Saturday, November 7, 2009

The vibe of a tabloid

Hackensack River backwaterImage by grantuhard via Flickr

The plastic bag holding The Record today was fat and heavy. But once I put aside the many useless advertising inserts, the Sports section and the thin Sunday Travel section, there wasn't much of interest in the former Hackensack daily.

Squeezed down at the bottom of Page 1 is a "refer" to a story on A-4 that reports Governor-elect Chris Christie would veto any tax hike from the Legislature after he takes office next year. Has Christie set a record for a governor-elect falling off The Record's front page?

There are no local news corrections on A-2, in contrast to Thursday and Friday. In general, today's paper is filled with a lot of shooting and crime news, giving The Record -- once respected for its local news coverage -- the vibe of a sensational tabloid.

On Page A-13, a letter to the editor discusses concerns about schools in Englewood that I don't recall seeing in a staff-written interview with the new superintendent Oct. 26. An editorial urges passage of health-care reform, a day after the front page carried a protest by crackpots.

In Local news, long stories with Paterson datelines report the arrests of alleged child abusers and sex offenders , but for yet another day, there is no municipal news from highly diverse Teaneck, Englewood and Hackensack, which was the paper's home for more than 110 years.

Most of the blacks in Bergen County live in those three communities. Is The Record turning its back on them by reducing and relocating most of its local news staff out of Hackensack?

Has the head of the local news assignment desk, Deirdre Sykes, failed miserably in her leadership role by tying up local reporters -- including the woman assigned to cover Hackensack -- on a mysterious, interminable investigation, which began in early 2007 and has yet to be published? What is Managing Editor Frank Burgos, the highest-ranking minority editor, doing to increase minority news coverage? Have the owners, the Borg family, noticed the precipitous decline in news from those communities, especially Englewood, where the wealthy Malcolm A. Borg lives and where he raised his children, two of whom are now running the paper? Borg himself grew up in Hackensack in a big, white house at Summit and Fairmount avenues with a back yard of more than 14 acres.

In all my 29 years at The Record, I can't recall seeing a long, positive story about the Jamaican community in Englewood, Hackensack and Teaneck -- the vast majority of whom are hard-working and church-going. But a couple of years ago, the Englewood reporter raced out to report a shooting during a Jamaican restaurant's customer-appreciation day.

In Better Living, as usual for most Saturdays, there is no food coverage -- unless you count a single recipe from McClatchy Newspapers  for the millions of tailgaters in North Jersey.

Am I the only one who is sick and tired of seeing readers in vacation spots holding up a copy of The Record's Travel section? Does the editor think all her readers are shut-ins? Couldn't she better devote the space in the tiny section to hard reporting about all the arcane airfare rules that bite travelers or the hoops we are asked to jump through to get low hotel rates? And what about travel sites whose hotel-room photos lure us into a non-refundable reservation, only for us to discover the place is a dump or that smoking is allowed in all the rooms?

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1 comment:

  1. This paper is pretty close to hitting rock bottom. The local news is nearly non-existant.


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