Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chasing a story few readers care about

Seal of Bergen County, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia

Eight reporters, a columnist and two wire services. Those are the resources The Record of Woodland Park threw at the ridiculous story of Russian "spies" living in Montclair. Who the F cares? Was anyone compromised?

Then, to justify the effort, Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale demanded half of the front page and more space inside to display the results.

So, for the second day in a row, the former Hackensack daily downplayed the impact of the new state budget, which affects just about every reader, especially if they're not as wealthy as the Borgs. Losers include homeowners, schools, towns, low-income workers and others. And where is news about the Gulf oil spill today?

The paper is famous for chasing stories -- and throwing resources at them -- without regard to reader interest, while ignoring essential local news from Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and other towns.

The most spectacular example is the vendetta head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes conducted against Michael Mordaga, former chief of detectives in the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. "Mother Hen" Sykes ordered several reporters to devote nearly three years to the so-called investigation, but they couldn't come up with a story sound enough for Page 1. An estimated $500,000 in staff salaries were squandered to produce a single story on L-1 last Dec. 16.

On A-4 today, Staff Writer Lindy Washburn reports New Jersey has the second-highest rate of obesity among low-income 2- to 5-year-olds. That's not front-page news for the overwhelmingly white editors, who often turn their backs on minority communities in North Jersey.

Look at the pathetic Local section today. Road Warrior John Cichowski continues to be boring and repetitive with yet another column on decals for teen drivers. Also on the front is another detailed story about Ridgewood's downtown -- at least the third in the past year. 

No such stories about Hackensack's downtown have appeared in that time, despite Main Street losing the business of hundreds of North Jersey Media Group employees scattered to the winds by Publisher Stephen A. Borg.

You won't find any Hackensack news in the paper today, but L-3 carries stories from Butler and West Milford. The proposed Hackensack budget and tax hike? Your guess is as good as mine.

Sykes has ordered Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado on a starvation diet of news for readers in the county seat, where the paper was founded in 1895 and where it prospered for more than 110 years.

If the black-dirt onions Food Editor Bill Pitcher praises in Better Living are indeed some of the best in the world, how about telling Bergen County readers where they can buy them closer to home than the West Milford farmers' market? And just how much do they cost?

Not everyone gets reimbursed for eating as you do, Bill, nor do they receive your inflated salary.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Missing the year's biggest story

U.S. Census Bureau map of Teterboro, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia

Can you believe The Record of Woodland Park missed Monday's best story -- passage of a mean-spirited state budget pushed through the Legislature by our steamroller of a governor? What's all this Cold War-era nonsense about spies who live "next door." In Montclair? The majority of readers live in Bergen County, and we're sick and tired of the lazy editors settling for the sensational over the substantial.

Was the spy headline supposed to make me shake in my bathrobe? I know my neighbors, and they're hard-working middle class families who resent the lack of Hackensack news day after day.

So few of the reporters under head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes do anything, it's a colossal misjudgment to assign four of them to this stupid spy story, then give it bigger play on Page 1 today than the budget story, and for what reason?

Was it early deadlines, which sacrifice getting late, breaking news into the paper to accommodate the dysfunctional home-delivery system? Did Sykes and Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale want to go home rather than get the year's biggest story into the paper? Or was it simply more incompetence?

Governor Christie's budget represents the biggest assault on the middle and working classes, the elderly and the poor in New Jersey history, while benefiting small-business owners and such fat cats as the Borgs. 

Charles Stile's column has run on the front before. Why not today, when he describes the once-moderate state Republican Party's nasty turn? In fact, all of the elements on A-6 should have been on A-1 today. The inconsequential spy story actually gets more space than this historically flawed budget and its impact on our way of life. Even Alfred P. Doblin, the editorial page editor, took the evening off, leaving behind two lame editorials.

On A-10, a letter to the editor savages Doblin for his June 25 column with the headline, "Springtime for Gordon, winter for Teterboro." The buffoonish Doblin, it seems, invoked a comedic song about Hitler to criticize Sen. Robert Gordon, the Fair Lawn Democrat who happens to be Jewish, for sponsoring the proposal to break up Teterboro.

Doblin's juvenile style reminds me of that other jerk on the staff, Bill Ervolino, whose blog was shut down in March after inappropriate references to Malia Obama, then 12, one of the president's daughter. When are the Borgs and Scandale going to dump the offensive Ervolino and clownish Doblin?

The lead story on the Local front has the headline, "Chase ends in crash," that the news copy  editors keep on a save-get key. There is more police news in the section, including Giovanna Fabiano's contribution from Englewood, but no municipal news from that city, Hackensack or Teaneck. 

Should we wait for Fabiano's takeout on the Hispanic community in Englewood -- both legal and illegal -- and how it has added a new dimension to the city? Nah. She's too lazy to tackle enterprise, and her assignment editor is clueless. She spends so little time in Englewood, people are always asking to see her press pass.

But I really shouldn't single her out for criticism when Staff Writer Jean Rimbach trades on her friendship with "Mother Hen" Sykes to write an average of one story a year. When is the last time Shawn Boburg wrote a story? Or Monsy Alvarado?

The reporting staff was basically untouched by the downsizing that started in 2008, so it's likely there are still about 50 reporters or specialty writers in the newsroom. If you see only eight bylines in the paper, what does that mean? What are the others doing to justify their existence?

(Map: Teterboro)
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Monday, June 28, 2010

How accurate is this reporting?

Jersey City - Hudson-Bergen Light RailImage by wallyg via Flickr

Can readers rely on transportation reporter Tom Davis? In two takeouts on the future of light rail in Bergen County (photo), he sounded more like a lawyer trying to make a case against mass transit than a journalist objectively presenting pluses and minuses. He often omits information or fails to back up assertions.

For example, on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park today, he reports that off-peak, round-trip train riders have been hit by hikes of "up to 45%," but manages to find patrons who are paying only 50 cents more than the old $1.75 fare (an increase of about 30%) and $2.50 more on the old $10.50 ticket (about 20% higher).

Deep down in the story, on the continuation page, he discloses that monthly passes cost 35% less than daily tickets. He buries that information because it dilutes the impact of his biased story. And he never mentions the hikes are the direct result of Governor Christie's assault on mass transit users -- cutting state aid to NJ Transit and refusing to raise the low gasoline tax, which finances road repairs, and train and bus improvements.

Finally, he reports "restaurant workers and students say they're turning to cars and buses," but provides absolutely no support for that assertion regarding cars. Does he actually expect readers to believe the off-peak fares are higher for a commuter than auto insurance, gasoline, tolls and parking?

Of course, some of the blame resides with head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes and Davis' assignment editor. Let's hope he's working with someone other than clueless Dan Sforza, who wrote about fanciful, not-in-our-lifetime "highways of the future" when he was transportation reporter, but ignored brake defects in NJ Transit cruiser buses used by Manhattan-bound commuters. 

Sforza couldn't even edit Davis' stories intelligently. A mediocre reporter makes for an even weaker assignment editor, and Sykes has some doozies working for her.

A day after the paper's consumer columnist, Kevin Demarrais, reported that the BP boycott has had limited impact, a promo headline on A-1 today declares: "Boycott hurting BP gas stations." 

You can scour Local for news about Hackesnack, Teaneck, Englewood and many other towns without success. A photo showing the car of a 79-year-old driver inside the Whole Foods Market in Ridgewood is one of perhaps a hundred such incidents in the past decade -- some of them fatal -- each chronicled with a few paragraphs. 

But does this single accident deserve to be all over the front of the local news section? The poor guy wasn't even injured. Guess there wasn't anything better. There are only eight bylines in the entire section.

You'd think some genius on the news staff would long ago have proposed a series of stories on problems facing older drivers, and the help available to them, but the former Hackensack daily appears to be an equal opportunity discriminator against older workers and older readers.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Editors turn backs on readers

New Jersey Transit Nova RTS 82VN suburban 1587...Image via Wikipedia

A baby girl from Union City is killed by a tree branch in Manhattan. How tragic. Gee-whiz. Why can't someone do something about killer trees? And why is this on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park, which no longer covers Union City -- not to mention its drought on news of Hackensack, Englewood and Teaneck? Is there no other Bergen or Passaic, state or national story worthy of A-1 play?

The continuing saga of beach access on the Jersey Shore should be on the front page today, but isn't. Doesn't Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale have a shore home? Doesn't Scandale see the importance of beach access to readers or couldn't he care less about other people's problems? The Borgs probably summer in the Hamptons. And the features editor gives better coverage to MTV's "Jersey Shore."

If  readers have problems with NJ Transit buses or trains, who do they turn to? Certainly not Road Warrior John Cichowski, one of the hand-picked reporter chicks hatched by head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, who has been known to suffocate her newsroom offspring. Today, he has another in an endless series of  MVC columns on the front of Local as he continues to pander to drivers over mass transit users. Cichowski needs a refresher course in what it means to be a journalist who covers commuting.

Looking for Hackensack news? Go awaken Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado, another reporter chick, who is asleep on the doorstep of Police Chief Ken Zisa -- whose legal troubles are just about the only thing she has written about in more than a year. Who is that sleeping next to her? Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano? Teaneck reporter Joseph Ax? Staff Writers Shawn Boburg and Jean "One-Byline-A-Year" Rimbach? All seem to take their cues from Sykes.

Looking for a unique take on the news from Columnist Mike Kelly on the front of Opinion? Forget about it. Looking for food coverage in Sunday's Better Living? Fruit is mentioned in the clunky opening paragraphs of a doctor's profile. Looking for help with arcane airline fare rules? You won't get it from Travel Editor Jill Schensul, who travels for free. Today, she publishes a throwaway 24-page tab filled with readers' photos. How useful.

For decades, readers have looked in vain to The Record's editors and owners to expose the economic folly of home rule and the pettiness of all of the overpaid officials who set our property taxes. The editors prefer to report on the consequences of home rule, such as parents having to pay for high school athletics (A-1), but they've been so reluctant to put the full might of the paper behind reform of the system.

So, it takes a professor's Opinion front proposal for a consolidated entity he calls Bergen City to strike a chord with readers, whose letters of praise appear on L-3 today.

Under Scandale and Sykes, the former Hackensack daily has neglected local news more and more. Instead, these editors have targeted the "high" salaries of police, firefighters and teachers as the main reason our taxes are so high, but have rarely questioned the need for 70 police chiefs and nearly as many superintendents in Bergen County. (Several years ago, a story on the outrageous perks enjoyed by North Jersey school superintendents was supplied by The Associated Press -- based on a state report -- making the local staff look like a bunch of lazy fools.)

Now, the editors have gained a powerful ally in Governor Christie, who has been a relentless critic of teachers and state workers unions. And Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin has been doing wonderful P.R. for Christie, while giving him a pass on the millionaires tax and not raising the low gasoline tax.

The overpaid editors seem to see the state budget crisis from the perspective of the wealthy Borgs and their powerful North Jersey Media Group. Keep the focus on taking more away from the middle and working classes, from poor schoolchildren and the disabled, from seniors and other vulnerable segments of society -- so the wealthy Borgs can continue to live in the lap of luxury, putting themselves first ahead of readers and their own employees.

"I'm not in this for the money," Publisher Stephen A. Borg told the assembled staff in Hackensack in mid-2006, showing them a slide of his nearly $2 million Tenafly home, which he would trade in 2007 for a $3.65 million McMansion bought with a company mortgage. Bizarre. I couldn't make this up. Sadly, the joke was on me and the other employees.

(Photo: Decades-old NJ Transit local bus)
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

More fishing for news

FAA airport diagram for Teterboro Airport (TEB...Image via Wikipedia

The desperate editors couldn't run the photo on Page L-3 any bigger -- it's as wide as it can get, as wide as the page. Let down by the lazy assignment and news staff under Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes for yet another day, the layout editors had no news for that page today, and plugged the hole with a photo of people fishing and looking as bored as readers of The Record of Woodland Park.

Who can blame them? No news of Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck and other important towns appears in Local today. Local? Why not call it Yokels, which is how Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale regards residents of key communities. Bears in West Milford get better coverage than Hackensack, where the paper was founded in 1895 and where it prospered for more than 110 years.

On Page 1, the paper reports that failing students in some districts now have to pay for summer school. Isn't that good news for taxpayers? But is it really A-1 news? 

The plan to break up Teterboro -- a plan few thought would be successful -- is on hold, the lead story on the front page discloses. Why did the paper write endlessly about the politics of the proposal, but not bother to report on Teterboro Airport's impact on the quality of life of tens of thousands in Hackensack, Maywood and other towns annoyed by noisy aircraft filled with such fat cats as the Borgs?

For cutting-edge food coverage from Better Living, see the newest junk food on F-1. The copy editor calls a doughnut cheeseburger part of a "culinary renaissance." "Artery-clogging renaissance" would be more accurate. A reader-friendly story would report on what healthy options are available at the fair.

(Illustration: Teterboro Airport. Only two runways, but endless noise.)
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Is that all there is?

Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margh...Image via Wikipedia

The Record of Woodland Park produces a meaty front page today, but disappoints on so many other scores, you have to wonder if that's the best Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes can do. 

Did anyone get past the first few paragraphs of the central element on A-1, a mother's plea that her wannabe terrorist son is really a good kid and that he was forced to do wrong by the FBI? This story is a waste of staff effort and readers' time. 

On the proposed breakup of Teterboro, do we really care what political columnist Charles Stile thinks? And why is the paper so eager to give voice to defense attorneys' claims that the convictions of Joseph Ferriero, Dennis Oury and Joseph Congilio may be overturned?

Now, look at the Page 1 promotion, "Two days that captured a nation." Is sports columnist Tara Sullivan delusional? Does she actually think millions were riveted to their TVs for an 11-hour tennis match between nobodys or that most readers actually believe the U.S. team has any chance of winning the Word Cup? Her columns today and Thursday are so full of hype as to be simply unreadable.

On A-20 and A-21 today are an editorial and an opinion column condemning the proposed breakup of Teterboro that were likely edited and written by the same man, Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin. The editorial would have been enough. How does he expect to have any credibility?

There is a lot of court and crime news in Local today, but no news of Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood or a lot of other towns in North Jersey.

What's the point of continuing Better Living's Eating Out on $50 restaurant review by free-lancer Jeff Page when only two can eat for that money, in contrast to the original concept, four people eating out for $50? The paper was too cheap to make it Eating Out on $60 or Eating Out on $70, because it didn't want to reimburse the reviewer more than $50, so it cheats readers.

In today's review of a dreadful kosher burger restaurant in Teaneck, Page spends only $35.71 (and likely got reimbursed for only $35.71) and complains mightily of the service or lack of it. A good paper would have shit-canned the piece and asked for another, but frugal Features Director Barbara Jaeger probably balked at spending more money on a new review. She started the $50 review as a cost-saving measure in the first place.

And why is Food Editor Bill Pitcher reviewing A Mano, a pricey, Neapolitan pizza place in Ridgewood that has gotten a lot more ink in the three years it has been open than most other North Jersey restaurants? The only reason might be that it has a great public relations firm that nagged Pitcher for even more publicity. 

He doesn't mention the pizzas are a mere 12 inches and because of the nature of the dough, they can't be baked to a crispy well-done. And his rating of two and a half stars tells readers not to bother -- being just a half-star more than the rating given to a mediocre, faux-Caribbean restaurant called Bahama Breeze last year. Maybe Pitcher felt guilty giving in to the P.R. firm. In the end, it's readers who get screwed.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Should fat people be making these decisions?

Two mice; the mouse on the left has more fat s...Image via Wikipedia

Forget the mildly interesting front page. Forget the overwrought patriotism of Tara Sullivan's column on the U.S. team's World Cup victory. The story in The Record of Woodland Park that resonated with me the most today was buried on Page L-2 -- anti-hunger advocates trying to save school meals from Governor Christie's chopping block.

Chopping block is the right image. You can just imagine our huge governor tucking into thick slabs of meat dripping with butter and all the other high-cholesterol and high-calorie stuff that has made him obese (fat literally hangs from his face) -- absolutely the wrong image during an obesity epidemic whose eradication has become a national priority.

Is it a state priority? Do state programs target the problem? Do we really know anything about Christie's eating habits or health, or whether he also is concerned about the obesity epidemic? Does he have a metabolism disorder? 

Why has The Record and all of the other media remained silent on Christie's weight and its possible influence on state policies? Why is dysfunctional eating a taboo subject in the former Hackensack daily?

By the same token, why has Publisher Stephen A. Borg ignored the weight of three key editors he inherited as a possible influence in the past several years on the decision to report as little as possible about the obesity epidemic in New Jersey? Is this a conspiracy of editors in total denial about their health?

Can you imagine these three binge eaters at a projects meeting endorsing a concerted staff effort to tackle the obesity epidemic as a public service to readers? Projects Editor Tim Nostrand, Food Editor Bill Pitcher and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes would do nothing of the kind -- even though they likely could benefit from such a long-term examination.

Editor Frank Scandale is one of the most athletic people in the newsroom -- and might see the relevance and prize-winning potential of an obesity project -- but the real power there is Sykes, who castrated him a long time ago.

How else to explain why Sykes was allowed to squander nearly three years of staff time and hundreds of thousands  of dollars in salaries on what can only be called a vendetta against Michael Mordaga, former chief of detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office?

Now, Christie targets the vulnerable, cutting state funding for free and reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches. Advocates for these lower-income children say the meals might be the only ones they get. (The story has only a partial listing of children who participate in Bergen and Passaic counties.) Maybe the state Health Department should be making these kind of decisions, not the governor.

A second story in Local -- on library cuts in Englewood -- notes in the last paragraph that the city is almost seven months overdue on approving a budget. Is this the first time Staff Writer Giovanna Fabiano has reported that? Where are the stories on Hackensack's proposed budget and tax hike?

Another story that doesn't get much play is one on the Business front quoting marketing experts as saying BP has little chance of saving its brand after the fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico, especially in view of statements by bumbling CEO Tony Hayward. Business prints so many promotional, rah-rah  stories about companies and their products that this one is a refreshing change.
In Better Living, it's no-food-coverage Thursday.

A-2 today carries one of the most embarrassing corrections I've seen recently. In a chart on Page 1 on Wednesday, the Armenian population in New Jersey was off by 10,000. The actual population is 15,736, but the "1" was dropped and no one, least of all the copy editors, caught the error.

That's especially embarrassing because the wrong number appeared in a story about Turks' new-found political power, which they are using to whitewash the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians in the early 1900s.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is the paper worth even 14 cents a copy?

Bankalar Caddesi (Banks Street) in Galata was ...Image via Wikipedia

As a former employee, I receive a preferential rate of $51.48 a year to subscribe to The Record of Woodland Park -- or 14 cents a day. But I can't recall too many days in the past two years when the paper was worth even that. Imagine paying 50 cents at the newsstands and more on Sunday.

To me, a resident of Hackensack and onetime Englewood resident, today's paper was another slap in the face. For the second day in a row, Ridgewood protesters are given most of Page 1, and there is no news of my hometown and my former hometown to be found anywhere.
The paper has been reporting opposition to the expansion of The Valley Hospital for three years, but has never questioned or investigated parents' claims that construction will endanger nearby schoolchildren. Now, an official who OK'd the expansion says he has received threats.  So, thanks to the paper's lazy reporting, we are just now learning how desperate the opponents are.

Another A-1 story -- on a congressional meet-and-greet for a new, national Turkish group -- is much too long. It also serves to recall the huge error made by Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung, who called Main Street in South Paterson "Little Istanbul," despite the neighborhood having been settled decades before by Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian merchants, as she pointed out in a corrective article months later without acknowledging her original error. 

Given the brutality of the Ottoman Empire, her inaccurate description of South Paterson must have sent chills down the spines of Syrians and others who had been oppressed during the years their countries were occupied by the Turks.

One story that deserved A-1 play appears on A-11 today: "Reputed Jamaican drug lord turns himself in." The sizable, hard-working, God-fearing Jamaican community in Hackensack, Englewood and Teaneck -- which may be even larger than the Turkish community in North Jersey -- has been virtually ignored by the former Hackensack daily, and no reporter interviewed any of them when the police hunt for the suspect resulted in the death of 76 a month ago in the Kingston slum where he was based.

Giovanna Fabiano, the Englewood reporter, is clueless as well as lazy. She not only ignores the Jamaicans, but couldn't care less about the city's segregated elementary and middle schools, the open-air police firing range's impact on its quality of life, nightmarish downtown traffic and other issues.

But her irresponsibility pales in comparison with that of Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado and her boss, head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, who park their substantial behinds at their computers and virtually ignore any news of Hackensack outside of the legal troubles of Police Chief and former Assemblyman Ken Zisa and related Police Department stories.

Indeed, Sykes and other top editors -- including Frank Scandale, Frank Burgos, Tim Nostrand, Barbara Jaeger, Jim McGarvey (Jim McShouting?) and their minions -- have been scamming their checks out of the Borgs for years. 

There is so little local news that "The Trusted Local Source," the paper's new motto, is the ultimate joke on readers. You only have to look at the size of the mediocre photo on the Local front today to see the desperation of the editors to fill space.

The A-19 editorial notes how Governor Christie sided with the rich on his budget cuts, but it is too little and too late -- and it's further diluted by all the favorable columns on Christie by Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin. 

Compare Better Living's skimpy food coverage today to a Wednesday in early 2006 (before Bill Pitcher) -- when the paper published a real Food section with a column by then-Food Editor Patricia Mack. Sports continues its lackluster coverage of the World Cup. 

My credit card has been charged for next year's subscription. Today, lighter by 14 cents, I feel cheated.

(Photo: Banks Street, the financial center of the Ottoman Empire.)

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

'Let's just cover the mostly white towns'

Tom faces the wrath of the mother chicken/hen.
The Mother Hen threatens a reader.
Image via Wikipedia

Given the consistent lack of coverage of Hackensack and Englewood -- two of Bergen County's most diverse towns -- isn't it possible head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes held a meeting and said the following in laying out priorities for her municipal reporters?

"OK. Everyone, come closer. You know Deirdre likes to keep her 'chicks' nearby (followed by shrieks of laughter). In view of the downsizing of The Record and Herald News, and the move out of Hackensack, today we're going discuss which towns will get good coverage and which towns we'll try to ignore.

"Now, I met with Frank [Editor Frank Scandale] and Stephen [Publisher Stephen A. Borg], and they want us to ignore most of our diverse communities -- including Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood -- and cover the mostly white towns -- such as Ridgewood, Glen Rock and Tenafly. They're our kind of people, our kind of demographic.

"OK. Monsy [Alvarado, the Hackensack reporter], that means when you're through with the Michael Mordaga probe -- and that should be soon, because it has dragged on for nearly three years -- you are immediately to start hounding Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa, and don't write any story that doesn't include the chief or the Police Department. So just ignore the city budget, tax hikes, schools, development and so forth.

"Now, Giovanna [Fabiano, the Englewood reporter], that means forget about segregated Englewood schools, forget about the Jamaican community (they're only good for making the rum cake I can't keep my hands off at Thanksgiving), forget about the city. Write as  much as possible about that publicity hungry rabbi -- Botox, Boteach, whatever -- and the Libyan-owned mansion next door. Nothing like a mini Arab-Jewish conflict close to home. 

"Yeah. That brings me to you, Joe [Ax, the Teaneck reporter]. You're covering Teaneck too much. We might have to send you some place like Haiti. Let's hope the country gets hit with an earthquake, and then we'll just ignore the township.

"Now, Mary Jo [Layton], you're one of our medical writers so keep close tabs on the controversial proposal to expand The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, and write as many stories as you can. Don't bother to investigate any of the claims of the white protesters -- just rehash them time and again. That makes good copy. And don't say whether a bigger hospital will pay higher taxes, easing the burden on all residents.

"Anyway, Frank and Stephen say the paper is in favor of the expansion, because of the extra advertising revenue that will bring in, and Stephen is on some kind of hospital council, but we have to make a good show of giving voice to the opponents. Editorial Page Editor Alfie Doblin is on board with the mixed message.

"OK. Chickies, go do your thing." (More howls of laughter.)

Today's paper

Staff Writer Mary Jo Layton was assisted by two other reporters in covering the Ridgewood Planning Board approval of The Valley Hospital expansion, which is the main element on Page 1. This guarantees many more stories on the Village Council vote, site plan review, even a possible lawsuit, so Mary Jo can make a career out of the story and please her boss, Deirdre.

Take a look at the Page A-6 list of groups that were going to lose state aid, but now will receive it, under a deal between Governor Christie and Democrats. It's clear Christie has been waging war against higher taxes on behalf of the Borgs and other wealthy folks at the expense of poor schoolchildren, the disabled, the mentally ill and others.

If you count the Ridgewood story on A-1, there is coverage today of about six towns among the 90 or so in the former Hackensack daily's circulation area -- but nothing from Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood.

"Mother Hen" Deirdre, you and your "chicks" are doing such a great job.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

New Jersey and the oil spill -- boring together

Nicknames of several New Jersey communities ce...Image via Wikipedia

I've been waiting for the story on how New Jersey scientists and residents have responded in the two months since the massive oil spill in the Gulf, so what do the editors at The Record of Woodland Park do? They plaster a long, confusing and, ultimately, boring, piece on mini subs all over Page 1 today.

This story couldn't possibly have been written for A-1. The assignment editor must have fallen asleep while editing it. Even the news copy editor drops the ball on polishing this turd. The headline says,  "Rutgers' mini subs monitor oil spill." Monitor? Watching paint dry is more exciting. An oceanographer is shown "observing" data.

You have to plow through most of it before you find out whether the New Jersey Shore is in danger from the BP spill. That should have been high up in the story. And the reporter never resolves the controversy over whether huge oil plumes exist below the surface, despite all the evidence presented by other scientists that they do.

The lead story on the front page is the murder of another teacher. Unless Governor Christie is a suspect, this doesn't belong on A-1, especially given the Morris County location and the lack of Bergen County news in the paper. 

A better, more relevant story for Page 1 is on A-4 -- the battle over beach access on the Jersey shore. This could have supplanted the mini-sub story, too. That story could have been told by an inside photo and graphic. But news judgment isn't a strong suit among such editors as Frank Scandale, Deirdre Sykes and whoever got stuck working Sunday.

An editorial on A-11 criticizes Christie for proposing huge cuts in legal services for the poor, but in a column on the same page, Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin takes the governor's side in  opposing a millionaires tax. I guess Doblin stlll wants to get his weekly check form the wealthy Borgs.

Doblin presumably also edits and approves editorials, including those about Christie's policies, so isn't his column a conflict? And his column usually is so poorly written and juvenile, no reader would miss it.

Local is pathetic. No Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood news, yet another story on the proposed expansion of The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood. The story rehashes the same arguments readers have seen for almost three years. The overly dramatic headline doesn't help.

(Photo: Jersey shore)
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

When will this paper get serious?

 A photo of the Statue of Liberty behind an Ame...Image via Wikipedia

Executives at German auto giant Volkswagen and Brazilian oil giant Petrobras undoubtedly are partying today to celebrate the priceless advertising their companies are getting on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park.

The companies' logo or name are shown in a big, color air-race photo with the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. What's next, an editorial urging President Obama to sell naming rights, transforming it into the Statue of Liberty Mutual? The motto: "Give me your poor, your tired, your uninsured masses...."

It's bad enough the photo gives the impression The Record's editors are for sale. But it raises another issue: Why do they entrust play of the most important stories of the day to a graphic artist whose news judgment is questionable?

For well over a decade, all of the paper's section fronts have been "designed" by graphic artists, who assign headline size and type, placement of stories on Page 1 and other fronts, and that all-important color photo, which must appear every day. If an important story doesn't have a great photo, it's shoved down to the bottom of the page or inside the paper.

You can see that today with the A-1 story on Governor Chistie's proposals to cut programs that help Hispanics who are unemployed, disabled and destitute -- in other words, more of the same kind of assault on the middle and working classes -- while preserving the wealth of the Borgs and other rich, white folks.

Another air-race photo appears on the front of Local, too. Again, that's because an artist has deemed that the front of every section has to have color photos. Look at the over-size photo with the column above that on the Court Street Bridge. Shouldn't editors be making these decisions?

Why is Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski writing about restoration of the bridge? It's not a major commuter route to Hackensack, but when the bridge reopens in 2012, it will add immeasurably to the value of the Borgs' adjacent parcel -- nearly 20 acres along the Hackensack River -- former home of The Record and North Jersey Media Group.

I got a hoot out of Cichowski's line that "broadband allows journalists to roam freely." This from a columnist who spends hour after hour tethered to his Woodland Park newsroom computer, reading drivers' e-mails, and who leaves the office only to go home. When's the last time he rode the buses or trains that many of his readers rely on to get to work? 

Besides design, the big color photos you see in today's paper serve another important function. They take up all the space the lazy editors and staff are simply unable to fill. There are what, 15 bylines of Record staffers in the entire paper today (not counting Sports)? What were the other reporters doing? What were the assignment editors doing? What were highly paid editors such as Frank Scandale and Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes doing? Laying eggs?

Where is news of Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and so many other towns among the 90 or so in the paper's circulation area?Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, June 19, 2010

More bone-headed news judgment

The headquarters of BP AmericasImage via Wikipedia

A day after giving BP's clueless CEO a huge swath of the front page to showcase his empty apology, the editors at The Record of Woodland Park downplay news that he will be replaced as the company's point man on the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It's bad enough that Friday's Page 1 coverage embraced Tony Hayward's crocodile tears -- instead of blasting his seeming ignorance of problems before the explosion and sinking of the oil platform. Now, these editors seem intent on doing more PR for BP on the story of his departure (Page A-5).

The Hayward story would have gone perfectly with the A-1 piece on the New Jersey congressional effort to expose oil companies to greater liability, and the photo of an oil-covered pelican (A-5) would have looked good on the front page.

Local has no Hackensack education, development or municipal news today, but there are two stories on the front about upcoming hearings in Teaneck and Ridgewood. (Municipal reporters love to write about upcoming hearings.)

In Sports, I didn't get past the front of a staff-written analysis on how the U.S. team's winning goal was nullified. I wanted the paper to tell me whether World Cup soccer has an appeals process and if it doesn't, whether there is a move to review and possibly overrule referee's decisions. Wouldn't it be nice if someone like absentee Publisher Stephen A. Borg reviewed the boneheaded decisions by editors of the former Hackensack daily.

In Better Living, a "fresh take on lettuce" by Food Editor Bill Pitcher completely omits mention of pesticides and organic alternatives, but does offer recipes polluted with added sugar, mayonnaise and an egg yolk. He's The Record's BP, after all. Does anybody still eat iceberg lettuce, featured in a "frozen" salad? And the "pickled romaine" appears to be a half-assed attempt at the Korean staple, kimchi.

I wonder what the desperate editors -- Frank Scandale, Frank Burgos, Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, Barbara Jaeger, Liz Houlton, Tim Nostrand, Jim McGarvey (Jim McScreamy?) and their minions -- have in store for readers of Sunday's paper. Let's hope it's more than just covering their asses.

(Photo: Headquarters of BP Americas)
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Corporate B.S. artist hogs Page 1

SHARM EL SHEIKH/EGYPT, 19MAY08 - Tony Hayward,...Image via Wikipedia

BP CEO Tony Hayward said so little of substance before Congress -- and continued to throw around bullshit about the massive Gulf oil spill -- you have to wonder why his photo is all over Page 1 of  The Record of Woodland Park today.

You have to question the news judgment of the editors, who ordered huge, black type on A-1 to trumpet Hayward's apology, despite its insincerity and despite its redundancy -- coming just two days after his boss, BP's chairman, issued a heartfelt apology to the American people in the White House Rose Garden and backed up his words with a $20 billion fund for victims.

Doesn't Hayward's British reserve, captured best by TV news, drive you crazy? Why doesn't someone revoke his visa? Why doesn't Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin take a break from praising just about everything Governor Christie does and write a withering editorial about this corporate buffoon (photo above)? 

Do the editors and Publisher Stephen A. Borg see a kindred spirit in Hayward, whose corporate bullshit parallels the journalistic bullshit they've thrown at readers? Is anyone convinced by the paper's new motto, "The Trusted Local Source," as local news becomes harder to and harder to find in the thin, former Hackensack daily?  Borg ordered that marketing phrase to replace the decades-old "Friend of The People It Serves."

Why does the AP story on A-1 omit Hayward's $6 million annual salary, which he disclosed in his testimony on Capitol Hill? At least he didn't try to fool lawmakers by telling them, "I'm not in this for the money," the preposterous statement Borg made at his first meeting with the paper's employees in mid-2006.

Of course, a year and a few months later, Borg sucked out $3.65 million from North Jersey Media Group to buy a bigger mansion in Tenafly, then apparently started putting together plans for the downsizing of The Record and Herald News, including the exodus of 20- and 30-year newsroom and photo staffers and the move out of Hackensack. Yet, Borg testified before a jury in April that he's just "a salesman."

By placing the Hayward nonsense on A-1, the editors also serve to downplay Christie's plan to take away $91 million in sales taxes generated by the state's urban enterprise zones. The story, on the front of Local, clearly shows the governor, a friend of small business, draws the line when the business owners are black and Hispanic. 

Christie could raise $600 million from the millionaires tax he opposes, and tens of millions from raising the low gasoline tax. Why is he picking on minority business owners and giving a pass to the Borgs and other wealthy residents, and why aren't the paper's editorials beating up on him?

Yet another Local section contains no news of Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood (except for a Teaneck police brief).

In Better Living today, another restaurant review by Food Editor Bill Pitcher demonstrates what a minor light he is, especially when you compare him with such predecessors as Patricia Mack and Mark Howat, who died June 11. Howat, for example, wrote glowingly of dining on vegetables picked that morning and a roast from a pig raised naturally on a local farm -- and this was decades ago.

What do you get from Pitcher and Elisa Ung, the normal restaurant reviewer, who is on leave? You get little awareness of the origin and quality of the food they review, an obsession with desserts and a lot of bullshit about celebrity chefs. At least in today's review, Pitcher sampled some non-meat dishes, which is not always the case.

But he compares a locally run Italian restaurant to chain restaurants, and gives Zocco Ristorante in Hillsdale only two stars -- the same rating Ung gave Bahama Breeze, a faux-Caribbean chain restaurant on the highway in Wayne. That's the kiss of death.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

More unbelievably boring Page 1 news

President Barack Obama in the Oval Office 1/30/09.Image via Wikipedia

The suicide of a state trooper and a $20 billion BP fund for victims earn only a few paragraphs each on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park today, but most of the page is devoted to maybe, could-be, wannabe stories the desperate editors are trying to pass off as local news.

Do North Jersey residents really care if the borough of Teterboro is carved up? All this coverage for a trial balloon? What residents are really dying to know is why the newspaper hasn't written anything about the tremendous quality-of-life impact the small airport has on them every day?

Are the Borgs among the fat cats whose behinds are pampered in noisy business jets, as an anonymous commentator has reported? Those planes seem to scrape rooftops in Hackensack, Teaneck, Maywood and other towns, depriving residents of the enjoyment of their back yards and high-rise balconies.

If so, that might explain why editors such as Frank Scandale, Deirdre Sykes and others have avoided the noise story for so many years. Or is former Publisher Malcolm A. Borg's long-time support for an aviation museum at the airport the reason the charter jet companies get so much promotional coverage in Business?

Of course, when you have lazy transportation reporters like Tom Davis and Assignment Editor Dan Sforza, who as a transportation reporter wrote about "highways of the future," you'll never get hard-hitting reporting about the airport or anything else. What you do get is Davis' speculative, A-1 story today on the possible construction of a Hudson River rail tunnel for Amtrak "within 20 years." Twenty years!

Davis, Sforza, Road Warrior John Cichowski and other lazy staffers refuse to look at the quality of the mass transit commuters have to contend with now, such as the creaking, decades-old local buses NJ Transit still uses in Bergen and Passaic counties. It might be that the riders, largely working class blacks and Hispanics who can't afford cars, are easy to ignore for the newspaper's overwhelmingly white newsroom staff.

Eager to deny President Obama a victory, an editorial on A-22 minimizes his Oval Office address, and blames him for not stopping the BP oil leak. As bad as the gushing oil is, it's ridiculous to compare the disaster to World War II, but Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin desperately needs exaggeration to make his point.

With no substantial Hackensack or Teaneck news to work with -- and the speculative Teterboro story all over A-1 --  all the editors have for the Local front today is police and court news. There's not even a word from Monsy Alvarado, the Hackensack reporter, on the proposed city budget and tax hike.

Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano turns out a short piece on the Mackay Park ice rink -- the first story about the city since the end of May. We welcome back this bull dog of news.

In Better Living, it is no-food-news Thursday.

(Photo: President Obama in the White House Oval Office)
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hey, Monsy, you're killing us

U.S. Census Bureau map of Hackensack, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia

Where were you last night, Monsy Alvarado? Sleeping off all the hard work you've been doing to expose -- and expose, and expose -- suspended Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa? Were you at the City Council meeting, for a change, at the behest of your puppeteer, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes? Was any action taken on the proposed budget and tax hike in one of Bergen County's most important communities?

I looked at the city's Web site, which is silent on the budget and last night's meeting. I called the city clerk, who was unavailable. I leafed through The Record of Woodland Park, but the only Hackensack news I found in Local was your story on lawmakers calling for Zisa's resignation from the Board of Elections. Wow. That's major news. Every Hackensack resident is dying to know what will happen. And that effort must have exhausted you, pobrecita.

If we can't rely on you -- the Hackensack reporter at the former Hackensack daily -- to keep us informed about basic city business, how do you justify your existence? How does Mother Hen Deirdre, who likes to keep her chicks close and dictate their every move? Where is Editor Frank Scandale? Where is Mac and his greedy successor, Publisher Stephen A. Borg?

Boy, the paper must be desperate for ad revenue to wrap advertising around the front page and Sports front today. All the hard work by the news, layout and copy editors is obscured, as a pharmacy lures customers with a free 12-pack of crappy soda for a $20 purchase. What did Scandale -- the petty dictator of Page 1 -- have to say? Well, we all know he hates news copy editors, and handcuffed them when he could.

The BP catastophe is front and center on A-1, as it should be, but why such a clunky story? Why use the overly long, flawed first paragraph from McClatchy Newspapers, and this tangled syntax:

...the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which has gushed out of control for nearly two months ...

It's the reporter who is gushing out of control.

Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski  -- sworn enemy of mass transit commuters in North Jersey -- is really under a lot of pressure to produce three columns a week, and so bereft of ideas, his inconsequential piece on  L-1 today is about his vacation in New Mexico!

I appreciate the local food news in Better Living today -- a report on the Tenafly farmers' market and a Marketplace on barbecue sauces. But readers don't get reimbursed by the newspaper for eating (and eating, and eating), as Food Editor Bill Pitcher does, so we would really like to see prices included in all food stories. We want to know before we go. We don't have money to burn like the Borgs.

(Illustration: U.S. Census map of Hackensack)

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hey, Frank, who the F cares?

Protest against oil company BP and their still...Image by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

The biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history isn't enough of a front-page story for Editor Frank Scandale, who is more jock than journalist. Today, The Record of Woodland Park glorifies the Russian fat-cat owner of the hapless Nets basketball team with a huge A-1 photo and story by one of its biggest hacks, Staff Writer John Brennan.

Brennan likely helped talk this story onto Page 1, as he did obsessively with all the nonsense he covered when I was still at The Record, and found a sympathetic audience in Scandale, Tim Nostrand and other desperate editors. Meanwhile, readers looking for essential information about their towns were ignored, as they are now.

Greedy BP's blunders in the Gulf are shoved down below the fold on A-1. The oil platform disaster is on the cover of Time magazine and leads the CBS Evening News every day, but Scandale's Record bounces the story onto and off of the front page without rhyme or reason. Of course, we know how flawed Scandale's  news judgment is after he relegated Tom Franklin's incredible 9/11 photo to a back page.

Yet, after taking over from Mac Daddy, Publisher Stephen A. Borg not only kept Scandale on, but promoted him to vice president. Did anyone in the news meetings Borg attended see him and Frank slap each other on the ass after placing yet another sports or business of sports story on A-1?

Meanwhile, coverage of the World Cup in Sports has been lackluster.

Local leads with a Star-Ledger story on a $2.5 million settlement for a hotel clerk, but the reporter leaves readers in the dark on how much of that will be going to the lawyer (probably a third, plus expenses). Don't look for substantial Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood news in the section.

Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado's sole contribution today is a too-long story on a ruling to withhold pay from suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa. She has yet to report details of the proposed city budget and tax hike, which are going before the City Council tonight for the second time. You can thank head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, who has been pulling Monsy's strings for years.

There is also a short story on the closing of the Court Street Bridge for two years to refurbish the span, too weak for trucks over 3 tons. The project will make the Borgs' nearly 20 acres on the Hackensack River a lot more valuable, especially to a big box retailer that wants as much access as possible.

Looking at the 2003 photo with the obituary of singer Jimmy Dean on L-1 today makes me think he ate too much of the mystery meat that went into his breakfast sausage. I also realize how little impact Dean (Tenafly), Eddie Murphy (Englewood) and other celebrities who lived in North Jersey had on neighbors or their towns.

There is no local food news in Better Living today. A story from the Contra Costa Times on "shopping healthfully" completely omits any mention of avoiding food with antibiotics, growth hormones, animal byproducts, pesticides and other harmful additives.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What's the motive for this story?

Valley Hospital, Ridgewood, NJImage by birdphone via Flickr

I am searching the Page 1 story on hospitals seeking new sites for expansion, and wondering which genius among the editors at The Record of Woodland Park came up with this lame story idea. Anything to avoid running legitimate news.

Is the former Hackensack daily trying to broker a deal between protesters and The Valley Hospital (photo), which wants to expand on its Ridgewood site? Or to be cynical, are the Borgs trying to unload their nearly 20 acres along the Hackensack River to get the hospital out of residents' hair? After all, Publisher Stephen A. Borg is on the hospital's council.

Does anyone recall a similar story when Hackensack Medical Center expansion plans ran into stiff community opposition?

What relevance to densely populated Bergen County is there in the experiences of hospitals in the Voorhees, Hopewell and Princeton areas? Or is this another example of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes neglecting basic coverage of Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood, so one of her pals, Staff Writer Mary Jo Layton, can spend a week or more on a flawed story? How about better coverage of the BP catastrophe?

Another A-1 story, on whether Governor Christie is packing town hall meetings with supporters, made me laugh, because he doesn't have to do so in North Jersey, where he has fawning Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin in his corner on nearly every issue.

Isn't Doblin in a sticky situation writing favorable opinion columns about Christie budget cuts, then approving, and possibly writing, editorials that review the governor's policies? Has any other editorial page editor before Alfie done both? Shame on you.

Are readers more interested in the ending of oyster cultivation in the polluted Hackensack River (A-1), or in what growers in cleaner, southern New Jersey waters are doing to replace Louisiana oysters devastated by the BP disaster in the Gulf?

Does Columnist Mike Kelly (L-1) expect us to feel sorry for all those greedy investors who fell for Bernie Madoff's scam, then paid taxes to the state on profits that never existed? How about writing about real victims for a change?

In Sunday's Local section, an L-3 story on Harrington Park kids was written by Mark J. Bonamo, identified as "staff writer." In The Hackensack Chronicle on Friday, Bonamo wrote the front-page story and was identified as "managing editor." Which is it? Surely, the answer lies with Mother Hen Deirdre, who likely favored covering this story about her hometown.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reading between the lines

NJN LogoImage via Wikipedia

Why devote the top of Page 1 in The Record of Woodland Park today, an entire inside page, and a rambling, question-filled, who cares Mike Kelly column on the Opinion front to the week-old arrests of two would-be terrorists from North Jersey? One of the stories was written by two Star-Ledger staffers. What did Record staffers write and why isn't it in the paper?

I'll bet many more readers are interested in seeing front-page coverage of the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf, even though it isn't a local local story. (And in knowing what is going through Kelly's head when he turns out such drivel. Memo to Mike: Readers want your opinions based on solid reporting, not a bunch of rhetorical questions.)

The bigger story on the front page is the future of New Jersey Network, the Jersey-oriented TV station the state sorely needs in the absence of any real coverage by New York and Philadelphia stations. Governor Christie is so intent on preserving the wealth of the Borgs and his other rich friends -- and not raising the low gasoline tax to help mass transit -- he's cutting aid to NJN, too.

The Local section is a joke, especially for a Sunday paper. The big L-1 photo shows readers all the newspaper is good for -- building a miniature swing.

There's no Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood news, but head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes felt it was essential to cover some Harrington Park kids doing good in Newark (L-3). Did you know Mother Hen Deirdre lives in tiny Harrington Park? Great news judgment.

The obituary on Mark Howat, longtime Record writer and editor (L-6), delicately avoids anything negative about the man, even though his activities were well-known in the Hackensack newsroom.

In Opinion, a letter to the editor today questions the motives of The Record in endorsing the expansion of The Valley Hospital, and asks how much advertising revenue North Jersey Media Group publications receive from the Ridgewood hospital and its affiliates. Hey, Publisher Stephen A. Borg, it's your turn to be candid in this situation. What will you do? Can you tear yourself away from counting your money?

In Business today, Columnist Kevin DeMarrais writes about the proliferation of online complaint sites, without mentioning their rise coincides with the decline of consumer-oriented reporting in Business, Travel and other sections of The Record and other newspapers.

In Better Living, another profile of a local who hit the big time helps distract readers from the lack of local food news today.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Readers want you to get off your asses

This map shows the incorporated and unincorpor...Image via Wikipedia

Please, Deirdre, Monsy, Giovanna, Shawn and the rest of the newsroom staff at The Record of Woodland Park, please get off your asses. If you're Publisher Stephen A. Borg, please get involved in what is going on in the newsroom again, as you were for more than a year when you took over in 2006. You're "yes men (women)" editors are ruining a once-great paper.

If you're one of the reporters who covers a town, please go there once in a while and talk with residents. You do a disservice to readers by going into the office or wherever you go and reading the paper with your morning coffee, then making a few calls to see if anything is going on.

If the only way you cover your town is by going to a meeting or rewriting a press release, report or lawsuit, you're doing a disservice to readers. Embrace the term "legwork, "and tell your clueless assignment editor you know how to cover your beat.

Hey, Monsy Alvarado, you are not reporting the end of the world. No one is interested in all the detail you provide about suits, hearings and so forth in connection with the suspension of  Police Chief Ken Zisa. If you covered other news in Hackensack (map), you wouldn't have to turn out so much Zisa copy to justify your existence. 

What is Staff Writer Jean Rimbach doing? Shawn Boburg? The rest of you know who you are.

 Hey, Deirdre Sykes, you're the head of the assignment desk. Please get off your ass and leave the newsroom once in a while, and talk to readers about what they want to see in the paper. You might be surprised what Hackensack readers want now that you've neglected them for years in favor of the lame, endless  investigations you've directed. 

Mother Hen Deirdre, you might want to start with Viriginia Franco, a Hackensack reader who asks in a letter to the editor today: "What has happened to Hackensack?" She bemoans the lack of American flags on Main Street for Memorial Day, while the city spends money on new blue-and-gold signs to help visitors and shoppers.

To paraphrase her, Deirdre, what has happened to coverage of Hackensack, where the paper was founded in 1895 and where it prospered for more than 110 years? As the mother hen, did you lay an egg?

Hey, Editor Frank Scandale, why don't you join Deirdre on these excursions? Did you ever talk to your neighbors in Glen Rock about the paper? Your presence in the office is unnecessary. You're not much inspiration to the staff, and your assignment editors suck.

Hey, Stephen Borg, we know you like to minimize your role in the newsroom, but you did shake things up when you took over in mid-2006, and revamp news coverage. You not only demanded "daily" education coverage, but you endorsed the selection of an unqualified food editor and foolishly folded the Food section -- despite the obesity epidemic. 

You also neglected to pay attention to other local news, and coverage of your core Bergen County communities is shameful. You and your big sister grew up in Englewood, but when is the last time you saw a story about the city in Local?

Today's paper

In Local, a third of L-3 is taken up by endless reporting on another suit against the Hackensack police chief, and a ruling that withholding his pay is proper. On that same page, no details are provided on the death of a driver in a crash on Route 17, but you would have learned plenty from WCBS-TV news a few hours after it happened.

Staff Writer Allison Pries' weighty contribution to local news coverage is a report on the farmers' market in Ramsey. The town will "host" one for 21 weeks, she writes.

In Better Living, Food Editor Bill Pitcher's premise for an article on al-fresco dining is flawed: No outdoor space is comfortable on a sweltering summer day. He also includes a clunker. The back yard of Hummus in Paterson can be stifling, and you'll have to contend with flies. Give me AC any day. Also, the Turkish food is not as great as he says: The signature hummus is actually bland.

Pitcher's work often is more style than substance.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hey, Monsy, what about the new signs?

This is a photo I took myself of the Church On...Image via Wikipedia

Hey, Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado, aren't you going to be writing anything about Hackensack in The Record of Woodland Park outside of the case of suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa? What about all the new signs the city has put up in the past couple of months, directing visitors to the Bergen County Courthouse, the Academies, the shopping district, parking, the medical center, and so forth? Isn't that a legitimate story? Maybe even a photo or two? They're gold and blue, and dress up the city.

What about the proposed city budget and tax hike, reportedly more than 7%? Isn't that worthy of coverage? Are you that busy with the Zisa coverage -- and so under the thumb of clueless head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes -- that you have failed so miserably in your assignment: Hackensack.

What about the Police Department's continuing use of gas-guzzling cruisers? Don't you have time to ask the city manager about whether he plans to replace them with more efficient, six-cylinder cars, like the ones being used for parking enforcement? What about solar power for city buildings and schools? In fact, a couple of years ago, in a roundup, you quoted the official as saying Hackensack had taken only "baby steps" on alternative energy. Did you ever follow that up?

Do you still call yourself a reporter, Monsy? How much time do you actually spend in Hackensack? How many residents do you talk to? We know you don't cover City Council or school board meetings, so what do you do to justify your existence? Why is there no Hackensack news in the former Hackensack daily today? Why are you and Sykes giving the royal F.U. to Hackensack residents?

I know you're afraid of Mother Hen Deirdre, Monsy (so is everyone else, including Editor Frank Scandale). And I don't expect you to sacrifice yourself to expose how bad Sykes and her minions are for local news coverage. Where are the Borgs? Counting their money?

The lead story today on A-1 is about the proposed dissolving of Teterboro, which has 38 residents and 23 city workers. I doubt it will come to pass, but if it did, businesses would have to pay higher taxes, and that presumably includes the incredibly annoying airport and jet charter companies.

The Record continues to ignore all the noise Teterboro Airport visits on residents in Hackensack, Maywood and other towns, but can't help promoting business jet sales and travel at the airport, as Staff Writer Richard Newman does today on L-7. Thousands of readers groaned to read about an increase in flights, but Newman did his best imitation of a public relations man on the airport's trade show.

How can The Record be objective about Teterboro? Do you recall how the aviation museum there once was a pet project of then-Publisher Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg. Before the museum was established, Mac couldn't stop promoting it, even when he invited to lunch in his private dining room a new executive director of the Port Authority, which owns the airport. It was the first thing out of Mac's mouth -- expletive deleted.

An alleged sexual assault after a prom? Is that A-1 news? A barn fire in Pequannock (might as well be Wyoming). Is that A-1 news? 

On the front of Local, the road-building lobby continues to call the shots for Road Warrior John Cichowski. Hey, John, ever hear about mass transit?

Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin is the latest staffer to accept protesters' claims that expanding The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood may endanger the health of students in a nearby school (A-22). Did The Record express similar concerns when the FiveSix School was built next to Hackensack Middle School?

The Record supports the hospital expansion -- without acknowledging the potential gain in advertising revenue from a bigger medical center. (I just threw away some copies of the paper, including Food and Go! sections, from 2005 and 2006. They were incredibly fat with advertising when compared with today's pathetically thin papers.)

I'm glad Food Editor Bill Pitcher -- who is obsessed with eating meat -- finally has reviewed a  seafood restaurant in Better Living (a few weeks ago, he sampled only meat dishes at a Turkish place). But he pans McCormick & Schmick's, a chain restaurant. Why one star? It sounds awful. Are you protecting an advertiser, Bill? Copy editors left a problem in the second paragraph, and the ending makes no sense.

Next time, Bill, try Sea Shack in Hackensack or a more casual choice, Seafood Gourmet in Maywood.

Pitcher still has not explained to readers why restaurant sanitary inspections from Wyckoff never appear in Friday's column. Are you protecting someone, Bill?

(Photo: Church on The Green, Hackensack)
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