Friday, November 6, 2009

Dissing Bergen readers, advertisers

Seal of Bergen County, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia

Did the dysfunctional Record deliver the wrong edition to my Hackensack home this morning? When I leafed through the Local news section looking for municipal news from Bergen County, all I saw were stories with datelines from outside the county (except for a brief from Mahwah). And to think that many people still refer to the former Hackensack daily as the "Bergen Record."

Bergen readers and advertisers might want to begin re-evaluating their commitment to the paper, which was founded in Hackensack and prospered there for more than 110 years before virtually abandoning the city. As a subscriber, I usually get the weekly Hackensack Chronicle with the paper, but I didn't today.

On the front of the Local section, Road Warrior John Cichowski seems to have completely lost sight of his original mission to write about commuting and mass transit. His column today is about a motorist whose windshield was hit by a golf ball, another waste of valuable newsprint. He's going on six years as the Road Warrior columnist. Maybe it's time for a change in assignment or a renewed focus on the woes of commuters.

He might want to take one of those decrepit NJ Transit buses that have for decades plied routes used mostly by minorities -- such as the No. 780 between Englewood and Passaic -- and ask why these working-class people are treated this way by the state's mass-transit agency, while wealthier, mostly white commuters get new buses to ride into the city. Transportation reporter Tom Davis hasn't had time for that story.

Turning to the front page, the two stories on Page A-4 about falling state revenues and Chris Christie's calling for an end to partisanship would have made a good New Jersey package on Page 1, especially in view of Tuesday's election, an upset and only the second time in memory when an incumbent was ousted from the Governor's Office. But one problem these stories have is a lousy photo, which a Star-Ledger staffer seems to have taken through an open venetian blind.

Still, The Record and other newspapers are suckers for splashing carnage, massacre and protest in full color on the front page, sometimes, as in this case, only because the stories come with terrific photos. The main story is about a military base in Texas, not New Jersey. (Record Editor Frank Scandale shared a  Pulitzer Prize won by the Denver Post in 2000 for coverage of the Columbine massacre, and at least until 2008, when I left, constantly reminded the staff of what he did in Denver and in his previous job with Reuters, the business-news wire service.)

On A-6, where the Texas shooting rampage story continues -- or "jumps" -- you have the stupid headline of the day: "N.J. reacts with 'shock'"

In Better Living, the Starters column (a descriptive look at a new restaurant) is missing today and the restaurant health inspection list is incomplete, as usual.

In last Friday's Eating Out on $50 review of Trattoria La Sorrentina in North Bergen, a favorite of mine, the reviewer doesn't mention one of its great dishes -- a white pizza topped with prosciutto and arugula -- and goes over his $50 budget by ordering a dessert to share. Did Jeff Page, the freelance reviewer, really have to order dessert, in view of the large entree he was served and couldn't finish? Anyway, Eating Out on $50 is no longer a valuable service to frugal diners, because the reviewer gets to spend that much on two diners, not four as in the past.

In her review of Restaurant L today, staffer Elisa Ung says the owner's "passion for wine is reflected in the thoughtful wine list and monthly wine events." When I was at The Record, the newspaper declined to reimburse food writers for purchases of alcohol, even if it was during meals for a restaurant review. So it's puzzling to see the thumbnail photo that accompanies all of Ung's reviews, showing her mouth and chin poised over a large, half-filled glass of red wine.

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