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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