Sunday, December 6, 2009

Trickle-down journalism

Bergen County, New Jersey

The front  page of  The Record of Woodland Park today makes much ado about nothing, but the headline over a small item caught my eye: "N.J.'s well-to-do are shopping again."

The shaky reason this is on Page 1 is to promote the lead story in the Business section on the same subject. But is it news that the "affluent" have been largely unaffected by the recession? You only have to look at Stephen and Monica Borg, who traded up to a $3.65 million mansion in Tenafly from their modest $2 million home. Borg, of course, is president of  Woodland Park-based North Jersey Media Group and publisher of its daily newspapers, The Record and Herald News.

Malcom A. "Mac" Borg, chairman of NJMG, recently informed retirees of planned cutbacks in medical coverage, but didn't say whether the company's $3.65 million mortgage on his son's estate forced NJMG to cut expenses further.

Hackensack readers may be seeing signs of a change in the paper's virtual boycott of city education, development and quality-of life-news. Reporter Monsy Alvarado, the poor woman assigned to cover the city, has a story in the Local section for a second day, this one about a court ruling on the tax assessor. Could this mean she finally has been freed by Assignment Editor Deirdre "Laughs A Lot" Sykes from working on an "investigation" of a lone law-enforcement officer that has sucked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff salaries --  without resulting in a single published story in nearly three years?

A story about public "visioning" sessions on a new master plan for Bergen County is literally buried on Page L-6, an obit page. Why isn't the future of affordable housing, open space preservation and public transit worthy of Page 1, instead of  drivel about spoiled, rich teens gambling in high school?

Mike Kelly is boring us again with his Sunday column on the Opinion front. He thinks he is so clever, labeling New Jersey the "Gravy Train State." He's the one who has been on  The Record's gravy train for years.

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung is back in the Better Living section with more corrective journalism. This is where if you screw up in a story or restaurant appraisal, you don't run a correction. Instead, to hide the error from readers and the lazy, incompetent editors, you wait a few months and then print another story to try and repair the damage.

Today, in writing about the Web site, she quotes five mixed customer reviews of  Bobby's Burger Palace in Paramus. You may recall how Ung lavished a highly promotional story on this restaurant before it opened, even praising the "quality" of the beef selected by nail-biting Chef Bobby Flay. This long piece, complete with color photos and a Flay bio, was over the top -- fulfilling a publicist's wildest dream.

What she didn't tell readers is that Flay put profits over his customers' well-being by selecting low-cost, conventionally raised Angus beef over cattle that  receive no antibiotics, growth hormones and animal by-products.

Her earlier piece of corrective journalism was labeling South Paterson a Turkish food enclave and "Little Istanbul," then running a piece a couple of months later on the Syrian, Palestinian and other food places, some of which opened decades before the Turks arrived.

Travel Editor Jill Schensul uses nearly three pages of the thin, 6-page section today to discuss the dream job of travel writer, but doesn't find room to say whether the newspaper paid for all of those glamorous, first-class press trips she took. Or did she violate the paper's ethics policy by accepting free travel, hotel rooms and food, and not tell readers?

See earlier post: 
"CJR to Hackensack: Drop dead!"

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  1. You might want to do your homework on Flay's beef before sticking your foot in your mouth.
    He uses Certified Angus Beef which is NOT just angus beef. It has a heavy grading criteria to get that certification and definitely NOT cheap.. I'm also not a crazy fan but whats fair is fair....

  2. Certified Angus Beef is not organic, I think that is the point trying to be made here. And just an FYI, the term Certified Angus Beef was created by the American Angus association itself.


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