Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Editors turn every Christie move into a political stunt

Leonia is one of those Bergen County towns that doesn't get much coverage in The Record of Woodland Park. Dressing up the small business district along Broad Avenue is a sculpture garden, above and below.

Most of the businesses along Broad Avenue are owned and operated by Korean-Americans. Leonia borders Palisades Park and Fort Lee, both of which have even stronger Korean presences.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I've learned to ignore the lame political column Charles Stile has been writing since Governor Christie took office way back in January 2010.

But his Page 1 column in The Record today is hard to miss, especially because Editor Marty Gottlieb is using it in place of a news story on the special session of the state Legislature the governor called to fix the bail system (A-1).

This boring Stile column reads like all the rest:

The special session, Stile claims, could "polish up his resume for a likely run for president in 2016" (A-1).

"Some say the timing is good for Christie, who is trying to rebuild his image in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal" (A-7).

Voter apathy

But on A-7, readers also find a news story on the special session that repeats much of Stile's column -- a real waste of space.

Stile and The Record avoid discussing how politics divide the nation and New Jersey, and how reporting like this simply turns off voters.

Christie was reelected last November in the lowest turnout of any previous gubernatorial election, but The Record always refers to it as a "landslide" and doesn't even mention the legions of disaffected voters.

Worst governor ever

Below the fold today, Staff Writer Scott Fallon reports that funding of open-space preservation is endangered by the poor state economy under the GOP bully.

But you have to read the entire story to get that message.

Today's editorial on anti-violence efforts by three North Jersey cities also is edited in a way to avoid placing blame on Christie for cutting state aid to poor cities like Paterson, resulting in the layoff of 125 police officers in 2011.

"Indeed," the editorial writer declares, "during the recent tenure of Mayor Jeffrey Jones in Paterson there was the feeling that, for whatever reason, the city's needs were not being heard by the powers that be in Trenton."

"For whatever reason"? What crap.



The quaint Borough Hall in Leonia.


New suicides? 

Another Page 1 story may cause more suicides on the George Washington Bridge among readers who learn a plan to build a 9-foot fence might take eight years -- twice as long as did construction of the span (A-1).

Imagine how many lives could have been saved if this fence was built during the years the Port Authority was diverting toll money to construction of One World Trade Center, with all of its delays and cost overruns.

It's hard to believe the fence won't be finished until 2022.

The story is by Staff Writer Christopher Maag, who has been neglecting his Hackensack beat.

Maag is thorough, but the story goes on and on like something you'd see in The New York Times, Gottlieb's old paper.

Hackensack news

With Maag writing about bridge suicides, the only Hackensack news today is another reporter's story on a lawsuit filed against the city by Patrolman Moise Flanagan (L-1).

Hackensack Scoop, a local blog, reported the lawsuit five days ago.

Lying to readers

If a recipe isn't healthy, The Record's editors don't see anything wrong with lying to their readers.

Clueless freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson's recipe for Chilled Fennel Soup calls for 4 tablespoons of butter filled with artery clogging saturated fat (BL-2).

Yet, Jackson writes of the soup, "with no cream whatsoever, it's as healthy as healthy can be."

OK. With no brains whatsoever, Jackson is as stupid as stupid can be.



On Broad Avenue in Leonia, retail space is being renovated behind a colorful barrier, above and below.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Editors are scraping bottom of the barrel for local news

Old and new architecture in lower Manhattan: The Municipal and Woolworth buildings, center left, and One World Trade Center.

Editor's note: Today's post has been updated and expanded.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

If The Record ran a story and photos every time officers were promoted by one of the 86 police departments in Bergen and Passaic counties, there would be no room for other local news.

So, readers can only conclude the Fort Lee promotions and hirings reported on L-2 today are a desperate attempt to plug a hole in the sleepy summer local report.

This is the kind of news that belongs in a weekly newspaper, of which North Jersey Media Group has many, not in the publishing company's flagship.

Even the 10 thumbnail photos of the promoted officers and new hires are out of focus, something you'd see in a weekly.

Production Editor Liz Houlton must be on vacation, though she doesn't do much better when she is there, asleep at her computer.

Feel-good police news

You get the feeling local-news Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza run these police promotion and hiring stories as a way of making nice with the departments.

Many law-enforcement agencies refuse to release routine accident and crime news to the paper, judging from how often those reports have holes big enough to drive a tractor-trailer through.

This may be Sykes' and Sforza's way of getting the departments to be more forthcoming.

Below the Fort Lee story is the stupid DEAN'S LIST, a fixture on L-2 that for years has filled a hole in the thin local-news report. 

Botched project

On the opposite page in Local today is a long, tortured story about a street in Ramsey that has been closed since last Nov. 4, forcing 10 businesses to relocate or close, according to the Chamber of Commerce (L-3).

Did I miss the interviews with business owners, denouncing the incompetence of county officials and the contractor for wanting to keep the street closed to two-way traffic for an entire year to replace a "culvert"?

Now, Lake Street is scheduled to open on Aug. 14, as we learn in great detail today from Staff Writer Allison Pries. 

For other momentous local news, see "Emerson field is ready for its artificial turf" (L-3), which undoubtedly will be followed by "Emerson field face-lift is complete."

Poor play

The L-1 story on Paterson, Newark and Jersey City joining to combat violent crime should have gotten far better play on Page 1.

Conspicuously absent is any mention of assistance from Governor Christie, who allegedly has retaliated against Democratic mayors who won't endorse his mean-spirited politics.

When Christie visited Paterson to swear-in Democratic Mayor Joey Torres on July 1, he was greeted by loud boos from protesters, according to the web site of PolitickerNJ.

There is apparently no truth to rumors the GOP bully threatened to dam the Passaic River and dry up the Great Falls, if Torres ever mentioned how the city had to lay off 125 police officers after Christie cut aid to the poor city.

The Record has been doing many strong follow-ups to the July 5 shooting of Genesis Rincon, a 12-year-old Paterson girl killed by a random gunshot as she was riding her scooter.

But the editors are not touching one touchy subject: The inability of Paterson police to protect citizens from drive-by shooting and other gun violence.

More casino news

The major Page 1 story today -- on a $1.5 billion hotel and casino proposed for Sterling Forest, north of the New Jersey border -- makes one reference to "a Malaysia-based hospitality company."

Can you trust a resort developer from a country whose civil aviation authority is in shambles?

This is the second speculative story on a casino in as many days, but how real is the threat to New Jersey's water supply?

On the continuation page, the story notes "the resort is one of 17 contenders for four casino licenses" (A-6). 

But there are no interviews with town officials and residents who would live near the behemoth and have to contend with traffic, noise and drunk gambling addicts.

Good soju news

Another touchy subject The Record's editors won't touch is how restaurants dramatically mark up beer, wine and liquor to boost their profits, even as they pay slave wages to servers and other staff.

Today, another front page story reports the "illegal serving of soju at BYOBs" in Palisades Park and other towns "has led to a 30 [percent] to 40 percent decline in sales at county restaurants that sell liquor," according to the Bergen County Korean Restaurant Association (A-4).

And in good news for restaurant goers, many restaurants with liquor licenses have slashed their price for a 375-milliliter bottle of the traditional alcoholic drink to $6.99 and $5.99 from $12.99.

Liquor stores sell the same bottle for $3.99.

An appreciation of soju by Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung fails to mention that some popular brands contain high fructose corn syrup, which is linked to the obesity epidemic (A-4).

Monday, July 28, 2014

More speculative news for gamblers lands on Page 1

Fort Lee police closed the Route 4 approach to the George Washington Bridge without warning on Sunday morning, then after a delay of about 5 minutes, opened one lane. Serious accident? Carjacking? As I drove by, two police officers were standing outside of their cruisers, looking down at a large pothole.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

What hold does Staff Writer John Brennan have on the clueless editors?

How did the former sports reporter get another speculative story on whether North Jersey will get a casino in a couple of years on Page 1 of The Record today?

Brennan -- honorary chairman of the Garden State chapter of Gamblers Anonymous -- has loudly talked up his Meadowlands stories for many years, wearing down local-news Editors Tim Nostrand, Deirdre Sykes and others.

His ridiculous stories on the racetrack and the possibility of casinos appear on the Local front and front page, aimed directly at gambling addicts.

Now, he's got Editor Marty Gottlieb in his grip, but that means the vast majority of readers have to turn the pages of the Woodland Park daily, looking for something relevant to their lives.

Local news

On the Local front today, a story on a Colombian festival moving from Hackensack to a larger Leonia site doesn't mention Englewood's annual Colombian celebration (L-1).

Two other stories report on express bus service to link Englewood with the Secaucus Junction rail hub (L-1), and the replacement of the shuttered Lincoln School and a firehouse with a $60 million residential/retail project (L-3).

'Children not at play'

But the small city already has built hundreds of apartments downtown and on both sides of Route 4, with no discernible positive impact on Palisade Avenue merchants.

The segregated Lincoln School was more than 100 years old when it was closed in 2008, and a plan to convert it into a recreation center was rejected by city officials, who cited the high cost.

More mass transit

Englewood continues to develop its mass transit, with the plan for the awkwardly named Bus Rapid Transit and making Englewood Hospital & Medical Center the terminus for NJ Transit's Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system.

Meanwhile, Tenafly has rejected light-rail service, and officials have cited residents' constitutional right to drive enormous SUVs into the city, pollute the air and waste fossil fuel.

Tenafly counts Publisher Stephen A. Borg among its wealthiest residents.




NJ Transit's electrified Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in Jersey City. Englewood hopes agency officials will extend the system to the hospital and medical center north of downtown.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Inside the world of The Record's DEADBEAT EDITORS

On a typical weekday morning, traffic on Route 3 east toward the Lincoln Tunnel grinds to a halt more than 2 miles from the tollbooths and then proceeds bumper to bumper, a delay of about 45 minutes.
In the afternoon, New Jersey drivers join the long lines of cars on Canal Street in Manhattan to enter the Holland Tunnel, a quarter of a mile away. The lack of mass-transit alternatives to and from New Jersey is especially dramatic during the rush hour.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Except for Page 1 teases, readers of The Record today get only three elements, Gaza, sports and a takeout on "deadbeat dads" -- a less-than-compelling issue in dysfunctional New Jersey.

Staff Writer Colleen Diskin apparently worked on the child-support story for a long time, judging by how few bylines she has had recently, but is that any reason to put the story on the front page?

And what is the point, that taxpayers pay more to jail the "deadbeat" men and women than the child support they finally cough up?

Editor Marty Gottlieb could run a Page 1 takeout every day on the property taxes wasted on services duplicated in every one of Bergen County's 70 towns.

He could run a front-page takeout every day on the broken mass-transit system, increasing traffic congestion and declining enforcement of speeding and aggressive driving.

Gottlieb could, in fact, assign reporters to issues of far greater general interest than "deadbeat dads," if he hadn't, in fact, become one of The Record's "deadbeat editors."

The list is long: Deirdre Sykes, Dan Sforza, Tim Nostrand, etc., etc.

More screw-ups

In big, black type, a headline on Saturday's Local front "gave the wrong location for a fatal car accident that happened Thursday," according to a correction on A-2 today.

A copy editor wrote "Fort Lee" instead of "Ridgefield," which is slightly longer and probably didn't fit in the headline. 

Anyone who has driven on the West Side Highway in Manhattan -- where many drivers exceed the speed limit by 10 mph, 20 mph and more -- knows a Bergen County police officer quoted in Road Warrior John Cichowski's July 18 column is wrong.

In New York City, speeding cameras are used only on local streets in school zones, as Cichowski reported in the same column.

See the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

Road Warrior errors are captured by fact camera

Local news

On the Local front today, an obituary for Celestine Hoffman, the granddaughter of a professional baseball player, seems an odd choice for "A LIFE."

The major element on young people who die of drug overdoses probably is a better candidate for Page 1 than "deadbeat dads" (L-1).

But "opioid" isn't a headline word, and I can't imagine what Production Editor Liz Houlton was thinking when she approved it.

Big-cheese news

Why is the Business section running a glowing profile of multimillionaire William Procida, "who helped revitalize the South Bronx in the 1980s" (B-1)?

Procida's company is based in Englewood Cliffs, but he lives in Piermont, N.Y., and one of his major loans may go to renovate a hotel in Philadelphia.

No-cheese news

The Better Living cover on hard times at food pantries clashes with the excess usually celebrated in the section, including the best dishes food critic Elisa Ung ate this month (BL-1 and BL-4).

In Ung's 4-star review of Cafe Matisse on Friday, I didn't see any mention of salads or vegetables, but she raved about the artery clogging desserts.

You'll have to call the restaurant to find out whether price-fixed dinners for $68, $88 and $108 include dessert, and whether you can substitute another dish, because she is silent on that, as well as whether the meat she sampled is naturally raised.

Healthy eating isn't a priority of the Better Living editors, as readers can see from the Saturday feature on homemade ice cream from freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson, who, if she actually eats all the stuff she writes about, must be as big as a house.

Jackson obviously isn't thinking of all of the diabetics in her audience or the many readers watching their weight or cholesterol.

Downtowns

The Real Estate front on empty-nesters moving downtown includes more information about Englewood's and Hackensack's business districts than has appeared in the paper in the last five years (B-1).

Hackensack news?

Since a flurry of news stories and a column in late June and early July on the removal of Hackensack Economic Development Director Anthony Rottino, who also was acting city manager, residents haven't seen much about their city.

Staff Writer Christopher Maag, who was assigned to replace Hannan Adely, seems to be writing about everything except Hackensack.

Second look

I am just catching up on papers I missed while I was on vacation, and a story on Price Rite caught my eye (L-7 and L-8 on July 1).

The editors continue to struggle with delivering photo captions that are coherent and don't duplicate what readers can see in the photo.

On the continuation page, a photo caption says, "Serge Rodriguez sorting out produce at the Price Rite in Garfield on Monday ahead of the store's 8 a.m opening today."

I do a lot of food shopping. But what is "sorting out produce"?