Monday, November 30, 2009

Ray of hope for readers?

The System's Weight atop Rob Ferguson

More than a month after a new shelter opened in Hackensack and centralized services for the homeless, The Record of Woodland Park finally has taken notice.

On the Local section front today, we learn the innovative county shelter on River Street allows the homeless to stay there until they secure permanent housing and to use a number of private agency services that were previously scattered. Does the shelter's placement next to the county jail bother the homeless? The article doesn't say.

All the space devoted to the murderous father, on the front page and in the Local section, only serves to highlight how the former Hackensack daily has failed repeatedly to explore the human impact of the recession before people finally lose it, while obsessively reporting  housing starts, foreclosures and other cold, recessionary data.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of dollars of staff time has been sucked up by an "investigation" into one man that is close to marking its third anniversary, without a single article published.

With the apparent backing of the Borg family, incompetent editors and hapless reporters -- including the poor woman who is supposed to be covering Hackensack --  have been screwing around for years trying to find something publishable about a single law enforcement official who never even rose to the rank of police chief or country prosecutor, according to talk in the newsroom before I left The Record.

And while this so-called investigation continues, with no end in sight, Publisher Stephen A. Borg, Editors Frank Scandale, Frank Burgos, Deirdre "Laughs A Lot" Sykes and  Tim Nostrand; and a bunch of sub-editors say to the readers in Hackensack and all the other towns that are no longer covered -- all together now -- Up yours!
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another nothing-special Sunday

Fort Lee Museum, Fort Lee, NJ

The Sunday edition of The Record once was so special, it was actually called The Sunday Record, and it was filled with longer stories about municipal government in Bergen County and the rest of North Jersey. Now, it's just The Record, indistinguishable in so many ways from the daily paper, which is doing its best to ignore local news.

When I saw Mike Kelly's byline on the front page today, I thought, at least we'll be spared another one of his boring columns on the Opinion front, but I was wrong. When I was a news copy editor at The Record, we fought over the stories of some reporters, but as deadline loomed, we had to be ordered to edit Kelly's stuff.

Kelly is the lead reporter on a Page 1 "investigation" into an ultra-right-wing radio talk show host from North Bergen who fancies himself a patriot for working with the FBI, but who is facing charges of threatening to kill federal judges. Did anyone actually read that to the end? Next to that story is another in a series that portrays Paterson as the murder capital of North Jersey.

The former Hackensack daily has also spent thousands of hours on stories about Paterson's drug and prostitution problems. I remember walking by a Record newspaper box in Hackensack during the prostitution series and seeing this sensational poster on it, worthy of a trashy tabloid.
 You'll notice there was no mention of Paterson, lest Bergen readers yawn.

Officials are getting increasingly shrill about the state's financial problems, but the paper continues to downplay them by shoving the stories inside. Today, there is a Star-Ledger story on A-5 talking about possible, severe cuts in Paterson, New Brunswick and Hope Township, strangling all hope of readers in Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and other Bergen towns that they'll ever learn what's in store for them and their taxes.

If you turn to the Local section, most of it seems devoted to more lavish development proposals for that parcel of land  near the GWB in Fort Lee that has been vacant for nearly four decades. Maybe the town's stupid officials and the paper's lazy, incompetent editors will finally just back turning this eyesore into a great park, and allow Merry Firschein, the Fort Lee reporter, to explore the simmering conflicts between the longtime Japanese residents and more recent Korean arrivals.

The paper wastes so much newsprint on this vacant land because the other local reporters wrote no stories for the Sunday paper. Hackensack? The Record of Woodland Park says to the city where it was founded in 1895 -- for yet another day -- Screw you!

In Better Living, a lavish advertisement for mogul Richard Branson's resort and restaurant in Somerset County is disguised as the Sunday column of Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung, who continues to ignore important dining issues closer to home.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

This paper will take 5 minutes to read

Tiger Woods, champion golfer, drives the ball ...Image via Wikipedia

The front page of  The Record of Woodland Park screams no news today, with most of  it devoted to shopping and the misfortunes of golfer Tiger Woods.

In the Local section, there is no education, municipal or crime news from Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood or from many other Bergen County towns readers live in, but you'll find four stories about Clifton.

 My neighbor in Hackensack said it all when I told her I was blogging about The Record, which was founded here in 1895 and prospered for more than 110 years before moving to Woodland Park this year: "That's such a crappy paper."
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The Al Frech mystery

The Record of Woodland Park gave a big  chunk of  the editorial page Nov. 25 to an attack on both health-care reform and Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. from Al Frech, saying only that he "lives in Wayne." Virtually all other opinion writers have been identified by the newspaper.

In 1999, Dr. Al Frech was identified on the Web site of  Ramapo College of New Jersey as director of its Center for Health and Counseling Services. He apparently is a psychologist with a PhD, not a medical doctor.

Does that qualify Frech to write about health-care reform? Is anything he says close to being accurate or is he another critic who distorts what the reform bill will and will not do for his own purposes?

Why didn't The Record identify him or respond to inquiries from readers? Is this another example of sloppy journalism, like Thursday's front-page listing of stores open on Thanksgiving that failed to note exceptions in Paramus?
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Friday, November 27, 2009

More inside stuff from JerryD

Michael Jackson, cropped from :Image:Michael J...

Jerry DeMarco, the former assistant assignment editor at The Record who is the moving force behind, had a lot to say about my "Eye on The Record" post Thursday on Englewood coverage and the Borg family, "A lot of paper to recycle." He refers to The Record as "the Wreck It," though I prefer "The Wretched," which works on a couple of levels. "OxyGen" and "OJ" apparently refer to Jennifer A. Borg, Daddy's little girl, who grew up to take the cushy job of  vice president and general counsel at North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record and Herald News.

To read his comments, click on "1 COMMENTS" at the end of the post from Thursday, "A lot of paper to recycle, 11/26/09," or on the following link:

This will also give you the opportunity to react to his broadside.

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Where the jocks are in control

Bahama BreezeImage via Wikipedia
If you believe The Record of Woodland Park should reflect the values of its sports-loving editor and wealthy owners -- the mansion-loving Borgs -- then you see nothing wrong with devoting most of the front page today to parking problems at the new Giants Stadium in East Rutherford.

You certainly won't find the former Hackensack daily questioning why our society can afford newer, bigger  and more expensive sports venues, while consistently serving up a royal F-U to the poor, the homeless and the hungry -- whose numbers continue to increase.

That big Page 1 story is written by Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski, who long ago lost sight of his core mission to report on commuters and mass transit. He is such a champion of people who'll fight to their death for the privilege of driving alone in their gas guzzlers, he's even got an attitude about the few red-light cameras slated for North Jersey.

Don't look in the Local section today for any education or municipal news about the highly diverse towns of Teaneck, Englewood and Hackensack, where the paper was founded in 1895 and prospered for more than 110 years before moving to Woodland Park. You also won't see anything about why the new homeless shelter in Hackensack was apparently finished weeks ago, but hasn't opened. I guess the paper is waiting for a news release to arrive.

On Page A-22 today, a letter to the editor from Andrew J. Stanish of Elmwood Park asked the same question "Eye on The Record" did Wednesday: Why was Al Frech of Wayne given such a big piece of the editorial page to misinform readers about health-car reform, and just who is Al Frech? He has been just about the only opinion writer who hasn't been identified by the paper.  

Peter Grad, the editor of the Opinion Page, hasn't responded to an e-mail from "Eye on The Record" on why Frech wasn't identified beyond the town he lives in. You can reach him at

In Better Living today, more precious space and ink is lavished on Blend in Ridgewood. Haven't we read enough about the ups and downs of this apparently flawed restaurant and lounge, judging from the two-star rating from Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung? That's the same rating she gave a faux-Caribbean, chain restaurant on the highway in Wayne called Bahama Breeze. If she had so many problems with the food and service, why run three highly promotional, mouth-watering, color photographs of the fare on the front of the section and inside? No wonder she is referred to in some quarters as Elisa Ugh.

Meanwhile, the lazy editors provide us with only a partial list of restaurant sanitary inspections in North Jersey. For example, when was the last time you saw ratings for restaurants in wealthy Wyckoff?

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

A lot of paper to recycle

Gadhafi Camping
The plastic bag I picked up from the driveway today was fat and heavy -- filled with The Record of Woodland Park and advertising inserts. Since I'm not in the market for anything, they went right into the recycling bin, and that was most of what was in the bag.

The most important story the incompetent, lazy editors could find to put on the front page was one about shopping -- par for the course since The Record spent a considerable chunk of money in an unsuccessful bid to get Sunday blue laws repealed. A story reporting a bigger state budget gap gets shoved inside. Doesn't that minimize its importance, despite the Page 1 tease?

There are three mentions in the paper, including on the front-page, of the increased demand for free food from pantries, but the Borg family has never fully acknowledged publicly how it contributed to the recession by ending North Jersey Media Group's highly profitable commercial printing, laying off more than 50 press workers, merging The Record with the Herald News, and shedding an unknown number of newsroom and advertising staffers, while capping severance pay at 12 weeks.

Nor has anyone calculated the impact on the Main Street economy of  Hackensack, where The Record was  founded in 1895 and prospered for more than 110 years, before the Borgs moved printing of the two papers, the main newsroom and hundreds of workers out of Bergen County -- months ahead of a schedule that appeared in a Business section story quoting Stephen and Jennifer Borg, the siblings running NJMG.

Don't worry. The recession hasn't seemed to hurt the family of Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, NJMG chairman. I can just imagine the Borgs gathering for Thanksgiving today in Stephen's $3.65 million Tenafly mansion, bought with a mortgage from Dad's company, as was his previous, $2 million home.The turkey dinner the paper once bought for newsroom workers on duty today is a distant memory.

Hibernating reporter Giovanna Fabiano emerges from her den to report in the Local section today that the Libyan ambassador to the U.N. is expected to move into the Englewood mansion Libya bought in 1983. There were only six stories about Englewood in the paper in August -- and five of them were about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. A story about adoption of a new master plan for Englewood -- of far more interest to the vast majority of residents -- gets only brief mention today.

These stories about the Libyans are designed to push readers' buttons and it's clear the editors hope to divert attention from the shameful job they are doing covering local news in Englewood, Hackensack and Teaneck. They also are driven by two men, Pay-To-Play Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes, a relentless self-promoter, and Shmuley Boteach, a wealthy, publicity-hungry rabbi who didn't seem to have a problem buying a mansion next door to the Libyans, but went ballistic when Gadhafi said he intended to stay there in the summer. Then, curiously, several weeks later, a long, promotional story about Rabbi Boteach's new book about pop king Michael Jackson appeared in The Record.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to bury the real news

Black man reading newspaper by candlelight Man...

The Record of Woodland Park has been defending the status quo for decades, especially when it comes to home rule -- the small-town, local-government system that gave us the highest property taxes in the nation. Of course, the newspaper is trying to hold onto its readers, most of whom live in predominantly white towns that will fight to the death to defend their neighborhood schools.

So what do the editors do with a new poll showing that "a majority of New Jersey voters overwhelmingly support merging their school districts and local governments with neighboring ones to lower ... record-high property taxes"?

Today, they shoved the story inside, to Page A-4, and wasted almost the entire front page on a huge holiday travel graphic and a second story on a possible gas-tax hike with a lead paragraph that is both poorly constructed and inaccurate.

Since Frank Scandale took over as editor, The Record has been blaming high property taxes on the healthy salaries won by police officers and teachers. Under the previous editor, Vivian Waixel, the local staff spent hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours putting together a series of stories dramatizing just how expensive all these small, municipal governments are -- then ran the stories under an apologetic editor's note assuring readers the newspaper wasn't going to try to change the system.

I wonder what the former Hackensack daily is going to do when Chris Christie takes office as governor? Faced with a projected $8 billion deficit, he has been making pointed comments on the urgent need for local-government consolidation. But Christie hasn't been getting much Page 1 play in The Record since he was elected. And consolidation proposals have been soundly rejected time and again in Bergen County.

The Page 1 story by Tom Davis on the possible federal gas-tax hike is cast negatively -- "drivers may have to pay more" -- and not positively: that it will improve mass transit and ease highway congestion. It seems the newspaper's two transportation writers, Davis and Karen Rouse, and its transportation columnist, Road Warrior John Cichowski, are anti-mass transit.

Before The Record moved its newsroom from Hackensack to Woodland Park, all three were too lazy to cross River Street to the bus transfer station and look at or even ride the decrepit NJ Transit buses patronized mostly by minorities -- a stark contrast to the shiny new buses purchased for commuters to Manhattan. Rouse, handpicked by Editor Scandale from his old paper in Denver, made an excuse week after week about why she couldn't take the time to ride the rickety, wheezing No. 780 bus between Englewood and Passaic.

That's in keeping with a long-standing ban on any stories reporting on the quality of bus and rail service in North Jersey. Nor have we seen any stories on some of the new NJ Transit buses that have begun appearing on local routes. I guess the agency hasn't put out a news release yet.

Who in the world is Al Frech of Wayne? A large portion of the editorial page (A-18) is devoted to his rant about health-care reform and an attack on Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., but Frech is the only one of the opinion writers today who is not identified. It just says "lives in Wayne," as if that confers expert status.

The Local section finally has some news from Teaneck and Hackensack, but is silent for another day about Englewood, Englewood Cliffs and Leonia, the beat of  hibernating reporter Giovanna Fabiano.

The Record's lazy editors love to run stories from other newspapers, such as the Miami Herald piece on Page F-4 about the new beaujolias wine from France. The price of a bottle from producer Georges Duboeuf is listed as $10. But you won't see anything about being able to find the same wine for under $8 in North Jersey.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not much to read

Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines LimitedImage via Wikipedia

I was up about 7:30 this morning, had some juice and, while my coffee brewed, went out in my bath robe to fetch The Record of Woodland Park. By 8, I had finished "reading" the former Hackensack daily.

OK. It took a little longer to leaf through the paper, scan the headlines and mutter, Who cares?

The Local section, as usual, was devoid of any education or other news about the core Bergen towns of Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood, highly diverse communities where readership is high. (Circulation figures for The Record now include the Herald News, dubbed an "edition" of the larger paper, to hide from advertisers how many readers have abandoned The Record.)

True, as a former employee, I get a preferential subscription rate, but as a resident of Hackensack, even the 13 to 14 cents a copy I pay may not be worth it. And the shift away from covering the core Bergen towns began long before the newspaper moved its newsroom this year from Hackensack to Woodland Park, now also the home of North Jersey Media Group, which publishes the two daily newspapers.

Has anyone calculated the added pollution and the fuel wasted by the gas guzzlers driven by Stephen and Jennifer Borg, the siblings who now run NJMG, as they commute to Woodland Park, or by the fleet of Mercedes-Benz delivery trucks tearing up Route 80 between Rockaway Township, where the papers are printed, and Bergen County? The young Borgs certainly earn enough to trade in their SUVs for far more efficient hybrids, but do they care enough about the planet?

The rest of The Record today includes a lot of political news, including a bewildering, information-less story on Page A-4 supplied by the Star-Ledger on the change of guard in the state Senate and Assembly. I read the story, but understand nothing about what this means to me and others. What a waste of space.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

A valuable lesson for all

The Star-LedgerImage via Wikipedia

The danger of promising education coverage "every day," as The Record of Woodland Park has been doing for a few years, is not delivering and alienating readers, some of whom just stop reading the paper.

In the Local section today, we learn that a city of Passaic educator has applied for a grant to give every sixth-grader a laptop. A second education story was supplied by the Star-Ledger and doesn't mention Bergen, Passaic or Morris counties, The Record's circulation area.

My son is in his third year of attending public school in Hackensack, and I do not recall seeing any stories about his schools since we moved here in August 2007. Oh, wait. Isn't that the approximate time Monsy Alvarado, the Hackensack reporter, has been sidetracked on an inane, interminable investigation championed by her boss, Deirdre "Laughs A Lot" Sykes?

Has any Hackensack educator applied for a grant to give laptops to sixth- or seventh-graders in Hackensack, the former home of The Record?

The rest of the Local section has no news about Hackensack, unless you count volunteers who spruced up Friendship House in the city, or about Teaneck, Englewood, Ridgewood, Westwood or a host of other Bergen towns.

The so-called "Newstracker" feature at the bottom of L-1 inexplicably looks ahead to the sentencing of a Paterson man who killed his distant cousin. Yet, Saturday's paper didn't report any sentencings in the criminal courts of Bergen, Passaic or Morris counties -- even though Friday is sentencing day in Superior Court.

So was no one sentenced or did The Record's editors keep those stories out of the paper, as they have in the past, so there wouldn't be so much crime news to upset readers?

A Paterson woman who died in an arson fire made front-page news today, but I'll bet that was only because the editors got a spectacular photo of a non-fatal fire in another town they could run above the fold.

The features section called Better Living (not Better Eating) has the usual tips on how to carve a turkey today, but the paper has been silent so far on the merits of finding a turkey that was raised naturally, without antibiotics and animal by-products, or one that hasn't been bred to have a broad breast of tasteless white meat.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

No holiday for Hackensack

Hackensack University Medical CenterImage via Wikipedia

The Record of Woodland Park is filled with heart-warming holiday stories today, but the cold shoulder shown to Hackensack and other core Bergen towns just adds to a disturbing pattern.

With the move this year of the paper's newsroom and most top executives from 150 River St. in Hackensack to 1 Garret Mountain Plaza in Woodland Park, news and feature coverage also seems to have shifted west.

What other explanation is there for all the coverage of street and road construction in Woodland Park? Of all the stories about Paterson, Pequannock, Wayne and other Passaic and Morris communities that fill the Local section? They don't displace the Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood news -- those Bergen stories are never even reported, written and edited.

I like the Page 1 story about the flu doctor at Hackensack University Medical Center, if for no other reason than I can kid myself into thinking it's a story about the city where I live.

Did you see the Page 1 story this week reporting that Jennifer A. Borg, vice president and general counsel of North Jersey Media Group, apparently will give up her seat on the hospital board, because the medical center and The Record do hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising business? How did Borg, a lawyer, overlook this apparent conflict, even after the newspaper reported in great detail on all the business the hospital gave her fellow board members?

On the front of the Local section is the "never-mind" story about the Grinch who stole Friday in tiny, inconsequential Ho-Ho-Kus that was splashed all over the front page Saturday. We learn the man who held off police for seven hours is "emarassed." But I didn't see an apology from the editors for running this crap as a front-page story, the same bone-headed move they made with that balloon hoax from Colorado several weeks ago.

Finally, I refer you to the idiocy compiled by Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung in Better Living on readers' "Thanksgiving kitchen disasters." The inviting headline says, "The dog ate my turkey," but if you read the story, you'll find nothing of the kind happened. Is the paper so desperate for readers, it used a misleading headline?

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

No local news today

Location of Hackensack within Bergen County, N...Image via Wikipedia

The front page of The Record of Woodland Park screams no meaningful local news today, with a lead story on a non-fatal standoff with police in lily white Ho-Ho-Kus. How did this story get on A-1? In some lazy editor's opinion, the photos were better than those with a far more compelling story, the arrest of a suspect in the Jan. 24 immigrant-on-immigrant slaying of a Garfield deli clerk.

The biggest photo with the standoff story is the perp on a gurney. Real dramatic, don't you think? Three other photos show police officers and police vehicles.

But who isn't moved by the big L-1 photo of the clerk's grieving father, owner of the deli, who told a reporter he visits his son's grave every day since the slaying nearly 10 months ago? The entire Local section contains eight inconsequential Bergen stories and photos, two less than from Passaic and Morris counties.

There is no news from highly diverse Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood, a trend that accelerated when The Record moved its newsroom many months ago out of Bergen County, to the former West Paterson. Yet, on A-2, the Borg family still lists the newspaper's address as 150 River St., Hackensack.

A letter to the editor on A-11 today suggests the nation launch a "Cash for Pounds" program to attack the obesity epidemic, a subject the newspaper has been trying to ignore for more than a decade. Maybe some of the obese -- or verging on obese -- editors will read this letter and launch an obesity project.

That surely would be of greater service to readers than the interminable investigation now in its third year that is being led by Deirdre "Laughs A Lot" Sykes, head of the local news assignment desk. This probe has sucked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff salaries and tied up several reporters, including Monsy Alvarado, the woman who is supposed to be covering Hackensack, where the paper was founded in 1895.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Reporters play the popularity contest

Marinated Galbi BarbecueImage via Wikipedia

Let's get to the lack of local news coverage today in The Record of Woodland Park right away, so I can focus on two reporters who seem to think their job is to be popular, not to ask hard questions and serve readers.

You won't find any news of Englewood or Hackensack in the Local section today, but you will find stories from Paterson, Clifton, Pequannock and Ringwood.

A byline in Local identifies Mark J. Bonamo as "Staff Writer," but in today's Hackensack Chronicle, which is delivered with The Record, Bonamo's byline on the front page says he is the weekly's "Managing Editor." OK. The two papers are both owned by North Jersey Media Group, but are the editors fudging the truth here? I guess they are trying to hide what many readers have known for many months: The daily not only has abandoned Hackensack-- where it was founded in 1895 -- but has declared the city dead.

A photo and short story in Local about a GWB jumper doesn't tell you he was a New York State corrections officer. To learn that, you have to read

The Page 1 article leading the paper today is another largely sympathetic treatment of the Jayson Williams case by Staff Writer John Brennan, an empty headed former sports reporter. Williams is an ex-basketball player who killed his limo driver in 2002 after a night of drinking and was expected to plead guilty and serve a prison sentence as a pin cushion. He didn't show in court today.

What excuse does Brennan have for leaving out of his story today that the shooting occurred after a night of drinking? The reporter refers only to a "late-night meal." I guess Brennan doesn't want to upset Williams or his defense attorneys.

Another reporter who is an inconsistent voice for readers is Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung, who again enters into an unwitting conspiracy with a restaurant owner to conceal the origin of food he is serving to customers. In her review today of a Korean barbecue restaurant called Zen Zen in Fairview, she praises "the quality of the beautifully marbled beef."

I've eaten in many Korean barbecue restaurants, including this one, and most try to mask their conventional beef by slicing it very thin or marinating it to improve both taste and texture.

Korean restaurant owners rarely tell you anything about the beef, such as the grade, but might tell you, as Zen Zen's owner does, that it's "always fresh and butchered in-house." Who cares? That tells me nothing about how the beef was raised and whether it was pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones and fed animal by-products (bits of dead animals). "Beautifully marbled" means the meat has a lot of fat, but is it USDA Prime or a lower grade; is it grass-fed or grain-fed? Her 3-star rating is meaningless, only another sign of how she wants to stay popular with some restaurant owners.

The low quality of  the mystery meat served in many places is well-known. The Korean butcher who owns Prime & Beyond in Fort Lee took it upon himself when he opened in 2004 to try and educate his Korean customers about high-quality beef, unlike the stuff they were being served.

As for the show put on by Zen Zen waitresses, Ung is merely describing the scene inside most Korean restaurants, where service still is an art.

This is the same so-called reporter who, after a couple of meals in a Turkish restaurant, gave the name "Little Istanbul" to the Middle Eastern food bazaar of South Paterson, where Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese merchants preceded the Turks by many years, in some cases decades.

Although I have reported this huge editorial screw-up before, I just realized the words "Little Istanbul" must have sent a chill through the Syrians and others in the neighborhood when they recalled how their countires suffered under the Ottoman Empire's iron rule.

My Sephardic Jewish mother used to tell me about the afternoon in the early 1900s, when her teacher in Aleppo, Syria, kept her after class, "because the Turks were rounding up the Armenians," and she feared my mom would be snatched off the street.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Back to journalism as usual

The Record today returned to journalism as usual in its local news coverage of Hackensack. For residents who saw a brief story about a food drive by the Police Department yesterday -- breaking a35-day news dry spell -- the only Hackensack news today is an eight-paragraph story and photo of  an apartment fire. 

That's not the kind of news me and tens of thousands of other residents want from the former Hackensack daily.  

Monsy Alvarado, the Hackensack reporter, has a byline today on a story about alleged thefts by an ex-fire chief in Lodi. The headline says "up to $75,000," but the story says "believed to be under $75,000."

I haven't seen anything in The Record about the new homeless shelter next to the county jail in Hackensack. The building appears to be complete and when I drove by there yesterday, I saw four or five people who might be homeless lounging on sun-splashed benches and what looked like a loading dock. Yellow, plastic tape blocked a driveway to the parking lot, which was empty, though a few weeks ago, it was full.

On another local story, which is promoted on Page 1 and played on the Local section front, I don't recall seeing a story about the murder of a soldier from Teaneck on Nov. 6. The husband, from Englewood, apparently committed suicide. This story reports on the soldier's funeral today.

On Page L-2, "daily education coverage" today includes a look at the Ringwood school system. In the more than two years and three months I have lived in Hackensack, I can't recall any stories about the school system my 12-year-old son attends.

There are also stories from Pequannock, Wanaque and Woodland Park, the new home of The Record and the Borg family's privately held North Jersey Media Group.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hackensack news drought ends

Evening on the Hackensack River

Lo and behold. After a 35-day drought, a story about Hackensack appears today in the Local section of The Record, which was founded there in 1895 and prospered for more than 110 years before abandoning the city for bucolic Woodland Park.

As stories go, this one isn't much -- only a sidebar to a larger piece about greater demand at food pantries, a phenomenon the paper has reported on a few times a year for more than a decade. Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado emerges out of her cocoon briefly to tell us about a food drive by police, just about the only city agency she wrote about before the latest dry spell (occasional police and fire news doesn't count).

Another thing I noticed about today's paper is a missing Marketplace column in Better Living, and that could mean the paper is reducing its already unfocused and inadequate food coverage.

The lack of Hackensack municipal coverage is startling for a newspaper that made its reputation on covering local news. Is Monsy even working in Hackensack? I drove through the parking lot of 150 River St., The Record's landmark building, about two weeks ago and counted maybe a dozen cars belonging to staffers, plus a bunch of unsold Toyotas from the dealer down the street.

I looked up the story that ran in The Record on Feb. 21, 2008, quoting North Jersey Media Group President Stephen A. Borg and Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg, his sister, on the future of the 300,000-square-foot building.

Stephen Borg acknowledged printing of The Record and Herald News was moved to Rockaway Township in October 2006, about four months after he took over. He said the expected time frame to vacate the "home of The Record" was "two to three years," so the earliest date would have been this coming February. Borg added he preferred to stay in Bergen County. In fact, most of the staff vamoosed earlier this year, the bulk of them to Passaic and Morris counties.

Jennifer Borg was quoted in early 2008 as saying the company "wishes" to stay in Hackensack, "if possible." Really?

"We really want to do what's right for the city and what's right for the county," she added. "We're very mindful of having the city's interests at heart."

Really? Well, what really happened? NJMG moved the Borg siblings and its headquarters to Woodland Park and The Record moved its newsroom to the same Garret Mountain building, joining the Herald News. Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg was left behind to preside over a largely empty building. Really? Really.

Doesn't what was said and what was done widen the NJMG credibility gap even further?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More lazy journalism


The last five daily editions of  The Record contain a lot of dreck and  a lot of short-cut or lazy journalism, but there were signs of life among local news editors and reporters. Still, I didn't find any news about Hackensack, which the newspaper appears to have declared dead.

Today's front page is dominated by a headline, "Sports gear scam hits high schools,"  which reports a "massive financial fraud against high schools in New Jersey," including falsified helmet-safety tests and lavish gifts to school officials. I plowed through the page-and-a quarter continuation of the story without seeing any mention of whether the same company tested helmets for junior football players.

And the reporters never say why we didn't learn about this a year ago, when a company president pleaded guilty, despite the release then of a "startling document." I guess it wasn't startling enough to wake up editors and reporters asleep at their computers.

Governor-elect Chris Christie says state finances are even worse than he realized, but the story is relegated to Page A-4. Three corrections appear on A-2.

Giovanna Fabiano, the reporter who covers Englewood, Englewood Cliffs and Leonia, seems to have awoken out of a slumber, with five stories in five days. Today, she reports on a protest by Englewood teachers, one of the easiest stories a reporter can do. She must be waiting for a protest by drivers, before reporting on Englewood's Manhattan-like downtown traffic jams, or a protest by residents, before reporting on how many of them are awakened by gunshots from the open-air police firing range.

The Business section has a second story in four days about a Wyckoff store's jewelry giveaway -- much too promotional for my taste, especially when you consider none of the 30 bags were hidden in diverse communities.

Monday's front page was wasted on an elaborate package reporting that a convicted senator from Paramus was due to report to federal prison and a recap of nine other politicians who are behind bars. Do North Jersey readers need any reminders of how many corrupt politicians we're saddled with? Then, the paper actually sent one of its own photographers to Pennsylvania to get a photo of the senator, but you can hardly make him out through the SUV windshield. All that way, and no photo of the rug-less felon?

I was more interested in storm damage to the communities I've visited on the beloved Jersey Shore, but searched the Star-Ledger story on A-4 in vain for any meaningful detail.

An editorial on A-11 bemoaning the state's poor showing on carbon dioxide emissions, much of them from cars and trucks, only served to highlight how little reporting the former Hackenack daily does on the  quality of mass transit, including some of the decrepit buses serving minorities. Have any of the transportation reporters ever ridden a bus or train in the last 15 years and written about it? When he was transportation reporter, Assistant Assignment Editor Dan Sforza ignored the loud, screeching brakes and roaring engines of new NJ Transit cruiser buses -- and the impact they had on residents along Grand Avenue in Englewood and other routes --  preferring to write about "highways of the future."

The Local section Monday is dominated by a feel-good story from Paterson, which is getting far better coverage than Hackensack, perhaps because the newspaper moved its newsroom to Woodland Park many, many months ago. In the same way, New Street, which runs by 1 Garret Mountain Plaza, where most of the staff is  located, gets more ink than any street in Bergen County. Better Living reports on restaurants in the West Englewood section of Teaneck, finally shedding the bewildering "Progressive Dining" label of the past.

Page 1 on Sunday reports the outrageous pay of interim schools superintendents, another in a series of stories designed to push taxpayers' buttons. The newspaper lavishes hundreds of hours of staff time writing about symptoms of broken systems -- in this case, ruinously expensive home rule -- but refuses to use its editorial muscle to call for their abolishment.

Sunday's paper also reports Venetians staged a mock funeral for the city of canals, but I guess I missed the story reporting the death of  Hackensack. This paper also contains columns by Road Warrior John Cichowski and Mike Kelly, both of whom are so far over the hill, you can no longer see the hill. And to think the paper kept these turkeys, but silenced its only black columnist, its only Latino columnist and the only columnist writing about the heroics of  police officers, firefighters and EMTs.

In the Opinion section Sunday, the lead article on why Governor Corzine lost the election is from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Three letters to the editor inside the section expose the lies told by ex-Governor Christie Whitman in a column that ran Nov. 10 without an editor's note.

A 2010 Dine Out Guide came with The Record, but this special advertising section excludes any restaurant that didn't buy an ad in the 64-page booklet. An article in Better Living reports on holiday restaurant meals starting at $25 per person (or $24 at one expensive Greek place, if  you can manage to round up 25 people), but ignores cheaper alternatives, such as the sub-$20-per-person, multicourse meals and banquets at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack, including tax and tip.

The Travel section this past Sunday was a thin six pages, but contained a story about restaurants in Montreal, just a few weeks after one about restaurants in New Orleans, a welcome feature that has been all too rare in the past. I just wish Elisa Ung, the paper's restaurant reviewer, could have found healthier fare in Montreal, instead of stuffing her face with high-cholesterol food and high-calorie desserts.

Why did Saturday's paper lead with a story on how 9/11 victims are divided over trying the alleged mastermind in Manhattan? Isn't that a decision best left to prosecutors? We get more elaborate recipes from food editor Bill Pitcher, who must think we all love slaving over the stove for hours on end. One calls for 20 ingredients.

Why is a proposed expenditure by the Englewood City Council to refurbish a firetruck on the front of the Local section? Isn't there more important news than that? Inside the section is a preview of the teachers' protest the reporter covered Monday.

On Page 1 this past Friday,the newspaper highlights the need for campaign-financing reform for the umpteenth time, again without calling for an end to a system where only the wealthy can run for county or statewide office. I got a kick out of a letter to the editor on A-22 in which a Fort Lee man calls the Yankees a "bunch of overpaid prima donnas."

In Better Living, for the third week, there is no Starters column on a new restaurant. And as usual, the restaurant health inspections column is incomplete.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Despite recession, younger Borg prospers

Despite all the blows the newspaper industry and The Record and its employees have taken in the last few years, Publisher Stephen A. Borg continues to prosper. His infamous statement when he first met the newspaper's staff in mid-2006 -- "I'm not in this for the money" -- was an arrogant and clumsy attempt to distract them from one of his real goals as he assumed the helm from his father.

Borg is not only publisher of  The Record and Herald News, he also is president of privately held North Jersey Media Group, replacing Jon Markey, who announced his retirement in a bulletin board notice in December 2007. Friends of Markey say he was forced out after 15 years with the company so Borg, who was 41 then, could take his title and salary.

You may remember how Borg in 2006 showed The Record staff a slide of  his home on Birchwood Place in  Tenafly. What he didn't tell us was that the house was worth close to $2 million. He bought it in December 1999 with an $865,000 mortgage from the Bergen Record Corp. and sold it less than eight years later, in August 2007, for $2 million, according to public records.

Did Borg even make mortgage payments? If you think the $2 million was used to pay off the mortgage, with the remainder as a down payment on his new Tenafly home -- listed as an "estate" having 8,500 square feet, with six bedrooms and five full baths -- you'd be wrong. The home on Churchill Place was described as being on an acre "in the most prestigious section of Tenafly."

In September 2007, Borg bought the house with a mortgage of $3,650,000 -- the full price -- from his employer,  his family's North Jersey Media Group Inc., according to records of the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service. (About two months later, Markey was forced out so Borg could take his salary, according to friends.)

This is the house Rich Gigli was asked to photograph after The Record gave walking papers to the assistant managing editor of photography, who had around 30 years of service. Presumably, a painting made from the photo now hangs over the fireplace, where Borg, wife Monica and their children will be gathering for the holidays.

In last week's letter to retirees, NJMG Chairman "Mac" Borg -- Stephen's indulgent father -- doesn't say how many people will be affected by the cutback in medical benefits. But I'll bet that if the son had gotten his own mortgage, the $3.65 million tied up by his opulent lifestyle would have eased the pain considerably for retirees. Or, better yet, why couldn't Stephen Borg be satisfied with spending a few hundred grand on renovating and expanding the $2 million house he already owned?

"Mac" Borg has been listed among the 400 wealthiest Americans by Forbes magazine. Stephen and Jennifer Borg, the older sister who is an NJMG vice president and general counsel, hold themselves out as young sophisticates, having invested money in a wine bar in Englewood; hopefully, that came from their inflated salaries at Mac Daddy's company, not from NJMG. They and their father probably feel they own the world. They certainly act as if they own their employees, even after they've left The Record.

See prior post: "Mac delivers bad news to retirees."
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mac delivers bad news to retirees

Privately held North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record and Herald News, again is cutting expenses to avoid further layoffs, NJMG Chairman Malcolm A. Borg said in a letter to retirees I received Friday. The letter is signed with his nickname, "Mac." (I don't know whether that is from a love for  mac 'n cheese or whether it's short for MacDaddy or Mac the Knife. Or is that the standard abbreviation among wealthy whites for Malcolm?)

Effective Jan. 1, NJMG will no longer reimburse retirees monthly to help them pay for Medicare supplement insurance and will no longer contribute toward the cost of dependent's medical insurance. All medical plans will move to United Healthcare "in order to help contain costs." Mac gives no estimate of anticipated total savings.

A Medicare card, with several areas of the car...Image via Wikipedia

"I can assure you that this decision is not indicative of the great appreciation that I have for your many years of service," Mac wrote. "Despite our difficulties, North Jersey Media Group is still able to go forward, largely because of the work of its talented and dedicated staff -- both present and past."

"I trust you will know that we had no other choice in this matter," he added.

Mac doesn't say NJMG is losing money. In fact, The Record has never lost money and if it had, we were never told it did. That hasn't stopped layoffs, restructuring and salary freezes, but the number of employees affected has never been been made public.

Mac cited dramatic declines industrywide in advertising revenue ("our life-blood") that have forced NJMG "to drastically reduce expenses in order to remain a viable company."
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Editors who sing for their supper

A newspaper is only as good as its local assignment desk, those editors who largely determine the content of the paper by virtue of assigning reporters to cover certain stories. I had a lot of time to observe The Record's assignment desk when I worked there as a news copy editor for nearly two decades.

Copy editors are a lot like Toyota mechanics: Toyotas may have a reputation for reliability, but the mechanics see all the broken ones. The Record may have a good reputation, too, but the copy editors see all  the broken stories -- stories that have been promoted, edited and approved by those lazy assignment editors.

in touch with the outside

Here is a ditty I wrote about six or seven years ago that reflects my experience with assignment editors starting in September 1989, when I became a copy editor after 10 years as a reporter at The Record.

When I wrote this song, the newsroom was still in Hackensack and the assignment desk was run by Deirdre Sykes, an immovable force whose shrieks and peals of laughter echoed across the room late every weekday afternoon -- no matter how grim the news that day -- prompting homicidal thoughts in nearby staffers.


    We sit on our fat asses to scan the 

competing papers,
    Then order out for linguini, oil, garlic and capers;
    We run a newsroom that can’t write straight,
    And our copy’s arrival is frequently late;
    We can’t write a nut graf and we’re lousy at math,
    So we avoid reporting on community wrath;
    Challenge authority?
    No thanks. That’s not our priority!
    We assign reporters to cover lots of stories,
    Rapes, council meetings, train wrecks, but never Tories;  

    Our unsteady publisher hits the sauce each and every day,
    So his attitude toward probing local news coverage is, 

What the hey!

    Our newsroom is busy, it’s often in a tizzy,
    With editors, photographers, reporters and graphics people 

running to and fro,
    Yet we’re just a bunch of journalism hos.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Critique of The Record of Woodland Park

My daily commentary on news coverage in The Record -- or lack of it -- has become monotonous both for me and some of my readers. I'll continue to read the paper as carefully as ever, but will report on its many flaws only every few days or so.

To those critics who say I do not praise the staff for what they do well, I say real journalists shouldn't  need anyone to tell them they are doing a good job.  

The editors and reporters know whether they are doing a good job or a lousy job. They know whether they are covering their towns or just covering their asses. They know whether they are challenging the large number of petty officials in the 90 or so towns The Record once covered or merely defending the status quo.

If they want to submit their work to journalism contests and bask in the adulation of fellow journalists, good for them. But don't ask readers for praise, even if some of those readers are former colleagues.

See earlier post, "Jerry DeMarco breaks his silence."

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Jerry DeMarco breaks his silence

Here is the link to a blog written by Jerry DeMarco, a crime news junkie who has spent most of his time since leaving The Record's newsroom chasing scoops for his Web site (

Although he defends the paper's staff against 'Eye on The Record' criticism, he viciously attacks several editors, all of whom are recognizable by current and former staffers.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Taking Bergen out of The Bergen Record

Seal of Passaic County, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia

The Record today is another edition with too much Passaic County news for this Hackensack resident, especially from a paper that is still known in many circles as The Bergen Record.

The biggest element on Page 1 reports that on Dec. 1, Passaic County officials will become the first in New Jersey to use a $3 surcharge on mortgage, deed and foreclosure actions to provide housing for the homeless. I still have not seen a story in the former Hackensack daily about the completion of a new homeless shelter only a few blocks from the paper's old headquarters.

In the Local section, there is more Passaic County news: five stories on Pages L-1, L-2 and L-3. A story about a jewelry heist in Englewood leads the section, but never explains why the store was closed around 12:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday. Did the owner go to lunch? That would be an expensive lunch. For Hackensack news, we have the opening of a health center for the indigent by the medical writer, Lindy Washburn.

Better Living continues the boycott of food news on Thursdays, despite the paper's pledge to provide such coverage "every day."

My critics say I complain too much and do not give The Record "props when deserved." The problem is that even when the paper does something right, it could have been done so much better. It seems that the incompetent editors are totally submissive to Publisher Stephen A. Borg, whose "good-enough" philosophy has dumbed down the paper and destroyed its reputation as an aggressive local news and advertising presence.

It is poorly researched, poorly written and poorly edited, and many reporters can't even seem to spell people's names correctly or get the correct name, as can be seen by the correction on A-2 today.

And how can anyone minimize the virtual abandonment of Hackensack -- where The Record was founded in 1895 and where it prospered for more than 110 years -- by moving printing of the paper and most of the editorial staff to other counties? Hackensack is now out of sight and out of mind.

The wealthy Borgs apparently have never informed readers or advertisers about the moves and continue to perpetuate a myth by stating on Page A-2 every day that The Record is "published daily by [the Borg family's] North Jersey Media Group at 150 River St., Hackensack, N.J." By the way, NJMG is listed as the 8th-largest family business in the state -- with 1,231 employees -- by

We can only  imagine the economic impact on struggling Main Street merchants after hundreds of press people, reporters, editors and so forth decamped, so the Borgs can try to make a killing on selling the landmark River Street building and its many surrounding acres.

In place of local news coverage, we're given Stephen Borg's marketing slogans, such as the one under the masthead every day: "The trusted local source."  Indeed, The Record in so many ways has repudiated its former slogan: "Friend of the people it serves."

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Out of touch with many readers

Sailor and girl at the Tomb of the Unknown Sol...Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

The Record today left me unsettled. I was more interested in some of the smaller stories than in the package of feel-good Veterans Day pieces I found in two of the sections. I immediately felt uncomfortable seeing the big photo on Page 1 of a marine who has been paralyzed from the chest down since 2004 after being shot by a sniper in Iraq.

On Page A-6, a short story about loans to install solar panels reminded me of my experience -- it took two years to apply for a state rebate and have panels installed on my Hackensack home. I asked two Record reporters to look into the reasons for the delay, which I was told is typical in North Jersey, but was ignored.

In the Local section, there are stories about re-dedication of a Holocaust Center at Teaneck High School and two stories from Englewood -- the promotion of a veteran cop and  two elderly brothers who fought in World War II. Hackensack? Again, no news from the city where The Record was founded in 1895 and which was its home for more than 110 years.

Let me bring you up to date. The last two stories about Hackensack ran Oct. 13 and Oct. 3 (not counting any police or fire briefs).

In Business, a column on B-2 starts with the words, "Bankers are crooks!" That's refreshing. Your Money's Worth Columnist Kevin DeMarrais knows that what happens to him often makes good copy -- a lesson some of the younger reporters should take to heart.
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Did the reporter miss something big?

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 05:  Thousands of people...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

On Nov. 5, The Record ran a front-page story on a protest by 10,000 people in Washington over health-care reform. Some of the protesters confronted Rep. Steve Rothman, who was leaning toward voting for the measure, the newspaper's crack Washington correspondent, Herb Jackson, reported.

Jackson wrote that among the signs he saw was one with the words, "No socialism."

But I had to watch "The Daily Show" to find out that some of the protesters were sick crackpots who equated health-care reform with the Holocaust. One of the signs shown on Comedy Central was an extremely large photo of a pile of bodies at a German death camp under the words, "National Socialist Health Care, Dachau, Germany, 1945."

Did The Record's reporter only cover the confrontation between Rothman and residents of his district? Did Herb Jackson see the death camp photo sign and not report it? Were The Record's editors concerned showing the photo would reveal the protesters for the sickos they are and that readers might question the sensational Page 1 play of the story? Has The Record -- which has lost many readers in recent years -- made any attempt during the long health-care reform debate to separate fact from the lies, myths and frightening distortions we've all heard or is it just trying to sell newspapers?

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Giving Whitman free reign

Governor And President

The Record today carried another opinion column by former Gov. Christie Whitman, but the editors made no attempt to ensure it was complete or accurate.

In giving fiscal advice to Governor-elect Chris Christie (The Other Christie), Whitman slammed the Democrats for allegedly doubling state debt after she left office in January 2001. But she conveniently fails to mention how she plundered state pension funds and borrowed heavily to make ends meet after she became governor in 1994.

In the same way, The Record has rarely, if ever, mentioned in writing about former Gov. Jim Florio that Tom Kean Sr., his predecessor, hid a massive deficit from the incoming Democrat, forcing Florio to raise taxes. He was driven from office after one term.

I recall that The Record's coverage of Whitman as governor amounted to a love fest, under the direction of News Editor Deirdre Sykes, now head of the local assignment desk. It was only after Whitman gutted the Department of Environmental Protection (in what I believe was her second term) that the paper took notice, putting together a series of critical articles.

Note: If  The Record's owners, editors or reporters take issue with anything that appears in "Eye on The Record,"  they are free to comment, and they can do so anonymously by clicking on the word "comments" at the end of each post.

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Rewriting a news release for Page 1

asda pedestrian cross processingImage by slimmer_jimmer via Flickr

The front page of The Record today is filled with news for a change -- from a spike in pedestrian deaths in car-loving New Jersey to the governor-elect mulling a 'state of emergency' to hospitals restricting visitors because of the flu scare.

But if you read the most prominent story carefully -- pedestrian deaths jump 33% -- you will realize it is based not on the reporter's enterprise but on a news release from a group in Washington that probably arrived via fax -- a neat little package that the paper loves. All Staff Writer Karen Rouse had to do to land on Page 1 was make a few phone calls to officials and interview one -- just one -- pedestrian. Today is the second day in a row that traffic safety has been splashed across the front page. Yesterday's story, also by Rouse, was based on a safety grant the state won.

The photos for the pedestrian story, of Teaneck's Cedar Lane, are good, but the speed of cars and trucks on Hackensack Avenue and River Street in Hackensack make them far more hazardous to cross. From a driver's point of view, Main Street in Hackensack is a nightmare, because of pedestrians darting out from between cars on the one-way thoroughfare. Oh, wait. The former Hackensack daily moved most of its reporters and photographers to offices in Woodland Park more than a year ago.

The story also fails to mention how speeding enforcement can make streets more pedestrian-friendly. On Cedar Lane, a police speed trap is far away from one block where drivers race and pedestrians run for their lives -- from the CVS parking lot to the Blockbuster store and food businesses on the opposite side of the street.

I recall that until it received a news release or wire service story based on another report a few years ago, The Record didn't realize that an unusually large number of pedestrians who are killed are senior citizens. That's because the paper's lazy editors treat incidents such as pedestrian deaths and the elderly ramming their cars into buildings, other cars and people as so much "police news," failing to see a pattern.

These same editors don't encourage reporters to get out into their communities, talk to people and observe as a way of finding stories. Instead, reporters are told to devote all their time to neat, little journalistic packages, including news releases, reports, hearings, meetings, proposed ordinances and protests.

When I was a news copy editor at The Record, I recall vividly how two reporters rejected my story ideas -- not because they were bad ideas or couldn't be done without legwork -- but because no group was "clamoring for change," as one of the staffers put it. I've always felt it should be the newspaper that sets the public agenda, not the other way around.

You'll find a story based on one of those neat packages on the front of the Local section -- the first story about Englewood in 12 days (but you won't find any stories about Teaneck or Hackensack, the paper's home for more than 110 years). This is huge news. Englewood is forming a 'green team' to boost recycling.

Of course, the newspaper has ignored how Hackesnsack moved into the forefront of recycling among North Jersey communities more than a year ago when it began accepting  TV sets, computers and other electronics; light bulbs and batteries -- in addition to the usual curbside pickup of newspapers, junk mail, plastic bottles and cans.

And I don't see anything in the L-1 story about Englewood beginning to accept television sets, computers, light bulbs and batteries.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

'Ageism' determines news coverage

Dawn Zimmer Voted Mayor of Hoboken, Chris Chri...

The Record today is a prime example of how "ageism" may determine what news is covered by the former Hackensack daily.

The front page is filled with a truck-car safety crackdown under the scary headline, "Drivers beware." But a far more troubling phenomenon is on Page L-1, where a story reports that a 77-year-old man woke up from a coma four days after ramming his car into a building.

In recent years, the paper has carried numerous individual stories, like this one, about elderly drivers hitting stores, other cars, even pedestrians, sometimes with fatal results. But The Record has never written a series of articles on the challenges facing older drivers and whether driver re-training or other state or private programs are available to help them.

Another example of apparent ageism is the newspaper's devotion in recent years to covering autism, giving hundreds of hours of staff time to articles that often run on Page 1. But has The Record made a similar effort in covering Alzheimer's disease?

The second big story on Page 1 today reports how conservatives are pinning their hopes to radically remake government on Governor-elect Chris Christie. "He has ... to be prepared to close government," one former mayor says. Close government? Is there some reason The Record didn't report this story before the election.

The Local section continues its boycott of municipal news from highly diverse Teaneck, Englewood and Hackensack. An annual story about white suburban high school students spending the night in boxes to get a firsthand look at homelessness doesn't explain why the newspaper has missed the apparent completion of a new homeless shelter in Hackensack, next to the county jail.

Better Living today has the usual single recipe for vegetarians to represent food coverage in a Monday paper, but there's also an item about a free pie-tasting in charming Chester. I wonder if restaurant reviewer Elisa Ung -- who has made no secret of her affection for dessert -- will claim her share?
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