Thursday, December 8, 2016

Editors finally wake up to darkest days in American history

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is "Dracula in Aleppo" in this cartoon about the Syrian civil war from Arend van Dam. President-elect Donald J. Trump's praise for Putin has been widely reported by the news media, but rarely condemned.


We have women to thank for returning the focus to just how dangerous President-elect Donald J. Trump is to our democracy.

"Across North Jersey," The Record reports on Page 1 today, "woman are booking buses, reserving hotel rooms, planning car pools and rallying their mothers and daughters to descend on Washington" the day after the wacko racist is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

"There needs to be a really clear message sent to our president-elect and to Congress," says Jen Kistner, a photographer from Edgewater.

"This is not about a Republican being elected -- I've seen plenty of Republicans elected -- this is about a really dangerous person with dangerous ideas who is not qualified for the job" (1A and 8A).

Like the women who will March on Washington on Jan. 21, I'm not buying all the B.S. about Trump uniting the nation, especially in view of his White House and Cabinet picks.

And like those women, I see the vote for Trump as a vote against women, women's rights and Hillary Clinton, who got up to 2.5 million more votes than Trump and would have been the first woman elected president. 

'Madman of the Year'

Leave it to the sorry print journalists at Time to name the president-elect as Person of the Year (1A and 6A).

"But they did so with a headline that read, 'President of the Divided States of America,'" says Op-Ed Columnist Charles M. Blow of The New York Times.

He continues, "In an interview with the 'Today' show, Trump huffed: 'When you say divided states of America, I didn't divide them.'

"Donald, they name is division. You and your campaign of toxicity and intolerance have not only divided this country but also ripped it to tatters....

"This is our challenge: To see clearly what this deceiver wants to obscure; to be resolute about that to which he wants us to be resigned; to understand that Time's man of the year is, by words and deeds, more of a madman of the year."

Forced busing

Today's front page shows how NJ Transit bus riders still are second-class citizens at Port Authority bus stations in Manhattan (1A).

Reopening of the George Washington Bridge Bus Station is being postponed again, and isn't expected to be completed until April, Staff Writer Paul Berger reports.

Bus commuters also are second-class citizens in The Record's newsroom, where Road Warrior columnist John Cichowski and other reporters ignored them until a couple of years ago, when the editor started receiving angry letters about massive delays at the midtown Manhattan bus station.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Day after day, Gannett editors keep readers' eyes rolling

"Barbarians" is the title of this cartoon by Arend van Dam, who has Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bombing residents of Aleppo, Syria, as the civil war drags on.


Recovering addicts helping overdose patients into treatment programs surely is an important story, but does it really belong on Page 1 of The Record today?

There isn't much else on the front page for readers of the redesigned Woodland Park daily, which is struggling after another major downsizing.

Staff Writer Hannan Adely is reprising the eight-year-old case against Imam Mohammad Qatanani, spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County (1A).

And so-called Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson is following the difficult last days of Scott Garrett, the Tea Party radical who lost his seat in Congress on Nov. 8 (1A).

Trump and Syria

Where are the stories and commentary about President-elect Donald J. Trump's praise and support for Russian thug Vladimir Putin, whose bombers are pulverizing Aleppo, Syria?

Paterson and other towns in Passaic County are called home by thousands of Syrian Christians and Muslims, including refugees from the civil war who are worried about their future with Trump in office.

On A-2, the editors run two corrections about a Sunday advertising section called Tribute to Nurses, but there is no explanation why staffers at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center were omitted. 

Local news?

Just as drug addiction is the big news on Page 1 today, homelessness is the major element on the Local front (1L).

The focus is on "Grandma's House" in Clifton, one of several Passaic County stories delivered to Bergen County readers today (1L, 2L and 6L).

In fact, there are more stories from towns like Clifton, Paterson and Haledon than from Bergen communities, including Hackensack.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gannett front pages are cheapening our local daily paper

On Nov. 6, 2013, The Record published this photo of two Paramus police officers who were hired to patrol Westfield Garden State Plaza, but only after a disturbed man with a rifle invaded the state's biggest mall two days earlier, fired shots that panicked hundreds of shoppers and employees, and then committed suicide. 


If I didn't know better, I'd think veteran retailing reporter Joan Verdon has been assigned to write promotional Page 1 pieces about one of The Record's biggest advertisers.

On Saturday, below the fold, she reported "a video-gaming theater" with room for 30 people to compete simultaneously had replaced "a Venetian-style double-decker carousel" at Garden State Plaza in Paramus.

On Thursday, her front-page story on how shoppers could reserve $10 parking spaces appeared above the fold.

Neither story could be considered "news." 

But they expose how profit-hungry publishers like the Borg family and Gannett, which bought The Record in July, don't hesitate to cheapen the front page of what once was a respected local daily newspaper. 

Since last month's redesign of the print edition, readers don't know what to expect from day to day. 

Gannett editors seem to have lost sight of their mission as journalists to report on issues that affect state residents.

Instead, they continue to sensationalize the politics that divide the state and nation.  

Sunday edition

Today's front page has only three main elements -- stories about President-elect Donald J. Trump's arrogant son-in-law; Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's belated bid to come out from behind Governor Christie; and Karen Koehler of Park Ridge, who is in complete remission after trying an experimental cancer treatment (1A).

The last is the kind of gee-whiz medical story The Record seems to specialize in -- instead of tackling the obesity epidemic or heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States.

A story on the alarming condition of the state's drinking water system is buried on 11A.

Saturday's paper

Saturday's front page also was narrowly focused: Stories about New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen being picked to head the House Appropriations Committee, and a Passaic County imam again facing deportation charges.

Friday's edition, on the other hand, reported on issues that affect almost everyone:

How Christie has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from environmental settlements to balance the state budget; a state appeals court ruling that stopped the governor from scrapping civil service exam requirements; and the uncertainty since the presidential election about bringing Syrian refugees to New Jersey.

Also, starting on Jan. 1, the right of adopted children to obtain their birth certificates and if not redacted, the names of their birth parents.

Local news?

Today's Local section carries a story on the Hackensack Board of Education's search for a new superintendent, but doesn't explain why Karen Lewis was fired unexpectedly in June (3L).

On the Local front, a column reports on a student movement to improve pedestrian safety on River Road in Teaneck, where a Chinese woman who held a master's degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University was struck in a crosswalk and killed on Nov. 21.

Staff Writer John Cichowski reports "the petition doesn't cover driving laws or conduct." 

But the so-called Road Warrior again treats graduate Weiqi Wang as so much road kill when he fails to advocate stronger laws to punish drivers with long jail sentences after they strike and fatally injure pedestrians in a crosswalk.

After Castro

The Record's coverage of the death of Fidel Castro has been lopsided, and today's Opinion front piece by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is no exception (1O).

"We can only hope the death of Fidel Castro will be the first crack in the Cuban regime's stranglehold on power and that the people of Cuba will finally move one step closer to freedom," says Menendez, whose parents were born on the Caribbean's biggest island.

The senator downplays all of Cuba's achievements, and doesn't even mention how the 1959 revolution brought racial equality to an island that had long been strictly segregated.

Travel section

Today, Travel Editor Jill Schensul reports on how terrorism is influencing where we vacation (1T).

But why hasn't she ever discussed crime in Jamaica, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands?

Next to her column today is a rave from the Detroit Free Press about "the first overwater bungalows in the Caribbean" in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

In one of many editing lapses in today's paper, the first paragraph says the bungalows "open Dec. 2" -- that was Friday.

In Better Living, a photo caption on 3BL starts out this way: 

"Christopher Bates of FLX Table in Geneva ...," so you might wonder why The Record is devoting nearly a whole page to a chef in Switzerland.

When you read the first two paragraphs of the story, you learn the restaurant is in Geneva, N.Y., in the Finger Lakes region.

Still, why is a New Jersey paper devoting almost an entire page to Chef Bates and the food he serves? 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Editors ignore Christie role in housing and health-care woes

A Christmas Tree went up in the lobby of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center the day after Thanksgiving.


Staff Writers Lindy Washburn and Salvador Rizzo of The Record continue to give Governor Christie a pass on his bid to sabotage both President Obama's health-care initiative and landmark court rulings on affordable housing.

In fact, the conservative Republican governor's name is completely missing in Washburn's upbeat story on the Affordable Care Act (3A).

Nor does the GOP thug's name appear in Rizzo's piece on skeptical state Supreme Court justices hearing a plea from towns to forgive their affordable housing obligations in the past 17 years (4A).

Gee, it isn't news that Christie takes credit for an expansion of Medicaid in New Jersey -- thanks to an infusion of federal funds -- but refused to set up a state marketplace residents could use to buy health policies under the Affordable Care Act.

That has thrown New Jerseyans onto the overburdened federal marketplace, and reduced their choice to two insurers in 2017, compared with five this year.

Nor is it a secret Christie tried to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing, the state agency that is responsible for ensuring that all 566 municipalities in New Jersey provide their share of low- and moderate-cost housing.

Many of Christie's supporters live in largely white suburban towns that have refused to accommodate affordable housing and an influx of minorities.

Water on brain

The Record's so-called commuting columnist continues to diss long-suffering NJ Transit bus and rail riders to lavish praise on NY Waterway, a trans-Hudson ferry company that celebrated its 30th anniversary this week (1A).

Taking the ferry is the most expensive way to commute to the city with the exception of driving there yourself and paying exorbitant parking rates.

Page 1 today also appeals to high rollers who are willing to pay $10 for a reserved parking space at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus.

Gannett editors put this story on the front page to please one of the paper's biggest advertisers.

More Bridgegate

The story that belonged on Page 1 today is Superior Court Judge Bonnie Mizdol in Hackensack saying she will release a Bridgegate-related decision on Friday (1L)

Bill Brennan, a former Teaneck firefighter with a law degree, is asking her to appoint a special prosecutor in the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal (1L).

Brennan wants Christie prosecuted for doing nothing when he learned about the Fort Lee traffic jams in September 2013.

Christie wasn't named in a federal indictment, but three of his former aides or associates have been convicted of conspiracy and other charges.

All said he knew about the lane closings while they were happening.

Still, the governor has somehow managed to avoid testifying under oath and in public on what he knew and when he knew it.

EPA mileage rule

An Associated Press story on a proposal to boost average fuel economy and emissions targets in the U.S. also appears to be slanted toward other big advertisers -- automakers and auto dealers (16A).

The U.S. Environmental Agency proposal is a victory for the environment, but the story doesn't discuss the impact of auto emissions on climate change or their role in the deaths of 53,000 people every year.

The EPA is standing by an Obama administration proposal for an average fuel economy of 50.8 mpg by 2025, compared to 35.3 now.

Each automaker would be required to hit that average across its entire model line -- including hybrids and EVs -- not for individual vehicles (the acronym CAFE stands for corporate average fuel economy).

Manufacturers are upset that to meet the targets, they would have to reduce the number of highly profitable but gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs they sell.

This year, both Ford and Nissan have ramped up production of big SUVs and pickups to take advantage of low gas prices.