Sunday, August 31, 2014

Do I blame lack of sunlight or sub-par Sunday edition?

Pupuseria Las Americas, which is open 7 days, tries its luck in a storefront on Salem Street in Hackensack. Pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish, are stuffed corn tortillas. Meanwhile, an ice cream and coffee shop called Upsy Daisy has failed to open after starting renovations at 479 Main St. in Hackensack, below.

A Shilla Korean Bakery operated for several years in the building, across the street from Sears' parking lot. Daheen Wang Mandoo, a Korean king dumpling restaurant, started renovations, but never opened, and nearby merchants said the city was slow to issue permits.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Before the sun finally came out around 11:30 this morning, I didn't know whether to blame the weather or The Record's lackluster Sunday edition for my moodiness.

Just when you've had it with the distant nightmare of Superstorm Sandy (late October 2012), nearly half of today's front page is covered with another cliche-filled column on the future of a Jersey shore town (A-1).

Staff Writer Mike Kelly brings his shit-eating-grin perspective to a subject most of us are sick of reading about already.

Word pusher

The headline grabs your attention -- "Mix of dread and defiance" -- but the column fails to deliver on the latter, and Kelly never mentions how the Christie administration bungled all that federal aid.

In the second paragraph, a poor schmuck named Bill Mullen the reporter latched onto "gazes" at broken tile from the bathroom of his Ortley Beach home, which was destroyed by Sandy.

For years now, Kelly has nearly every subject in every column gazing at something or other.

Then in his fifth paragraph, Kelly claims "Bill Mullen's dream is as sturdy as the sand that he hopes will one day hold the foundation of his new home." 

Wait a minute. 

Sand is far from "sturdy," and aren't all new Jersey shore homes built near the ocean supposed to be supported by pilings -- like the one shown in the Page 1 photo with the column -- not a foundation?

And this is the best the Woodland Park newsroom could manage for the Sunday paper. Unbelievable.

Christie in Mexico

Another burned-out columnist, Staff Writer Charles Stile, previews Governor Christie's visit to Mexico next week (A-1).

Leaders of drug cartels had been planning to kidnap Christie and hold him for ransom until they found out the GOP bully's fiscal policies have nearly bankrupted the Garden State.

New Jersey State Police would be offering bushels of Jersey tomatoes, corn and peaches to gain Christie's freedom.

Culinary prodigy

Max Aronson of Woodcliff Lake might want to put his kitchen skills to work improving the poor food service at Hackensack High School, just a couple of miles away from where he studies culinary arts at the Bergen County Academies (Better Living cover).

When school starts on Wednesday, Hackensack High students will be voting on the lousy food in their roach-infested cafeteria with their feet, walking to nearby pizzerias, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and even Starbucks for lunch.



A sign on the door of 479 Main St. in Hackensack.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

NJMG unit focuses more and more on making news

Seen at a highway rest area in New York State.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

North Jersey Media Group -- publisher of The Record -- is no longer hiding the promotional activities of one of its units, Exposure.

This is how the publishing company describes Exposure:


"Exposure is a specialty area within North Jersey Media Group (NJMG) that produces unique, local events with mass appeal. Utilizing the marketing strength of NJMG products in North Jersey, Exposure offers advertisers and partners complete marketing and promotional services enabling them to reach the widest audience possible."

The Record is one of the NJMG "products" that have been used to promote Exposure events in notices and feature stories.

Using the Woodland Park daily to spread the word about Exposure further blurs the line between news and marketing that began with the ascendancy of Stephen A. Borg to president and publisher.

Hidden in past

In July 2013, Exposure's role in a poorly organized food-truck event at Overpeck Park wasn't acknowledged until a lack of parking forced hundreds of people to turn away or abandon their cars on highway exits and streets.

Now, a link to the Exposure Web site can be found on NorthJersey.com, and its ads appear prominently in the weekly Hackensack Chronicle and other NJMG publications.

The weekly's thin Aug. 29 edition carried four ads promoting Exposure events:

(201) Brides' Night Out, North Jersey Test Drive Experience, North Jersey Career Fair and Octoberfest Food Truck Mash-Up.

The unfortunate use of the phrase "truck mash-up" may remind The Record's readers of recent fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers and a dump truck.

In fact, this week, three people were literally cooked alive when a dump truck smashed into their car in congested traffic on Route 280 in East Orange, and the vehicle was engulfed in fire.

Today's paper

Page 1 today has lots of soft news -- whale sightings at the shore, a rare story about Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, and the low price of gasoline as Labor Day approaches.

The last story is likely to encourage owners of gas-guzzling SUVs to keep their wasteful vehicles, which they usually drive at high speeds, terrorizing other drivers.

The Local section is a mix of police news and features.

Drug care

The big Hackensack news is the arrest of a city man for allegedly possessing a duffle bag of marijuana in his car on Saturday (L-1).

He tried to flee, leaving his 10-month-old daughter in the back seat. 

Not to be undone, a Paterson man, who was charged with delivering cocaine "across North Jersey" on Thursday, had his 3-year-old son with him (L-6).

The two arrests may suggest to head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes or her deputy, Dan Sforza, the need to do a story on the lack of day care.

Second look

In his Sunday column on driving under the influence, Staff Writer John Cichowski again appears to be Reporting Under the Influence, with numerous omissions and errors about penalties, according to the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers.

See:

Leave the Road Warrior at home this weekend



Friday, August 29, 2014

Should lawyers' opposition stop downtown progress?

An attractive property at Main and Bridge streets in Hackensack, not far from a planned open-air performance space that is being opposed by prominent members of the legal community.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Hackensack residents and visitors overwhelmingly prefer a downtown green and open-air venue for entertainment and community events over a city owned parking lot with meters.

But lawyers in firms lining Atlantic and Warren streets want to keep the lot for their convenience and the convenience of clients and visiting lawyers and stenographers.

This week, The Record reported an October groundbreaking is set -- in order to qualify for a county grant -- but the paper has been strangely silent on the conflict between the legal community and the city.

In May, Staff Writer Christopher Maag of The Record claimed the debate over what was then called the Atlantic Street Park "comes down to an age-old fight: parks versus potholes."

At the May 6 City Council meeting, attorney Arthur P. Zucker threatened to file suit against the city, comparing elimination of the parking lot to taking away the driveway of his home.

Maag's story never mentioned Zucker or attorney Seymour Chase, who at that time claimed inadequate parking is hurting his business.


Threat to sue

The lawyers threaten to sue to maintain the status quo -- even though there is ample parking across the street from their offices in an under-utilized city owned parking garage.

In an Anonymous comment, a foul-mouthed reader of Eye on The Record noted Hackensack "is not in a communist part of the world," and asserted the issue is "property rights."

Again, the City Council has approved financing to convert one of the city's own parking lots into an open-air venue near a planned performing arts center.

Of course, lawyers will say anything to win.


Today's paper

Editor Martin Gottlieb picks a new National Football League domestic violence policy to lead the paper today, and Columnist Tara Sullivan praises the league commissioner's "long-overdue veracity" (A-1).

Gottlieb's other bewildering choices for Page 1 of our local newspaper:

The Ebola outbreak, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, mourning in the Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood and Bergen County's use of military vehicles.

Are you kidding? 

I am sure when Mylyn Liego agreed to talk to a reporter about an alleged brothel across the street from her North Farview Avenue home in Paramus, she didn't think her photo on the Local front today would be run much larger than the suspects' images or the actual house of prostitution (L-1).

And I am sure she was horrified to see her photo under a huge headline:


Alleged brothel raided

Did head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes or her her deputy, Dan Sforza, approve the layout?

Did Production Editor Liz Houlton go home early in time to spend some of her hefty earnings at the mall?

Didn't they think a reader who just glanced at the headline and photos might get the wrong idea about Liego, an innocent bystander?

Holiday blitz

Why is Road Warrior John Cichowski satisfied with a holiday crackdown on drunken drivers and other unsafe behavior behind the wheel (L-1)?

Instead, shouldn't he be calling for year-round enforcement of drunk driving, speeding, and aggressive and distracted driving?

On a diet?

Did Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung go on a diet or have the editors cut her eating-out budget?

Today, she recaps "North Jersey's top-rated restaurants," even though there are four more months left in 2014 (BL-18).



Lawyers have told the Hackensack City Council they prefer this city owned parking lot in front of their offices over an open-air performing arts venue that would replace it, and they won't hesitate to sue to stop the project.

Critics say attorney Seymour Chase faces loss of a handicapped parking spot for his white Mercedes-Benz sedan only a hop, skip and a jump from his office door at 1 Atlantic St. in Hackensack.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Balanced front page is more irresponsible journalism

Lunch in Manhattan sounds like a good idea. But if you park for two hours at the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal, it will cost $24.

Or you could park illegally as many do and grab a street-corner falafel sandwich.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The Record's front page today seems to have everything -- from the horrors of civil war in the Middle East to a silly column on whether Rutgers' football team can compete with the "elite."

There is news about Bergen County's first statue of Martin Luther King, the glacial probe of the George Washington Bridge lane closures and a cautionary tale about sexual assaults on college campuses.

This "balanced" front page is the ideal every newspaper editor tries to achieve.

The New York Times has been turning out front pages like this for decades, and The Record has been doing a good job of imitating that great newspaper since a Times veteran took over the Woodland Park newsroom in early 2012.

But given the shocking nature of the revelations about chemical attacks and other war crimes in Syria, isn't the media guilty of neglecting that conflict in order to bring readers fluff and feel-good stories?

In view of the long-established Syrian community in Paterson, what excuse does Editor Martin Gottlieb have for the superficial coverage of the civil war there?

What happened to the pressure the media should be exerting on President Obama to deal with the Syrian dictator as he did with Libya's leader?

More corrections

Three more detailed corrections appear on A-2 today -- further evidence that Production Editor Liz Houlton isn't doing her job in return for a six-figure salary.

On A-3, the story about a 9-year-old girl who was allowed to fire an Uzi sub-machine gun, accidentally killing her instructor, claims the incident has sparked a "debate."

That's nonsense. There is no debate.

The accident shows the ugly side of our gun-happy society. No 9-year-old should be allowed to fire a gun.

Truck fatalities

Three people burned to death on Route 280 in East Orange after a dump truck slammed into their car in congested traffic (L-1).

Since June, trucks -- mostly tractor-trailers -- have been responsible for killing several people, including a comedian riding with Tracy Morgan on the New Jersey Turnpike and a Waldwick police officer on Route 17 south radar patrol.

And a trucker killed himself when he slammed into the back of another rig on the George Washington Bridge.