Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reporters miss the bus on delays at Manhattan terminal

Summer 2013: The line to board NJ Transit buses at the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan was so long that some North Jersey commuters had to wait on the level below the platforms, above. Despite the crowded conditions, one woman used an empty seat for her personal belongings, below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The incoming Port Authority chairman took a bus to midtown Manhattan, rating the antiquated terminal "unacceptable," but why is the story on Page 1 of The Record today?

Really groundbreaking news would be the paper's transportation reporters routinely riding public transit, and rating the service, which has deteriorated in the past decade.

That way problems wouldn't sneak up and bite them on their lazy asses -- as did several angry letters to the editor from bus riders The Record published late last year.

$90 million in repairs?

In the interview with Port Authority Chairman John Degnan, Staff Writer Shawn Boburg reports:

"Under pressure from commuters and several North Jersey legislators, the Port Authority is expected to consider directing $90 million for stopgap repairs of the aging bus terminal, a move that has Degnan's support" (A-1).

Of course, both Boburg and his clueless assignment editor have until recently completely ignored the bi-state agency's involvement in public transit, including the PATH commuter rail line and the reverse bus lane into the Lincoln Tunnel.

Ditto goes for Road Warrior John Cichowski, who appears to be too infirm to board an NJ Transit bus or train, and prefers to field e-mail complaints from drivers about road-construction delays (L-1).

Officer Goodell

Staff Writers Allison Pries and Emily Masters covered the procession that carried the body of Waldwick Police Officer Christopher Goodell to St. Luke's Church in Ho-Ho-Kus on Monday, and reported on Tuesday's church service and burial (A-1 today and Tuesday).

The detail in those overlong stories doesn't make up for all of the unanswered questions on exactly what happened when a J.B. Hunt tractor-trailer loaded with produce slammed into Goodell's unmarked cruiser parked on the shoulder of Route 17 south early last Thursday.

The 32-year-old officer and Iraq war veteran, who was manning a radar checkpoint, was killed.

Press releases

Prosecutors say trucker Ryon Cumberbatch, who pleaded not guilty on Monday to second-degree vehicular homicide, crossed the shoulder and made no attempt to stop, but not whether he was speeding or asleep at 1:30 a.m. (L-1 on Tuesday).

The Record's reporters don't seem to have cultivated any law-enforcement news sources, forcing them to rely on press releases.

Nor has the Woodland Park daily urged police in Waldwick and other towns to start using traffic and speeding cameras to avoid putting officers like Goodell in harm's way.

Inconsistencies

Tuesday's front-page photo caption says Goodell "died Thursday morning," but just below that the text of the story notes the police officer died "early Thursday."

Tuesday's story predicted "roughly 6,000 mourners," but today's report says the ceremony was attended by "an estimated 3,500 people" (A-1).

And why in the lead paragraph today did the editors lump together Goodell with Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago, 23, who died under completely different circumstances (A-1).

Lame food coverage

The Better Living cover today celebrates the avocado as one of nature's "superfoods." 

Then, freelancer Rita Cookson negates its health benefits by recommending a salad made with avocados and bacon, which is filled with harmful animal antibiotics and hormones, as well as preservatives linked to cancer (BL-1 and BL-3).

The FYI column promotes a $40 three-course dinner at Due in Ridgewood when hundreds of Manhattan restaurants are serving $38 price-fixed dinners during Summer Restaurant Week (BL-2).

On Monday's Better Living cover, Food Editor Esther Davidowitz asked restaurant executive Grant Halliday what makes Roots Steakhouse in Ridgewood "different from all other steakhouse restaurants."

Unfortunately, Halliday claimed "our side offerings" are "unique," not that Roots serves naturally raised beef without harmful additives (a 24-ounce T-bone is $42.95).

Costco Wholesale sells cold-smoked wild Alaskan sockeye salmon year-round for under $19 a pound, but Staff Writer Elisa Ung promoted the cold-smoked artificially colored farmed salmon from Moveable Feast in Moonachie (BL-1 on Sunday).

Second look

Members of North Jersey motorcycle clubs modify their Harley-Davidsons to make them as noisy as possible -- annoying their neighbors to no end -- then find gullible reporters to write about their charitable giving.

I suppose Staff Writer Christopher Maag believes all the money raised by the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club in Carlstadt excuses the violation of every anti-noise ordinance on the books, as well as the lack of enforcement (Sunday's Local front).



Monday, July 21, 2014

Why is anyone in their right mind living next to Route 17?

Just before 3 on Monday afternoon, the Manhattan entrance to the Holland Tunnel was jammed with drivers returning to New Jersey.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Leave it to reporter John Cichowski to write an entire Page 1 column in The Record on Sunday, and never answer the real question on the minds of readers.

Why would anyone who doesn't have a screw or two loose buy a home next to Route 17 south -- where a tractor-trailer went out of control and crushed an unmarked Waldwick cruiser at a radar checkpoint, killing the 32-year-old officer inside?

The constant noise, years of breathing poisoned air and the tension of hearing and seeing all those crashes clearly have taken their toll on residents.

Cichowski, the burned-out Road Warrior, actually quotes a resident who claims cars turn off Route 17 onto their street at 60 mph, a physical impossibility.

He also coins a new phrase, "crash magnetism."

Readers wish that his column attracted facts in the same way the Waldwick stretch of Route 17 supposedly is a magnet for crashes.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Speed camera would have saved Waldwick officer

Speeding is a problem all over North Jersey, but not on Passaic Street and Summit Avenue in Hackensack, above, where traffic doesn't move even when the light is green. With no turn lanes on Passaic, drivers must cool their heels behind others waiting for a break in oncoming traffic.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The Record and other media love to write about conflict, such as the so-called debate over speed cameras that would prevent putting police officers like Christopher Goodell in harm's way.

Early Thursday, Goodell, 32, was on radar patrol in an unmarked Waldwick cruiser parked on the side of Route 17 south, a speeding and drunken-driving checkpoint he had manned many times before with much success.

Then, a tractor-trailer driven by Ryon Cumberbatch "crossed the shoulder and didn't try to stop in any way" before smashing into the cruiser and killing the officer, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli says.

Speeding truck?

Molinelli hasn't said whether the trucker was speeding. He is charged with second-degree vehicular homicide.

And The Record has made no attempt to find out from other sources if the radar device Goodell was using registered the vehicle's speed or if a device in the Freightliner 18-wheeler itself measured its speed before the crash.

Cumberbatch worked for J.B. Hunt Transportation Services Inc., which the paper describes as "an international trucking company" based in Lowell, Ark., with four fatal New Jersey crashes in 2011 and 2012.

Stupid editorial

Today, an editorial notes Waldwick's "radar patrol fatality" raises questions (A-13).

The writer appears to be measuring his or her words, seemingly afraid of stating flatly that a speed camera would have saved the life of a cop who survived the Iraq war only to die in a meaningless way on the side of a suburban highway.

Deep in the editorial, the unidentified writer raises a "third, though relative question [that] concerns the effectiveness of traffic cameras, and whether they might be a safer alternative to having law enforcement officers sit on the shoulder of a road, especially a well-traveled one notorious for speeders, like the area where Goodell was struck."

No study needed

If this kind of wishy-washy editorial writing isn't enough, the writer goes on to say the "issue of traffic cameras is one that should be discussed, community to community, and will no doubt vary depending on developing traffic patterns and a particular town's relative manpower."

What B.S.

The Woodland Park daily should urge Molinelli, the prosecutor, to use some of the money confiscated from criminals or fines from drivers convicted of driving drunk or speeding to purchase speed cameras for towns such was Waldwick that have to expose officers to the dangers of such patrols.

Page 1

The front-page today is two-dimensional: international crises (Gaza and Ukraine), and communities mourning dead police officers (Jersey City and Waldwick).

Columnist Mike Kelly is still using a dated, unflattering thumbnail photo complete with shit-eating grin (A-1).

If that doesn't stop you, be sure to read all the way through his overlong column on how the execution of Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago reveals the "dilemma" of a city divided "between rich and poor" (A-6).

Food follies

On the Better Living cover, Staff Writer Sachi Fujimori falls into a trap when she asks in her lead paragraph on grilling:

"Who doesn't love a juicy burger with hatched grill marks or Jersey corn on the cob lightly buttered and sweetly charred?"

The answer: Tens of thousands of readers watching their cholesterol and intake of harmful animal antibiotics, and others who don't eat meat. 

(201) magazine

Being white and wealthy is good, (201) magazine tells us on nearly every page.

The cover of the July 2014 issue shows Demarest's Nicole Dickstein, who is celebrated for her "breezy bohemian style," presumably a reference to her being barefoot in the photo.

But if you bother to read the text inside, with photos of Dickstein and the many products she endorses, you find out she is a "self-proclaimed shoe addict" who would "like to live in heels" (Pages 78-79).

Hippie v. sexy

A pop-out quote on Page 78 notes: 

"I have an inner debate of being a hippie and wearing boho-style clothing versus wanting to dress modern with a sexy twist."

Sloppy editing

Another feature reports on the success of backup singer Cindy Mizelle, who was born in Englewood, one of the few African-Americans in the issue (Pages 56-58).

Did anyone edit the story, which is filled with problems?

For readers who can't do the arithmetic, the writer notes Mizelle has had a "flourishing decades-long professional career since the 1980s."

Opera legend Luciano Pavarotti is identified as one of the "musicians" her longtime colleague worked with.

"Strong work ethic" comes out "strong worth ethic," and the words "home home" appear in a photo caption.

Ridgewood News

A feature on the Ridgewood News, another North Jersey Media Group publication, shows front pages from 1892 to 1970, but two of them read:

"The Weekly Ridgewood Herald (1900) and Ridgewood Herald-News (1964), though I didn't see any mention in the text of the Herald name (Pages 60-63).

If you want a good laugh, read the awkwardly written "review" of Pier 115 Bar & Grill in Edgewater by Ryan Greene, who was dining editor/editorial assistant until June (Page 111).



Friday, July 18, 2014

Speeding kills, but please don't disturb the editors

NJ Transit's electric-powered Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, seen here in Jersey City, will be extended to Englewood, but the Neanderthals who rule the wealthy borough of Tenafly have rejected the service, citing their heavy investment in SUVs and luxury vehicles that run on fossil fuel. Stephen A. Borg, publisher of The Record and a Tenafly resident, has lent editorial support to that short-sighted decision.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

With nearly a day to work on a crash that killed a Waldwick cop who was lying in wait to catch speeders, The Record's inept newsroom staff is unable to report today whether the tractor-trailer driver charged in the death was himself speeding.

Today's front-page photo -- showing the demolished police cruiser and the jackknifed truck on the edge of Route 17 -- is worth a thousand words, especially in view of how those words, with details of what caused the accident, are missing (A-1).

Why was the photo supplied by "NBC New York" and not the Woodland Park daily's own staff?

Unanswered questions

To hit Waldwick Police Officer Christopher Goodell's cruiser on the side of Route 17 south and propel the vehicle into a retaining wall, couldn't the paper say with certainty the truck was out of control?

And couldn't anyone find a source in Bergen County's fatal accident unit for an educated guess on how fast trucker Ryon Cumberbatch of Brooklyn was driving before he lost control or fell asleep?

If Goodell was using radar to catch speeders, did the truck's speed register on the device or was it destroyed?

Instead, the paper today runs separate stories about the cop and Iraq war veteran, and the immigrant charged with second-degree vehicular homicide, referring inappropriately to the trucker as "Ryon" at one point.

Speed-camera shy

To rub salt in readers' wounds, Road Warrior John Cichowski rouses himself from his usual stupor to declare in a column on the Local front Goodell "was using radar equipment to control chronic speeding" on Route 17 (L-1).

In more than a decade of writing the so-called commuting column, Cichowski has completely ignored a rise in speeding and aggressive driving amid what many believe is declining enforcement.

Governor Christie has contributed to the problem by not replacing hundreds of state troopers who have retired, leading to fewer anti-speeding patrols on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

Speed still kills

More than 13,000 people die every year in crashes involving speed, according to the National Safety Council.

Cichowski also has written a number of shrill columns demonizing red-light cameras, which catch speeders and cut down fatal intersection collisions.

Today's column on speeding cameras quotes the "chief opponent" of red-light cameras, the idiotic National Motorists Association, which argues driving is a right, not a privilege.

Members likely are speed-addicted lead-foots who assert their right to terrorize other drivers by speeding, tailgating and other aggressive behavior.

Did cop die in vain?

Let's hope Goodell didn't die in vain, and New Jersey's fractious law enforcers can get their act together and demand more red-light cameras and the installation of speeding cameras everywhere.

The extra revenue will be welcome, given the mess Christie has made of the New Jersey economy.

And why are a number of homes along Route 17 south completely exposed to traffic, unprotected by guardrails or sound walls, measures that could have protected Goodell, too?

More boring politics

The fatal collision on Page 1 today completely overshadows Christie's appearance in Iowa, in what one of The Record's columnists calls the GOP bully's "unofficial coming-out party for the 2016 presidential race" (A-1).

The Record carried a front-page story on Thursday, reporting on the supposed significance of the Iowa trip. 

Unfortunately, The New York Times story on Christie's trip to Iowa appeared on Wednesday.

How long has The Record been covering a presidential election that is still more than two years away?

Clinton v. Christie?

Former first lady and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton looks radiant in a photo on the Local front today (L-1).

I can't wait for her to declare and beat the crap out of Christie or any other GOP candidate for the White House.

More corrections

The reporting and editing staffs continue to struggle with getting things right, and they seemed to have caught a flu from Cichowski, who likely has set a record for inaccuracies by a single reporter.

Thursday's A-2 had an elaborate correction and a detailed clarification. Today's A-2 carries another correction.

Tuesday's paper had two corrections and Wednesday's single correction was even longer.

Liz Houlton, the six-figure production editor, apparently isn't doing her job. Why is she still employed there?

For carnivores

Non-meat eaters can only hope they'll find vegetarian dishes at Sapphire Thai Food Express in Teaneck (BL-14).

There is no mention of them in Elisa Ung's favorable review today, even though Thai menus usually list many salads, tofu, vegetable and other non-meat dishes.