Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Best editors can do is an all-Trump, all-infrastructure A-1

In a front-page story on Monday, The Record hailed the 25-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act, but didn't discuss the widespread misuse of parking spaces reserved for the handicapped. Spaces at 24 Hour Fitness on Route 4 in Paramus, above, often seem to be filled by drivers who bound out of their vehicles and seem able bodied. Of course, their handicap could be mental.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Even if you ignore today's all-Trump, all-infrastructure front page, you'll find a story about La Guardia Airport on A-3 and another on the federal highway bill on A-4.

All of this infrastructure news helps Editor Martin Gottlieb of The Record reinforce his reputation for long, dull stories.

And even if you read between the lines, it won't be clear that conservative Republicans like Governor Christie and the party's elite in Congress are the ones standing in the way of expanded mass transit, as well as rebuilding roads and bridges (A-1).

The Record's story on Donald Trump's business interests in New Jersey is being upstaged today by a report from Bloomberg that the presidential candidate is worth $2.9 billion -- not the $10 billion he claims.

Scott Garrett

One of those opposing the federal highway bill is Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, the Tea Party idol whose fundraising received more scrutiny on Monday's front page than it has in many years.

In a column, Staff Writer Herb Jackson reported Garrett raised nearly $1 million in both 2012 and 2014 election cycles from "employees and PACs tied to banking, insurance, securities and real estate interests."

Garrett is chairman of the subcommittee that reviews legislation affecting those industries.

Today, a story on the Local front reports protesters at Garrett's Glen Rock district office on Monday called for his resignation (L-1).

They cited Garrett as a co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, "which would offer protections to people and groups who cite their religious beliefs when declining services to same-sex couples seeking to marry."

Believable?

How believable is this headline on L-1 today?

ATM workers
lose $150,000
left on lawn

The word "lose" should have been written in quotation marks.

And doesn't it sound like police should be exploring whether the ATM workers and a man in a white van who took the bag of cash are working together?

Yet that possibility isn't raised in the story.

Political plum?

Another story in Local has so little information it's pathetic.

The report on retired North Arlington Police Chief Louis Ghione doesn't explain how he got a plum Port Authority job, "security manager at ... One World Trade Center" (L-3).

Ghione, who was chief since 1982, will receive roughly $200,000 in accumulated vacation and sick time from the borough, an annual pension of $131,000 and the Port Authority salary, which is missing from the story.

His age also isn't given, and readers aren't told whether he will be able to get a second pension from the Port Authority when he retires from that job.

'Pending' suit

Editing lapses like that have become commonplace -- fallout from continuing economies in the newsroom that began in 2008, and ineffective, six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton and her minions, including the supervisor of the copy desk.

Is there a difference between a "lawsuit" and "pending lawsuit"?

I'm not a lawyer, but I doubt it.

Yet, in a story leading Monday's Local section, no editor seemed to notice that Staff Writer Minjae Park said a lawsuit is "pending" three times in the first five paragraphs (Monday's L-1).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Christie's bringing-up-the-rear campaign isn't Page 1 news

Employees at the ShopRite in Englewood say expansion of the store, above, is imminent.

The parking lot has already been expanded.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Editor Martin Gottlieb of The Record continues to throw away money by assigning Staff Writer Melissa Hayes to cover Governor Christie's fading campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.

In fact, the "Election 2016" bug on Hayes' Page 1 story from Iowa and New Hampshire is incorrect, since the Republicans won't be picking their candidate until next July. 

Disease of the week

Buddy Cordato is one lucky Parkinson's disease patient, thanks to a brain stimulator (A-1).

And Staff Writer Lindy Washburn is asking readers to share their stories, "if you've had a second chance at life because of extraordinary medical care" (A-8).

The Cordato story is great publicity for doctors and Hackensack University Medical Center.

But when is Gottlieb going to devote half of Page 1 and two full newspaper pages inside to dementia, heart disease and other illnesses that affect far more people, including many of his readers?

Honest mechanic

The best-read story on the Local front today likely is the obituary of an honest Teaneck auto-repair shop owner, known to one and all as Taki (A-1 and L-1).

Taki, 66, who was born in Japan, stood in contrast to all of those greedy auto mechanics and dealers who have exploited car owners since the invention of the internal-combustion engine.

Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza couldn't find much local news for today's section, so they used filler on both L-2 (a long Dean's List) and L-3 (two accident photos).

The caption of one photo, showing a car on its roof, suggests Teaneck police are incompetent: "Police do not know what caused the accident."

Get me rewrite

On the Opinion front today, Columnist Mike Kelly wastes readers' time with a rehash of the clashing portrayals of prisoners of war evident to just about everyone in the July 19 edition of The Record (O-1).

That's when Gottlieb led the front page with Donald Trump questioning the heroism of U.S. Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, on the Local front of the same paper, the editors led with a parade in Washington Township for another prisoner of war, World War II vet Vito Trause, 90.

Today's Margulies cartoon puts Christie's campaign in perspective, in contrast to Hayes' friendly front-page story (O-2).

Rich food

Restaurant customers hoping for coverage of such issues as tipping and naturally raised food are out of luck again today.

None other than Food Editor Esther Davidowitz presents a glowing profile of Kim Costagliola, the wealthy owner of Esty Street in Park Ridge (BL-1).

There is nothing here on the quality of the food he serves or how he treats his employees, only paragraph after paragraph describing his possessions.

Meanwhile, Elisa Ung, the paper's chief restaurant critics, continues to indulge her sweet tooth, listing two desserts among the four best dishes she ate this month (BL-5).

The other two are filled with carbs many people are trying to avoid. Seems strange she couldn't find a great salad or a superior preparation of wild-caught fish.

Half of BL-2 today is devoted to advertisements for restaurants, a bar and a baker that are disguised as "tasty news bites."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Editors, reporters hold themselves apart from you and me

The Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan on Friday. The Record today continues to play catch-up on the sad state of mass transit between northern New Jersey and New York City.

The Eighth Avenue entrance to the bus terminal.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The commute for North Jersey residents who work in Manhattan has been a "nightmare" for many years, not just the "week" you see on the front page of The Record today.

Even in the absence of electrical failures and equipment breakdowns, rush-hour seats on NJ Transit trains have been at a premium for years, and the packed Penn Station waiting room is standing room only and has inadequate air conditioning.

Today's Page 1 story on rail problems doesn't even mention the long list of grievances filed by NJ Transit bus riders stuck with the dysfunctional midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Fare hikes

"Some riders found the delays especially hard to take because NJ Transit's board members voted ... to increase fares by 9 percent and cut service ... to fill a $56 million hole in NJ Transit' budget," writes Christopher Maag, the paper's transportation reporter (A-6).

But Maag omits any mention of Governor Christie's annual cuts in state aid to NJ Transit.

Christie also issued a statement from Iowa "indirectly" blaming President Obama "for failing to bring congressional and state leaders to the table to hammer out financing for a new tunnel under the Hudson River" (A-6).

Of course, Staff Writer Melissa Hayes, who is in Iowa covering the GOP bully's bid for the GOP presidential nomination, was too sheepish to ask him why he didn't call such a summit in 2010 instead of suddenly cancelling new Hudson River rail tunnels.

Instead, Maag again politicizes mass transit by noting, in one of the great understatements of the month, "Democrats and some transit riders found Christie's statement at odds with his own record" [unilateral cancellation of the tunnels in 2010, not 2011, as The Record reports].

No surprise. The reporter is at the beck and call of Editor Martin Gottlieb -- a Christie apologist from across the Hudson -- and assignment editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza.

SUV-loving editors

In decades of assigning reporters, Sykes and Sforza have insisted they cover every board meeting held by NJ Transit, but never to actually ride buses and trains, and assess the service.

Sforza himself covered transportation, but spent most of his time writing about "highways of the future" that will never get built, while ignoring defective NJ Transit buses with screeching rear brakes.

And when he became a local editor, Sforza assigned a reporter to write a number of long stories attacking NJ Transit's proposal to extend light-rail service to Englewood  and Tenafly.

Front-page news?

Is a new policy to close a 24-hour Walmart in Teterboro at midnight really Page 1 news or are the editors again merely pandering to a big advertiser?

Staff Writer Melanie Anzidei drew the short end of the stick, and actually was sent out to interview shoppers at 2 a.m. Friday.

This is a non-story, because the Garfield Walmart -- 4.5 miles away -- will continue to operate 24/7.

Poor George Nwokocha, a Hackensack man who bought bikes for his sons early Friday.

"It will be a longer trip for us," said Nwokocha, as the reporter, no doubt, pleaded for something more dramatic (A-6).

Poor example

Even before Christie set a poor example for a governor, he embodied an unhealthy lifestyle and terrible nutrition, all of which was ignored by the media as he blew up to 400 pounds, as estimated by late-night comedian David Letterman.

Today, Christie is shown in Iowa after trying a bacon-wrapped fried Oreo (A-3). Back in New Jersey, his aides issued a statement ordering residents to eat bread.

Gottlieb is covering the GOP presidential campaign better than he is the fallout from Christie's policies here in the Garden State.

On Friday, Gottlieb ran on A-3 what should have been A-1 news: 

A Senate panel approved a bill that would prohibit the governor from using taxpayer money to pay for his political activities outside New Jersey.

Speziale story

I got a kick out of the story on L-2 today about Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale being pulled off of a flight to Puerto Rico in a dispute "related to oversized carry-on luggage" at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Look at how much sympathetic ink Speziale gets here.

Yet, the editors have refused to comment on his running of the Police Department, which seems unable or unwilling to stop gun violence in Silk City.

How many innocent youngsters have to die in the streets before someone takes a hard look at the job Speziale isn't doing in Paterson?

At least seven stories in today's Local section, including the big photo package on the cover, are from outside Bergen County.

Friday, July 24, 2015

With N.J. going to hell, A-1 pro hockey news is shocking

Today's Hackensack Chronicle reports the Atlantic Street Park is officially open, but on Thursday, workmen were still putting the finishing touches on the space, above and below.

New parking meters on Atlantic Street, right, were covered with plastic bags on Thursday, and an officer in a marked police car ordered me to move after I parked there to take pictures.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

New Jersey continues to struggle under an absentee governor, but Editor Martin Gottlieb couldn't care less.

Page 1 of The Record today is dominated by a silly sports column and the 12-year-old photo of Lou Who?

Gottlieb, who once worked at The New York Times and lives in Manhattan, continues to show contempt for the concerns of the vast majority of New Jersey residents as Governor Christie focuses most of his energies on his failing presidential bid.

Also on A-1

Another Page 1 story today -- on the growing number of female funeral directors -- is puzzling given how obituaries of locally prominent people rarely appear on the front page.

I guess Gottlieb knows how many geezers like himself still read the paper, so he's aimed a third A-1 story on hip and knee replacement surgery squarely at them (A-1).

A story on A-3 says that in early September, all NJ Transit bus service "would be consolidated" on the midtown Manhattan bus terminal's third floor.

Why wasn't that done 10 years ago?

End the column

Readers of the Road Warrior column know Staff Writer John Cichowski is so desperate for material he'll print any and every email from readers, whose exaggerations and inaccuracies rival the columnist's own (L-1).

Today, he quotes Dave Mackay of Ringwood as claiming he was "chased from a cellphone lot" at Newark Liberty International Airport while waiting for his wife's plane to land.

"Non-commercial drivers must pay to use these lots that are intended for people who are picking up arriving passengers, he was told," the columnist claims.

Not sure what the veteran reporter means by "these lots," because there is only one at Newark airport, and it's relatively new.

Another cellphone lot is at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Both lots are free, but the signage at Newark makes that lot much harder to find.

Cichowski's column is filled with so many errors readers don't known what is true and what isn't. 

Ending the column would be absolutely no loss to commuters.