Sunday, November 8, 2009

Where is the Bergen County news today?

labeled outline map of municipalities

The Record today looks like a good newspaper, with a Page 1 story on a Bergen County school superintendent sure to make taxpayers howl and with Governor-elect Chris Christie returning to the front page with a pledge of bipartisanship.

But you'd better stop there, because when you see the lack of Bergen County municipal news in the Local section for yet another day, you'll be the one howling for the heads of all those incompetent editors, who the Borgs have kept on for years and years.

The main element on the front of the Local section, from Pequannock, promotes a fanatical autograph-seeker who hopes to make $2 million by selling signed magazine covers. Who cares? Next to it is a story about flu vaccines from West Milford. Is this the Bergen edition? Inside are stories from Parsipanny, Wayne and Paterson, but nothing from Teaneck, Englewood and Hackensack, which was the paper's home for more than 110 years.

As a former employee, I get a preferential subscription rate, but as a resident of Hackensack, I feel cheated by the lack of news.

Why does the Passaic and Morris staff produce so much, while the Bergen staff seems lost? It may have to do with management style. Jim McGarvey was head of the digital-news group, which produces The Record's online edition, but he didn't work out there, so in 2007 or 2008,  his bosses shipped him out to run the Passaic-Morris Bureau in West Paterson, now Woodland Park.

Soon, word filtered back to me and others in the Hackensack newsroom that McGarvey was treating even his veteran reporters rudely. He would allegedly shout at them and order -- not assign -- them to cover stories. Is that the reason we are seeing so much news from outside Bergen County in The Record?

In Better Living, the editors may be trying to tell restaurant reviewer Elisa Ung something by putting her weekly fine-dining column, The Corner Table, on the back page of the section. She writes about misbehaving children from the restaurant owners' point of view, but not from the perspective of other diners, and doesn't mention bratty children in casual restaurants, such as Greek to Me and Cassie's, two places I used to like when I lived in Englewood, until the uncontrolled din drove me away from the latter.

Ung's columns often are poorly researched. She wrote two columns about tipping, but never reported whether the standard tip these days is supposed to be 15 percent, 18 percent or 20 percent? She wrote about the risks of buying gift cards for neighborhood restaurants that might go out of business, but didn't mention that more stable chain restaurants, such as McCormick and Schmick's, offer gift cards and some of them are sold at a discount by Costco.

Her topics can be far from weighty, such as the column she did on restaurant fireplaces. She never questions why a glass of wine is approaching $10 in some North Jersey restaurants -- the price for a great  bottle of wine at retail -- or why entree prices here are often higher than in Manhattan.
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