder how many readers will stay with it to the end. 

Local news?

Readers' eyes continue to roll over the complete breakdown of editing and fact-checking, despite such six-figure newsroom editors as Deirdre Sykes and Liz Houlton.

A typo in the first paragraph of a local obituary for a World War II fighter pilot is so obvious readers wonder how everyone -- assignment editor, news editor, copy editor, copy desk supervisor, page proofer and Houlton or their stand ins -- could possibly have missed it.

"The Battle of the Bulge" is rendered as "The Battle of the Budge."

Opinion section?

The copy of The Record thrown onto my driveway today is missing the Opinion section, which includes the lone Margulies cartoon of the week.

Click on the following link to see the cartoon, one of the few mentions of Governor Christie in today's paper:

California's drought is getting worse ...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Editors bury gun-control plea, restate obvious on Page 1

At Bergen Town Center in Paramus, an employee uses this fully electric vehicle to collect litter at properties on both sides of Forest Avenue.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The Record today buries a plea for gun control from the father of the Virginia reporter who was shot and killed on live television.

The placement of the story on A-4 suggests the media are partly responsible for why, as The Associated Press says, "winning such measures has proved nearly impossible in the United States."

Meanwhile, leading the paper at the top of Page 1, is a Mike Kelly column that simply restates the obvious -- "the inherent randomness of gun violence in America today" (A-1).

Where does Kelly think readers have been in the past decade or more as The Record and other media have reported one random shooting after another where children and adults gather?

Without warning, innocent people have been slaughtered in schools, churches, movie theaters, malls and on the streets of impoverished cities like Paterson (L-1).

What is remarkable about the piece from Kelly -- who has written extensively about 9/11 and the proposal for a mosque near Ground Zero -- is that this may be the first time he has had anything kind to say about Muslims.

Cheap gas

Also on the front page today, the editors promote cheap gas without pausing to consider the impact of more driving on air pollution, traffic congestion and climate change (A-1 and A-10).

Staff Writer Melissa Hayes, who has been traveling with Governor Christie in his doomed bid for the presidency, is back on A-1 today with another upbeat story, "even though he's a second-tier candidate who ranked ninth" in a poll released Thursday (A-1).

Editor Martin Gottlieb even gave the obscure "clam shrimp" better play (A-1) than Andy Parker's decision to fight for gun control.

3 corrections

Three corrections today suggest Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, and Production Editor Liz Houlton, failed again in their responsibility to deliver a completely accurate local report (A-2).

One of the corrections notes that in his Friday column on A-1, Road Warrior John Cichowski mistakenly killed a 13-year-old who survived a Route 80 crash -- adding to the hundreds of errors that have cemented his reputation as the most inaccurate reporter in the newsroom.

Local news?

The large number of Law & Order stories today could mean Sykes and Forza took a three-day weekend, leaving it to the police and court reporters to fill their thin section (L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-6).

On the half shell

For a good read, see a story on the comeback of the Delaware Bay oyster industry and the succulent Cape May Salt by freelancer Shelby Vittek (BL-1).


Friday, August 28, 2015

Dessert-obsessed reviewer pulls another bait and switch

An out-of-state driver almost missed the entrance to a cheap gas station on Route 4 east in Englewood on Wednesday afternoon, braking hard -- to a blast of horns from other motorists -- and turning into the last driveway near a hand car wash.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

On The Record's Better Living cover, the beautiful yellow zucchini blossoms and the artful headline -- "GARDEN TO TABLE" -- are certain to pique the interest of readers who are trying to eat healthy when they dine out.

But inside, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung comes clean:

She recommends four dishes at Latour in Ridgewood that should be avoided by anyone watching their weight, cholesterol and the health of their arteries, including cheesecake, cheese souffle and Beef Wellington (BL-14).  

Those gorgeous zucchini flowers are "fried to a golden crunch" and "burst open to reveal a molten mix of brie, goat cheese and Parmesan" -- the first two are full-fat cheeses that many dairy lovers have crossed off their list.

Ung seems to cater to a minority of readers who, like her, are obsessed with dessert, and eat far more than they should, such as the two Pashman Stein lawyers shown in an L-3 photo on Thursday, Samuel J. Samaro and CJ Griffin.

Today's front page

I agree with an industry group that a police crackdown on commercial truck drivers is misplaced (A-1).

Editor Martin Gottlieb leads the paper today with another Road Warrior column that ignores the real menaces on highways -- the hundreds of drivers who speed, tailgate and cut off other motorists, as well as truckers.

Gottlieb also throws water on a feel-good story about a Paterson rapper who gave a free concert on Thursday by running an A-1 brief on a single city teacher who helped students cheat on a test in 2014 (A-1 and L-1).

And the wire-service retrospective on New Orleans 10 years after Katrina doesn't even mention the total failure of the Bush administration to safeguard and evacuate residents of the largely minority city during the hurricane (A-1).

Local news?

The full story on the suspended Paterson teacher leads Local today, testament to how little Bergen County news there is from Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza.

The drought on Hackensack municipal and education news continues.

Today, city residents received an email on downtown redevelopment, including the construction of an NJ Transit Regional Bus Terminal on land across the street from The Record's old headquarters.

The building at 133 River St. would include public parking and 90 to 148 residential units.

Bias suit

The lawsuit alleging discrimination against black employees in Englewood's Department of Public Works may surprise readers who rely on The Record for what they know about the city (L-1).

Englewood is a classic two-sides-of-the-tracks community where white residents send their children to private and parochial schools, ensuring the public elementary and middle schools are segregated.

Efforts at school desegregation have focused on Dwight Morrow High School.

Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, chairman of North Jersey Media Group, has lived on the city's East Hill for decades, but that hasn't resulted in any hard-hitting reporting about Englewood schools.

This week, NJMG's (201) magazine sent out an email promoting Dwight-Englewood, one of the city's expensive private schools, where Publisher Stephen A. Borg's son is a lacrosse standout.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

In shootings-suicides, the real crime is easy gun access

In Tenafly this morning, an employee of a nearby funeral home stopped traffic to allow a procession to pass.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Today's front-page story on the "choreographed execution" of a Virginia TV reporter and cameraman doesn't even bother mentioning how easy it was for their deranged former colleague to get a gun.

And inside The Record, a full page of additional wire-service coverage mentions the gun only once:

Gunman Vester Flanagan, 41, an African American who shot and killed himself hours later, said he put down a deposit on the weapon on June 19, apparently to avenge the Charleston church massacre two days earlier (A-1 and A-6).

Ignoring the nation's continuing gun problem, Tamara Lush of The Associated Press describes the victims, reporter Allison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, as "two young journalists, eager and hungry for a story" (A-6).

The media are not only glorifying Parker and Ward, they're withholding images of their horrific slayings -- images that might give politicians the courage to do something except collect special-interest money to maintain the status quo.

Leave it to Parker's father, Andy, to say what The Record and other media should be saying every day of the year:

"We've got to do something about crazy people getting guns," Andy Parker said on Fox News, urging Virginia officials "to close loopholes and background checks."

Word pushers

The easy availability of guns also didn't concern The Record's editors, reporters and columnist who devoted more than a full newspaper page this past Sunday to Kevin Downing of Fort Lee.

A follow-up news story and a long Mike Kelly column didn't even mention how Downing got the gun he used to shoot a security guard inside a Manhattan federal building and then himself last Friday.

Most of the news story describes Downing's descent into hell after he was fired from his economist's job at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1999, and spent 16 fruitless years trying to get it back.

'My phone rang'

The long piece by Kelly -- The Record's sorry excuse for a New Jersey columnist -- goes on and on about the dilemma he and other reporters supposedly face when people like Downing call them: 

Are they telling the truth?

Kelly's column is filled with "I" and "me" and "my," as in, "I was intrigued but skeptical" of Downing's "whistle-blower case."

On Page 1, his first paragraph lands with the impact of a wet noodle:

"On an otherwise ordinary Wednesday morning, my phone rang."

Yawn.

After describing the variety of people who call him -- from an elderly widow on a fixed income" to "a prison inmate"  to a "father or mother in ... a difficult custody fight" -- Kelly laments:

"The stories are often compelling and heartbreaking.
But are they true ..., are they newsworthy enough to write about?"

Of course, unlike Kelly, columnists who have strong opinions, and are willing to challenge authority, might question a system that forced Downing to fight 16 long years before cracking and grabbing a gun.