Saturday, July 31, 2010

Another odd newspaper

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

When I first looked at the big, black headline on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park today -- "66 killed in July" -- I thought, The heat did that? Then, I saw the word "Afghanistan" in smaller headline type and focused on the gauzy photo, which resembles art from the battlefield. I immediately lost interest, having seen TV reports on the U.S. death toll there all this week.

Then, to the left, an A-1 story about a 105-year-old woman from Englewood who has been chosen for a study on longevity and genetics carries the byline of Staff Writer Giovanna Fabiano, who covers the city. It is the second day in a row Page 1 has a story about a black person who didn't commit a crime.

Somehow, the reporter manages to avoid any discussion of the segregation this black woman experienced in Memphis and 1950s Englewood, when people of color could look forward to little more than a job as a maid or chauffeur for one of the rich families who lived on "The Hill." Of course, the East Hill is precisely where former Publisher Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg bought a big house years later and raised the two spoiled brats now running the former Hackensack daily. He made sure to send his kids to private schools.

At least, Fabiano is being consistent. She has completely ignored the segregated elementary and middle schools in Englewood, or reported on efforts to integrate them, if any. Were those schools the reason Publisher Stephen A. Borg bought a mansion in Tenafly?

The third story on A-1 today is a superficial look at the wonderful Jersey Shore and a TV reality show of the same name I have never watched. What I want to know is why even modest homes blocks from the beach are selling for more than $1 million, and why that's not in the story?

There is so much news from Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck and other towns missing from Local today, desperate head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes pulled out all the stops on filler, as her staff apparently were told to start a three-day weekend Friday, a reward for all their hard work.

L-1 carries a story by a business reporter that got lost on the way to publication. L-2 has another Dean's List. The center of L-3 has a photo of a truck-house collision, non-fatal, of course. Gee-whiz, would you look at that. Half of L-5 is taken up by expanded, wire-service obituaries of people we have never heard of. And L-6 has a story from distant Rockaway Township, where The Record and Herald News have been printed since, what, 2007. (Stephen A. Borg ended highly profitable commercial printing at the Rockaway plant and laid off 55 press workers.) Whew.

Also missing is a hit-run accident charged to a prominent Harrington Park landscaper -- that's the burg where Sykes lives -- but it was all over Cliffview on Friday. That town gets even less coverage than Hackensack, if you can imagine that.

Is Sykes trying to protect officials or friends in her town, or is she just lazy? Here, read the story for yourself at the following link:

Harrington Park landscaper arrested
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Putting black people on the front page

Fundraising poster featuring the Tuskegee Airmen.Image via Wikipedia

How many newsroom staffers remember the time, before Barack Obama was elected president, when black people had to commit a crime, especially a violent one, to get on Page 1 of The Record? How times have changed. Today, the front page of the Woodland Park paper honors a black, World War II Army pilot who was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Coverage of minorities was so bad when Frank Scandale was brought in as editor in 2001, he actually had to order local reporters to leave the office and come back with a story about blacks and Hispanics at least once a month.

After Publisher Stephen A. Borg took over in mid-2006, he castrated Scandale as the chief decision maker in the newsroom, hence the latter's nickname of "Castrato." The editor never was able to recruit or retain many minority journalists, and he got rid of the paper's only Hispanic columnist (Miguel Perez) and its only black columnist (Lawrence Aaron).

Scandale sat by as head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes took another wack at his nut sack by ordering her Hackensack reporter to virtually ignore the city's minorities and all other residents, and concentrate on Police Chief Ken Zisa. Coverage of Teaneck and Englewood, two other core Bergen communities with sizable minority populations, is spotty at best.

That policy continues, as readers can see from the lack of Englewood and Hackensack news in today's paper. Oh, Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado has another superficial story in the Local section on the parking-garage collapse on Prospect Avenue, but the paper was forced to cover that by the national attention it got. Today, she reports the owner of the building "plans to spend $12 million" on repairs and related costs, but the number is meaningless without knowing the size of the company, how many buildings it owns and so forth.

Wait. I just saw a three-paragraph story by Alvarado on L-6 about a special Board of Education meeting tonight to interview candidates for a vacancy.  She hasn't covered a school board or City Council meeting in years, and didn't even report on the city budget and tax hike. 

Also on Page 1 today is another expose that will accomplish nothing from Staff Writer Jeff Pillets on an audit of the Bergen County Improvement Authority in 2008 and its role in public projects, including the new county park. Buried on the jump page, we learn a spokesman for county Executive Dennis McNerney had no comment. Next time, that should be Pillets' lead.

The restaurant review in Better Living today is one of the strangest from lame-duck Food Editor Bill Pitcher, who gives Vista Rosa in Totowa a rating between Fair and Good, largely because of a lazy and indifferent wait staff (reminds me of the lazy and indifferent local assignment desk of The Record, and his own laziness as food editor).

But listen to this: A steak arrived "tragically overcooked." Tragically? Cmon. Where the hell is the editing? Despite the "flagrant overcooking," the steak tasted OK. He raves about the lobster and asparagus risotto, but mistakenly says it's part of an "old-school" Southern Italian menu. Risotto is found more often in the north of Italy, and the restaurant should get extra points for serving it.

Still, why do a full-blown review of a terrible restaurant? Why not tell your readers of the best restaurants around, and save the bad ones for a round-up of shorter, capsule reviews? I'll tell you why. Because Features Director Barbara Jaeger puts such a tight reign on spending, reviewers must write about every restaurant they seek reimbursement for -- no matter how bad.

And why continue Eating Out on $50? Two people can eat for $50 at probably 75 percent of the restaurants out there, so what service is the paper providing? The reviewer manages to spend just under $40 at Fairmount Eats, which has gone downhill in the three years it has been open. (I'm sure Jaeger had an orgasm when she saw the low, $40 reimbursement request from the writer.)

What's more, Jeffrey Page, the free-lancer who writes the reviews, can ill-afford to be eating red-velvet cake and other desserts. The space for his reviews could accommodate more restaurant inspections, which are far more important than Page's blabber. Today, you'll find health ratings from only 14 of the 90 or so towns in the paper's circulation area. 

For years, Wyckoff has refused to supply health ratings of its restaurants, and the paper has rolled over and played dead.
(Illustration: Tuskegee Airmen fund-raising poster.)
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Millionaires' friend bites us again

HobokenWaitingRoom0049Image via Wikipedia

Governor Christie's favorable tax policies toward the rich are already coming back to haunt us, according a few paragraphs on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park today. If the governor didn't give the Borgs and other millionaires a huge tax break, he probably would have been able to keep film and television tax credits, and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" would still be filming in North Bergen

As it is, 200 jobs and $55 million in related spending will be lost, said the landlord of the warehouse sound stage used for interior shots. Ouch. Why the full story is on L-7 and not A-1 is a puzzle, unless the former Hackensack daily doesn't want to make Christie look bad.

In fact, the governor looks great in the Page 1 photo today. But didn't any of the journalists covering President Obama's visit to Edison think to ask what he and Christie said to each other at Newark airport? The photo shows the two men with big smiles on their faces. What a tease. The joke is on readers.

There is another problem with the Obama coverage by Staff Writer Hugh Morley, whose story dominates A-1. Morley's lead paragraph begins: "After a sub sandwich lunch with President Obama ..." But TV news  reported the president didn't eat lunch at the Tastee Sub Shop, but did order a half-sub to go. Morley doesn't say what kind of sub the president ordered; it was a "Super Sub" (ham and three other cold cuts with cheese).

 What's with the pissy editorial on A-18, where Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin or one of his staff fumes at NJ Transit over the cost of making the Ridgewood train station handicap accessible but not doing the same for Hoboken Terminal? There was a major story Tuesday about Ridgewood, but Hoboken wasn't even mentioned in the well-padded construction update. Did Staff Writer Tom Davis miss the real story?

There is no Englewood news in Local today, but Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado finally was able to get some comment from the landlord of the Prospect Avenue high-rise where the parking garage collapsed. And head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes managed to find room for another overturned-vehicle photo. What a great job this veteran editor is doing.

It's hard to tell whether Columnist Kevin DeMarrais is siding with the woman who samples grapes to make sure they aren't sour or ShopRite in Hackensack, where an employee made a sarcastic remark about her (L-8). DeMarrais is careful not to pass judgment on ShopRite produce (it often is tasteless or rots overnight because of improper storage).

Now that Bill Pitcher has decided to leave his $71,000-a-year-job as food editor, shouldn't readers expect local food coverage while he is still around? I guess not. A canned story from another newspaper is on the front of Better Living today. It discusses the history of pepper.

(Photo: Hoboken Terminal)

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New template, new library

I'm trying a second new template, called Simple, for Eye on The Record, with a different background color than Do You Really Know What You're Eating?  I had trouble scrolling through the first new template.

The second volume of posts from Eye on The Record now is available at the reference desk of the Teaneck Public Library. The 471-page book contains posts from the blog's inception on Oct. 23, 2009, through July 1, 2010, including readers' comments, anonymous and otherwise.

Two volumes of posts are on the shelf at the Johnson Public Library in Hackensack, next to the official history of The Record.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to get paid for overeating

;Title: "fast food is the best!"Image via Wikipedia

A northern New Jersey newspaper is seeking a food and health editor in a posting that appears on the Web site of the University of Honolulu School of Sumo Wrestling. Here are excerpts:

"Get paid for overeating. Successful candidate will indulge his or her obsession for cake, cookies and other high-calorie desserts, then include every detail in the food pages, and urge readers to sample hamburgers that may contain cattle feces.

"Dysfunctional eaters are welcome, especially if you don't feel an obligation to report on the obesity epidemic and what readers can do to eat healthy.

"You will spend most of your time editing recipes from other sources, which you are welcome to pass off as your own. Recipes should be complicated; the more steps, the better. When using seafood recipes, pick fish that is endangered or has the most mercury, and feature pork as much as possible, because it is raised with the most antibiotics.
"You will need a car in good working order so you can drive around and chronicle the opening and closing of every bagel shop and pizzeria in North Jersey for your blog.
"The successful candidate will supervise a number of young writers still struggling to find their voices, including a Sunday columnist who writes from the restaurant owners' point of view far more than from the customer's perspective.

"Do not apply if you are interested in helping readers make intelligent choices at supermarkets and specialty stores by buying naturally raised meat and poultry, fruits and vegetables and wild-caught fish.

"Do not apply if you believe restaurant reviews should discuss the origin and quality of the food served.

"Do not apply if you plan to argue for revival of the Food section rather than presiding over a decline in food coverage.

"You will be working for a witch, whose knowledge of food is suspect, and you won't be paid as much as your predecessor. The witch will complain incessantly about how much money you are spending, and she has been known to try and get rid of employees who ask to be reimbursed for expenses she considers too high.
"The successful candidate will be in their late 20s or early 30s, because the witch likes to work only with people she can push around.
 "Your features copy editors are pathetic, so don't worry about being accurate; they wouldn't know an error if it bit them on their collective asses."

Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.        
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Exhausted reporter back in the fray

Parking GarageImage by joseph a via Flickr

After two days off for rest and relaxation, Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado is back on the Hackensack beat, leading The Record of Woodland Park today with bad news for Prospect Avenue high-risers whose parking garage collapsed July 16. They won't be going home until at least Nov. 15.

"Homeless for 4 months," the big, black headline declares -- but the news copy desk is inaccurate on two scores. The tenants are living in hotels or with relatives, so they are far from "homeless." And Nov. 15 is three and a half months away, not four, so maybe the copy desk means four months from the initial collapse. Confusing.

The A-1 patch is about a legal pissing match over who has rights to an "app," and, unfortunately, the story isn't about appetizers. Staff Writer Kibret Markos, who is assigned to the Bergen County Courthouse, is careful to leave to the last paragraph on the jump page that a lawsuit and counter suit are filed in New York, not New Jersey.

In view of all the older workers displaced during the recession -- including a couple of dozen at The Record, thanks to such discriminating managers as Stephen and Jennifer Borg, Frank Scandale, Barbara Jaeger, Liz Houlton and Deirdre Sykes -- I question why Markos and the other courthouse reporters are not covering the many age-discrimination lawsuits that have been filed.

For her A-1 story today, Alvarado covered a meeting  of more than 100 displaced Prospect Avenue tenants organized by a lawyer who represents a half-dozen of them in hopes of hitting a litigation jackpot. That's the easy, superficial way to cover the story -- everybody is in the same place and you don't have to run around chasing people down. 

No representatives of the out-of-town building owners were at the meeting, so there is no comment from the company. Very thorough story. We don't even know if Prospect Avenue remains closed.

There is no other Hackensack news or anything from Teaneck and Englewood in the rest of the paper today.  What a great job "Mother Hen" Sykes is doing as head assignment editor.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Record is looking for a new food editor

University of MiamiImage via Wikipedia

The Record of Woodland Park is looking for a new food editor. The successful candidate would replace Bill Pitcher, who has been in the job for only four years and one month.

The job posting -- on the Web site of the University of Miami School of Communication -- reads almost exactly like the one the newspaper ran after Patricia Mack was forced to retire in 2006.

But the address for cover letters and resumes is now 1 Garret Mountain Plaza in Woodland Park, not 150 River St., Hackensack, former home of the newspaper and North Jersey Media Group. Here is one line from the July 20 posting:

"This editor must have a boundless enthusiasm for and a vast knowledge of food, dining, nutrition, fitness, diet and health issues."
Pitcher, who is being paid more than $71,000 a year, never put his stamp on food coverage. He took over the job in June 2006 -- several months before the Food section was folded by Publisher Stephen A. Borg -- and has been little more than a recipe editor. In the past six months, he has reviewed restaurants while Elisa Ung is on leave.

The brash, young publisher promised "every day" food news in the Better Living features section that Pitcher never was able to deliver, despite the assistance of Ung and other young staffers.

The successful candidate likely will be in their early 30s -- in keeping with Features Director Barbara Jaeger's desire to work with young people who won't challenge her authority.

To read the full posting, go to the university Web site and click on "Career Connection" in the header, then "Jobs": 

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Enough construction updates already

The Anderson Street station facing southward t...Image via Wikipedia

As if we didn't read enough about Ridgewood in Monday's paper, here is another detailed story in The Record of Woodland Park about a construction project in the village. The assignment desk and reporter take what is basically a construction update and pad it mercilessly, while trying to give it a negative spin by quoting residents whose lives are disrupted by the project.

The piece on today's Local front is by Staff Writer Tom Davis, a transportation reporter infamous for his attacks on light rail, including its planned extension to Englewood and Tenafly.  

In today's piece on making the Ridgewood train station handicap accessible, he pulls out all the stops: Cranes "tower over this bucolic community." "Stores and shops dating ... to the 19th century are visible to train passengers." There's more:

"Tubes, beams and pipes are scattered around the site as cranes and bulldozers move quickly through concrete rubble."
This is great reporting, but Hackensack readers might be asking themselves why they've never seen a story on a permanent replacement for NJ Transit's Anderson Street Station, a historic structure that burned down, what, two years ago? Rail riders have had to make do with a crummy bus shelter since then. 

It's a marvel how head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes and such minions as Dan Sforza get reporters to do construction-update fillers and dress them up as real stories, while continuing to ignore news from Hackensack and other Bergen towns. Or did The Record miss the project in Ridgewood until now?

Monday was the first day since July 17 without coverage of the parking-garage collapse in Hackensack. The stories, as numerous as they were, often didn't contain even basic information, such as whether Prospect Avenue remains closed. It does. And the stories also overlooked major information, such as the massive project being pushed for 329 Prospect, diagonally across from the high-rise where the garage collapsed.

A letter to the editor today from Thomas J. Lyndon of Hackensack (A-8) reports that "for the past year," the city Board of Adjustment has been considering more than a dozen variances for a 20-story, acute-care hospital with "five levels of underground parking."

I guess we haven't read about this proposal -- especially relevant in view of the garage collapse -- from Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado, because apparently she has been ordered by Sykes to ignore all Hackensack news outside of the legal troubles of suspended Police Chief Ken Ziza.

Today's front page is an all-New Jersey affair except for a big photo of soldiers in Afghanistan, an image that looks posed. The editors, desperate for a color photo, again demonstrate how A-1 design trumps journalism. Were there no Jersey photos worthy of Page 1?

Here's belated recognition for Staff Writer Jeff Pillets, whose A-1 story on Sunday exposed the waste and corruption behind the making of the New Overpeck County Park, which was 60 years in the making. However, I did think he was nitpicking over erosion and slow-growing grass.

Still, will anything come of his story? The contracts have been awarded, millions of dollars in taxpayers' money have been  wasted. Maybe his story would have changed things if it was written a year ago or two years ago.

(Photo: Original Anderson Street Station in Hackensack.)
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Monday, July 26, 2010

One town gets special treatment

Downtown Ridgewood, NJImage by birdphone via Flickr

With the seeming regularity of the seasons, The Record of Woodland Park takes the pulse of Ridgewood's bustling downtown (photo), while virtually ignoring the increasing number of empty storefronts on Hackensack's Main Street after the newspaper moved out of the city where it prospered for more than 110 years.

A new rewards card designed to lure shoppers to Ridgewood is explored in a long story with photos on the front of the Local news section today -- at least the fourth major story about the village's downtown in the last two years. Meanwhile, the decline of news from Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood is apparent again today, and those struggling downtowns haven't been featured in the paper in many years.

Ridgewood has gotten even more special attention, because of a well-organized group of wealthy residents opposed to expansion of The Valley Hospital. In the past two years, those stories have been numerous and repetitive. The paper never made as much fuss over several expansions of Hackensack University Medical Center, some of which required the demolition of homes. In Ridgewood, the hospital is expanding on its own land.

Hackensack's downtown is beginning to slide back to what it was like in 2005, with many empty storefronts and the homeless roaming Main Street. A new county shelter seems to have removed the homeless, but in the last six months, at least three food businesses have closed, and other storefronts remain vacant.

The Ridgewood coverage often took its cue from protesters, although the paper, eager for increased hospital ad revenue, endorsed the expansion plan. But when former Managing Editor Jim Ahearn erred in his column on the proposed height of the new hospital buildings, the corrections ran on A-2 as well as on the opinion pages -- the first time I have ever seen that.

The Record has never reported how its move out of Hackensack, along with parent company North Jersey Media Group, has changed River City, where it was founded in 1895. Hundreds of printers and other employees were scattered to the winds by Publisher Stephen A. Borg, and others were downsized -- apparently motivated by Borg's desire to make a killing on the sale of 150 River Street and nearly 20 acres of surrounding land, a windfall he has been denied so far, leaving his father Mac as a ghostly presence in the building.

Why does Ridgewood get so much attention? Is it the enterprise of Staff Writer Evonne Coutros, who is assigned to the village, compared with other local reporters, who seem to wait for direction from their clueless assignment editors? Or is it the desperate need for local news copy as the staff's overall productivity has plummeted under the coddling of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, who clucks over her reporters like a Mother Hen?

Or is it a conscious decision by the editors and their absentee bosses -- the Borgs -- to cover people like themselves -- a mostly white, upscale audience found in the Ridgewoods of North Jersey and not in the Bergen towns with significant minority populations?

Also in Local, a rare story on people with Alzheimer's disease who wander away appears on L-3. For every Alzheimer's story the youth-oriented editors run, it seems, there are 10 stories on autism. Just another example of what a great job Sykes and Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale are doing. 

Today's front page is solidly New Jersey, and includes a patch story on a poor schmuck from Saddle Brook whose health insurance is so hellish, he has been trapped in a hospital for three years. But the editors must have really been desperate if they led the paper with possible privatization of roadside-service patrols on non-toll highways.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Selling the front page to the highest bidder

200Image via Wikipedia

Remember John P. Ferguson, who left as president of Hackensack University Medical Center after a scandal over the hiring of a state senator as a consultant? Well, with a second home on Martha's Vineyard, he apparently is not rich enough, and has enlisted The Record of Woodland Park to publicize his new venture with a Page 1 story that has negligible impact on North Jersey residents.

This is another example of how, under Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale, the front page seems to be for sale to the highest bidder -- just two days after the paper's so-called Washington correspondent crafted a preposterous A-1 story to give a million dollars worth of free publicity to Angelina Jolie's new movie.

Ferguson is president and CEO of a company that plans to open up to 20 upscale hospitals outside the U.S. to cater to affluent travelers and residents, the first in wealthy Dubai, Staff Writer Lindy Washburn reports. (Inexplicably, the sub-headline says, "Asian health chain." )

So, who cares, especially with all the health-care problems in New Jersey? Have readers written in asking what happened to Ferguson? Does the former Hackensack daily owe him something? Did his lawyer contact head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes and claim the stories about Ferguson and then-state Sen. Joseph Coniglio were unfair? 

Or is there a possibility Jennifer A. Borg had something to do with this Ferguson story ending up on A-1? Borg, vice president and general counsel of North Jersey Media Group, once held a seat on the HUMC board of directors.

This is another story that damages the credibility of the paper, which seems unusually concerned with the lives of the rich and powerful, people like the Borgs, owners of NJMG, while minimizing coverage of minorities in Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and other communities.

In fact, a better choice for A-1 would have been three North Jersey hospitals' survival rates for patients with heart attacks (L-1). 

Today's Local section has no news about Hackesnack, except for the ninth-straight day of coverage of the parking-garage collapse. But there is a photo and story of an 82-year-old woman who drove up three steps and through the front doors of Wendy's in Clifton, mistaking them for the drive-up window, then ordered a healthy burger and fries to celebrate her survival. Jerry DeMarco of Cliffview uses the accident to launch a discussion about elderly drivers and the possible need to retest them, while The Record merely prints the gee-whiz story and photo -- like hundreds it has published over the years.

In Opinion, an editorial (0-2) discussing Latiea Boyer only reminds readers how, on July 20, Scandale used a huge photo of a non-fatal boating accident in Belmar on Page 1 instead of the slaying of this young, black mother and Navy veteran from Garfield.

The thin Travel section tells us Editor Jill Schensul continues her journey in an RV. It's a wonder this woman, who has long portrayed herself as dysfunctional, can drive anything bigger than a Toyota Corolla. Maybe the driving chores are being handled by her husband Paul, whose job as newsroom library director was eliminated during the 2007-08 downsizing, when he was 50.

The job reductions came only months after Publisher Stephen A. Borg bought a $3.65 million Tenafly mansion with a company mortgage. Borg had also eliminated Food and all the other feature sections except for Travel. Neither Features Director Barbara Jaeger nor Food Editor Bill Pitcher put up a fight over the folding of Food. Now, food coverage is a mere shadow of what it once was.

In 2008, when I asked Schensul why her section was spared, she speculated Stephen Borg didn't know of Travel's existence.
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

New look for 'Eye on The Record'

I'm trying a new template for Eye on The Record. The blue background and larger type are easy on the eyes, and set this journalism blog apart from Do You Really Know What You're Eating? The new design is called Picture Window.

Another new element gives you the opportunity to rate blog posts. Look for the star ratings at the end of each entry. 

--Victor E. Sasson

This paper is filled with hot air

Town of Woodland Park, COImage via Wikipedia

 Saturday, July 24, 2010

The over line for the pretty color photo that anchors Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park today -- HOT AIR EVERYWHERE, NOT JUST INSIDE BALLOONS -- must be an inside joke from the news copy editors on Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale. It's a clear reference to such blowhard columnists as Mike Kelly, John Cichowski, Bill Ervolino and Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin.

There's a lot of political corruption news on A-1 and inside today. If ex-Democratic boss Joseph Ferriero's conviction is set aside and he is tried again, you can be sure he will continue to pay exorbitant legal fees, raising an issue that is rarely addressed by the newspaper -- access to the courts.

An editorial on A-11 today bemoans Governor Christie's budget cuts, which will deny legal services to thousands of low-income state residents. The editorial makes no mention of how much pro bono, or free, work is done by New Jersey lawyers, but it is probably not worth mentioning. Still, reporters assigned to courthouses seem intent on hiding legal fees, which can bar access to the courts for middle-class residents, too. Their stories on multimillion dollar jury awards or settlements routinely ignore how the lawyers involved can collect up to a third of that money, in addition to any fees.

In Local, a story on L-2 reports Englewood teachers have a new contract -- after two years of negotiations and protests. Staff Writer Giovanna Fabiano doesn't mention if teachers will get extra pay for working in a segregated system. 

There is no Teaneck news, but L-1 carries a story by Nick Clunn on rent concessions and other arrangements for those evicted from the Prospect Avenue high-rise in Hackensack, where the parking garage collapsed. Apparently, Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado must have been exhausted from having to work on the story for a solid week -- in contrast to how little she has written in the last few years -- and is getting much needed rest, probably under orders from head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes.

It's a good thing the photographers were busy Friday to provide filler for the space left empty by loafing assignment editors and reporters. Staff Photographer Tariq Zehawi has not one, not two, but three traffic-accident photos with text (L-2, L-3 and L-6) -- two of them overturned vehicles, his specialty.

(Photo: Woodland Park, Colorado.)
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Note to readers

Eye on The Record is experiencing technical difficulties, and I ask for your patience.

Although posts are written daily, they do not always appear in order. Please scroll down to be sure you don't miss the latest commentary.

--Victor E. Sasson

Does any of this really affect me?

Atlantic City, New Jersey 2007Image via Wikipedia

 This post was published originally
on Wednesday, July 21, 2010.

The post for Friday, July 23, 2010, follows this one.

When I freed The Record of Woodland Park from its plastic bag today and opened it, I was hit by this huge element on Page 1, and wondered, What's this all about? There was a big, black headline, tons of text, photos, charts, lists and so forth on A-1 and inside -- but it was a lot of heat and not much light.

When do we get to the part where Governor Christie lowers property taxes, the main plank of his successful campaign for office? What's all of this stuff in the main head about taking "a gamble on gambling overhaul" -- does any of that affect me or tens of thousands of other North Jersey residents?

The  headline's over line heralds "bold ideas." Does this mean the paper is solidly behind the proposal, and couldn't wait for the nicety of saying so in an editorial?

Indeed, is this package of stories so many trial balloons lofted by Christie with the eager, unquestioning help of editors like Frank "Castrato" Scandale and Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, and reporters like John Brennan, who is not exactly the brightest bulb in the newsroom.

The former Hackensack daily once ran "What It Means" boxes with complicated stories. Today's package sorely needed one, especially because of the involvement of Brennan, a former sports writer who loves to talk up his stories and who never learned the line between promotion and journalism.

I plowed through one story on the continuation page (A-10) and learned Atlantic City would get a bigger share of casino revenue than before, which sounds good if that money helps improve neighborhoods outside the casino district. And a chart says a couple of state authorities would be eliminated. I do know a couple of news and copy editors in Woodland Park are worried about the future of the Meadowlands racetrack.

So would my property taxes go down? I don't have a clue. So far, Christie has given a huge tax break to the Borgs and other millionaires, and more tax breaks to wealthy small-business people, all with the unqualified support of Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin. Meanwhile, the Big Guy has screwed just about everyone else -- from mass transit users to seniors. And have you noticed recent stories reporting how Republicans are raising more funds? The rich folks are already paying Christie back.

There isn't much news in the rest of today's paper. NJ Transit received 25,000 complaints about bus drivers in 2008 and 2009, but that isn't enough to get Road Warrior John Cichowski out of the office to speak with the mass-transit commuters he is supposed to be writing about.

Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado has an L-1 follow on the parking-garage collapse in Hackensack, where she is assigned. This fifth day of coverage equals the longest, unbroken string of stories about the city in a few years, during which Alvarado pursued Police Chief Ken Zisa almost exclusively and before that ex-lawman Michael Mordaga.

Inside Local, not one but two overturned vehicle photos and stories take up precious space that should be occupied by municipal news of Englewood, Teaneck, Hackensack and other towns, but I guess there was none. Staff Photographer Tariq Zehawi seems to specialize in this genre. And on the sixth day of oppressive heat and humidity, Sykes says once again that a weather story is beneath her and her staff. 

Mother Hen clucks: "Do you really expect my reporting chicks to leave the office on a day like this? It's too hot for their feathers."

(Photo: Atlantic City in 2007.)

The post for Friday, July 23, 2010, is below.
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Cure for a bad newspaper?

Hollywood Studios 1922Image via Wikipedia

This is the post for Friday, July 23, 2010.

If you doubt the front page of The Record of Woodland Park is for sale to the highest bidder, just look at the ridiculous story filed by Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson today. Page 1 clearly shows the desperate editors are ready to prostitute themselves at the drop of a big name.

Those laughable, Cold War-era Russian spies were swapped more than two weeks ago, and readers promptly forgot about a story that didn't amount to anything in the first place. But here is Jackson and Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale selling out to the well-oiled Hollywood publicity machine by linking the spies to "Salt," a movie starring Angelina Jolie that, guess what, opened today. There's also a lukewarm review in Better Living. 

In view of the downsizing of The Record and Herald News and the decline of  local news, can the former Hackensack daily really afford a Washington correspondent? Couldn't Jackson be of better use in Trenton or Woodland Park? How much does he actually contribute? If today's story is any example of his worth, I say, Throw the bum out.

The Local news section is a standing joke, thanks to head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, who has so many "pals" among local reporters, productivity has plummeted.

Road Warrior John Cichowski has an L-1 column today on roadside curiosities. Gee-whiz.  Approaching his seventh anniversary as a columnist, he has become a curiosity.

Leading A-1, Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado and Staff Writer Nick Clunn weigh in with the seventh straight day of coverage on the Prospect Avenue parking-garage collapse, in a story that demonstrates the continuing decline of assigning, reporting, writing and copy editing at the paper.

The collapse occurred last Friday or seven days ago, not six, as she reports. She says residents removed "select belongings" from their apartments. What kind of belongings are those? 

In all seven days of coverage, readers never get any real sense of what it means to be thrown out of a luxury apartment in a heat wave, possibly without a car. Alvarado never spent any time with the evacuees or told of their experiences. Today, she reports the new Mercedes of one tenant, a trauma surgeon, was crushed, but doesn't tell readers how the woman has been getting around.

TV news says the building's landlord is paying tenants' hotel bills and other expenses, but are the tenants still required to pay rent? Your guess is as good as mine.

Local has no municipal news from Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood today. The paper didn't correct Thursday's error on when the Hackensack budget was adopted, nor has there ever been a story on the budget and tax levy. The reporter, Erik Shilling, had the wrong month.

On L-2, the caption with a photo of Paterson's new mayor doesn't explain why he held his inaugural ball in Garfield.

In Better Living, Food Editor Bill Pitcher seems to have a lot of reservations about food quality and preparation at Segovia Steakhouse in Little Ferry, yet he gives it a two-star rating. He refers to mussels he didn't eat -- because they were so foul-smelling he "couldn't get more than a few" past his nose -- as a "ration," a word better suited to describe military or prison slop.

In Starters on Page 17 of Better Living, free-lancer Amy Kuperinsky misspells the Greek word for large lima beans. They are called gigantes or giants.

 (Photo: Hollywood studios in 1922.)
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The paper is an enthusiastic booster

Flag of Atlantic City, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia

There is more -- a lot more -- about the state makeover of the Meadowlands and Atlantic City all over the front page and inside The Record of Woodland Park today. In fact, the only other Page 1 story is about the first bear hunt in five years.

"Christie details bold plans," the subhead tells readers, putting the newspaper firmly in the corner of Governor Christie. That support is reinforced in an unusually long editorial (A-18). 

The edtorial calls Xanadu "arguably the ugliest structure in the state." Readers of The Record reserve that description for 150 River St., the paper's ghostly former headquarters in Hackensack -- once at the center of Publisher Stephen A. Borg's get-rich-quick scheme in the face of declining readership and ad revenue.

But nothing in today's coverage tells readers whether there is a relationship between Jon F. Hanson, the real estate mogul who headed the state advisory panel on gaming, sports and entertainment, and the Borgs, owner of North Jersey Media Group. Hanson is an ex-sports authority chairman who served as Governor Christie's chief fund-raiser.

I also question the wisdom of following the recommendations of the balding Hanson, who doesn't have the good sense to wear a Panama hat under the broiling sun (see A-1 photo). 

A second day of major coverage and it's still hard to tell when anything may happen to change the Meadowlands and Atlantic City. But what became clear today is that a number of North Jersey groups would likely lose casino revenue-sharing funds. 

Local leads with a story on late tax bills by Staff Writer Erik Shilling. The penultimate paragraph on L-6 reports incorrectly that Hackensack passed its budget "in June." I called the City Clerk's Office and was told the budget was adopted on July 13. The budget probably was introduced in June.

Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado apparently ignored passage of the budget, and I didn't see a story by her or anyone else in the paper on July 14, July 15 or any day since, although passage of budgets in Tenafly and other towns have been reported regularly.

Alvarado does have a story today on Hackensack high-rise residents being able to return to their apartments briefly (L-6), the sixth straight day of coverage of the parking-garage collapse. The previous record was five straight days of Hackensack coverage in April and May after Police Chief Ken Zisa was charged with fraud.

Since June 2009, Alvarado and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes have allowed 28 days or more to pass on four occasions without a story of any kind about Hackensack.  But not reporting adoption of the city budget and tax levy is a new low for the pair in a long series of journalistic lows they have been responsible for.

On the seventh day of the latest heat wave, Local breaks its silence on the high temperatures this summer.

(Photo: Flag of Atlantic City.)
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A funny thing happened to Hackensack reporter

Parking garage.Image via Wikipedia

A funny thing happened to Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado on the way to the Woodland Park office or wherever it is she hangs out while ignoring basic coverage of River City, where The Record was founded in 1895. A parking garage on Prospect Street collapsed, forcing the evacuation of the attached luxury high-rise and forcing Alvarado and other staffers to cover Hackensack for a change.

Since the initial collapse on Friday, the story has been front-page news, including today, when Alvarado reports on city inspections of other parking garages. But the paper still has not given readers details of Hackensack's proposed budget and tax hike, or reported the naming of a new mayor.

For the past few years, Alvarado appears to be the kind of reporter who has to be told what to cover, and she has been taking her cues from head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, who acts like a Mother Hen to her staff. 

Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale, meanwhile, doesn't appear to be much of a force in the newsroom, even after Publisher Stephen A. Borg stopped taking an active role in editorial decisions that rightfully were Scandale's.

Desperate for a big A-1 photo today, all the editors could come up with was the aftermath of a storm in Belmar. The lead story reports that despite the drastic cuts in the state budget, we face a deficit almost as large as before. So much for the property tax cuts promised by Governor Christie -- friend of the rich and enemy to just about everybody else.

Local has no Teaneck, Englewood or Hackensack news. A new feature, Brief Tributes, is a roundup of local obituaries (L-6).

In Better Living, Food Editor Bill Pitcher discusses one of his obsessions -- beef short ribs -- a perfect dish for the heat waves we've been having.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Readers shut out again by bear news

NJ Transit bus stop infoImage by jasonik via Flickr

The Record of Woodland Park's system for covering news is in full view on the front page today, with a story on complaints against NJ Transit bus drivers. That story by Staff Writer Karen Rouse shares A-1 with two other stories, including more follows on the parking-garage collapse in Hackensack.

If you read Rouse's story, it's pretty clear the transportation reporter didn't actually ride any buses to observe the service first-hand. Instead, she followed The Record system, using complaints provided to her by the transit agency. A neat package of information. No fuss, no muss, and no need to actually leave the office.

This is the kind of quick-and-superficial journalism encouraged by Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, aided and abetted by Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who appears to be no longer involved in editorial decisions -- in contrast to the two years or so he spent in the Hackensack newsroom after he took over in mid-2006, when he effectively castrated Scandale.

Nowhere in today's story will you find the experiences of local bus riders -- many of them minorities who can't afford cars -- with a fleet of creaking, decades-old buses, such as the No. 780 between Englewood and Passaic. Rouse has been aware of these decrepit buses since 2007, but has never written about them.

And apparently because she never rides any NJ Transit buses, she publishes two complaints that are much less serious than they seem. 

On the front, a member of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg's staff complained that a bus driver pulled out in front of him without looking. The staff member -- and Rouse -- apparently are ignorant of a law that drivers must yield when buses are pulling out into traffic (a triangular yield message is on the rear left of every NJ Transit bus). Of course, that doesn't excuse the bus operator for displaying his finger and cursing.

Inside, she quotes a complaint that a driver was going so fast, the brakes made a "high-pitch whining sound" and were "screaming in pain." Rouse apparently is unaware hundreds of NJ Transit cruiser buses proved to have defective rear brakes that screeched with every stop -- a story Assignment Editor Dan Sforza was too lazy to do when he was transportation reporter.

Finally, what about the idiotic main headline? Instead of listing top complaints, the news copy editor or his supervisor must have been bribed by the transit agency to write such a self-serving message that drivers "put customers first." That completely dilutes the impact of the story.

In view of all the Paterson news the paper has published since it moved to Woodland Park -- Silk City gets better coverage than Hackensack -- it's a puzzle why the editors didn't use the slaying of a 29-year-old Navy veteran on A-1. That story belongs on the front more than the one promoting Lautenberg's bid for more federal aid for the state.

It's likely the desperate editors had to relegate the slaying story to Local, because there was so little local news, abundantly clear from the three expanded obituaries of people you never heard of on Page L-5. There is no Hackensack, Englewood or Teaneck news in the section today, but another in a random series of stories on bears and bear hunts leads L-1.

I guess there weren't enough reporters working Sunday for a weather story as the latest heat wave enters its fourth day of oppressive temperatures and humidity.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

This paper, the last of those delivered while I was away, has a Page 1 story on a Borough Hall from Hell in Woodcliff Lake, and stories about Teaneck and Englewood in Local, but nothing about Hackensack, where a new mayor was sworn in two days earlier.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Now readers search for answers

Pulaski Skyway, Spanning Passaic & Hackensack ...Image via Wikipedia

If the past is any guide, The Record of Woodland Park may have one or two more stories about the parking-garage collapse in Hackensack, then ignore the city where it was founded for another couple of months. Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado will go back to napping on the doorstep of suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa, but won't be able to get a quote from him on his mounting legal troubles.

Most of the local reporters are spoon-fed their assignments by the minions working for head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, but Alvarado, Jean Rimbach and Shawn Boburg apparently work directly for the jocular Sykes, who breast feeds them, from the looks of the Zisa stories they produce now and again.

It's simply irresponsible for Sykes' Local section to ignore basic news about Hackensack day after day -- from the proposed budget and tax hike to the new mayor -- in favor of all the drivel this reporting trio has come up with on Zisa. 

For example, this past Thursday's Page 1 "blockbuster" reported the chief had a security contract with a hospital that ended in December 2005. The only quote these three reporting wizards could get from Zisa was a rehash from 2007.

Where is Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale -- castrated by Sykes and Publisher Stephen A. Borg after the latter took over in mid-2006? Where are the Borgs? I guess they don't see the paper out in The Hamptons.

Today's paper continues A-1 coverage of the Prospect Avenue parking-garage collapse, revealing no one was injured. But the editors are already bored with the story, unable to come up with really dramatic photos of the collapse they could run on the front and inside, so they resort to filler on the Yankees and a plane crash in Maine.

The other A-1 story -- reporting that the impact of 2% property tax cap may not be felt for years -- is troubling. But on the Opinion front, Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer, D-Passaic, outs Governor Christie's favorable treatment of the rich as no Record editorial, column or news story has.

In fact, an editorial on the next page praises Christie for "an impressive start" in his first six months in office, making no mention of the huge tax break he gave to his millionaire supporters, many of whom bankrolled his campaign.

On the front of Local, Road Warrior John Cichowski writes about "imponderables," but doesn't mention the chief one is why he is  allowed to continue his boring, repetitive column.

(Photo: The Pulaski Skyway, linking Jersey City and Newark. Editor Frank Scandale once barred mention of of "Pulaski Skyway" on Page 1, because, he claimed, readers had never heard of it.)
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Did The Record beat competitors?

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

The Record of Woodland Park today was all over the parking garage collapse on Prospect Avenue in Hackensack, and may have beaten competitors by reporting that "at least two people" were trapped. Other media said rescuers were trying to reach only one person.

Coverage by 11 staffers -- including Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado -- takes up almost all of Page 1 and continues to nearly two full inside pages. The other story on those pages is the suspension of state vehicle mechanical inspections to save $11 million a year.

Although the coverage of the disaster is good, the human element is missing. To Hackensack residents, the luxury high-rises along Prospect Avenue are almost a city apart. Who are the thousands of people who live here? Are they mostly New York commuters with little or no attachment to Hackensack, or interest in civic affairs?

In today's paper, you won't find anything about the people who live there, and only limited information on the lifestyle of Prospect Avenue residents, who are accustomed to doormen, concierges and so forth in return for high rents or condo and co-op fees. You'd think Alvarado, who is assigned to Hackensack, would provide such specialized knowledge, but like the other reporters on the story, this might be the first time she has spent any time on Prospect Avenue, if she even went there.

In other words, you won't find much context, typical of the paper's system of entrusting most reporting and story decisions -- not to staffers in the field, but to a group of lazy, moronic assignment editors under Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale and Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes. This continues in the office, where the assignment editors do the rewrites that any reporter worth his or her salt should be doing themselves.

Local is a thin section for another day, missing any municipal news from Englewood, Teaneck or Hackensack, but the flurry of Englewood Cliffs news continues, the second day in the row that small town is covered. Sykes and her minions are doing such a great job inspiring their reporters.

(Photo: The Church on The Green, Hackensack)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I just flipped through The Record of Woodland Park for Sunday, July 4, when I was away. It took only about five minutes, but I didn't see any news about Hackensack's proposed budget and tax hike, the new mayor or any other subject.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

News sharks will get you every time

Map showing the Jersey Shore shark attacks of ...Image via Wikipedia

After picking two meaty stories for today's front page, the editors of  The Record of Woodland Park took a desperate lunge toward sensationalism by leading with shark sightings at the Jersey Shore. 

At least the paper recognized the importance of BP halting the flow of oil after 85 days, though that Page 1 story can't possibly make up for inconsistent coverage of the nation's biggest environmental disaster. And after months of beating up on teachers, Governor Christie is finally going after the inflated salaries of school superintendents. 

Let's not forget he's giving a pass to millionaires like the Borgs, who have escaped a special tax, and has refused to raise the low gasoline tax to fix roads and improve mass transit.

Today's Local section is another weak effort by head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes and her assignment minions, with no Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood news.

Copy editing continues to decline. An L-1 story contains the phrase "lack of enough crosswalks." A photo caption on L-7 says a woman is filling her shopping cart, but no cart is visible.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Three reporters joined at the hip

Bergen County, 1896Image via Wikipedia

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes is so proud of the reporting triplets she hatched several years ago, she showers them with preferential treatment. Today, Staff Writers Monsy Alvarado, Jean Rimbach and Shawn Boburg hit the front page of  The Record of Woodland Park with yet another story on suspended Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa -- this one about his business interests.

This might be Rimbach's first byline in 2010; in recent years, she has averaged one a year. Alvarado, who is assigned to cover Hackensack, wrote her last non-Police Department story on May 19 -- more than two months ago -- and her last Zisa story a month ago. She has been silent on the city's proposed budget and tax hike, and the new mayor, who was sworn in July 1. Boburg's byline also is rare.

Hasn't Sykes, Alvarado and the others done enough on lawsuits against Zisa, the criminal charges he faces, his conflicts of interests and his other legal problems? Don't Hackensack readers deserve basic information about who is running the city, the budget, taxes and related municipal matters?

Sykes is so gaga over her dearly beloved triplets she had them chasing former lawman Michael Mordaga for nearly three years. Then, she picked them up and comforted them after they fell on their faces with a single story so pathetically weak, Editor Frank Scandale wouldn't allow it on Page 1. And in view of all the crap Scandale does run on the front, that's saying something. 

The triplets came up with a lot more on Zisa, but got beaten to the punch by the Bergen County prosecutor.

The vast majority of Hackensack readers undoubtedly would be content with coverage of the Zisa case as it plays out in the courts, especially if they are going to be denied just about any other news about the city. Running pictures and a story about flooding in Hackensack, as the paper does today in the absence of anything else, is just an insult to readers.

Alvarado does have a second story today, on the Local front, about the suspension of three rookie Hackensack police officers. Again, she is a broken record at the broken Record.

I thought the proposal to carve up Teterboro was declared dead a few weeks ago . So why does the former Hackensack daily have a figure-filled A-1 story and an L-1 column on the plan today?

(Map: Bergen County, 1896.)
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To many, he's just another rich white guy

New York Yankees Statue of Liberty #2, promoti...Image via Wikipedia

It was no surprise to see the obituary of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on Page 1 of  The Record of Woodland Park today, coming a couple of days after  the top of A-1 was devoted to the passing of the public address announcer. But what explains this incredible excess?

The jock-itching, high-fiving, ass-slapping, male-bonding editors have simply run amuck, giving more space to Steinbrenner than to any other dead person in my memory -- presidents, included -- and I joined The Record in 1979 as a reporter. But if you are not a Yankees fan -- and we are legion -- he's just another rich white guy lionized by the media. The rest of today's paper sucks.

Truth is, Steinbrenner and Malcolm A. Borg, former publisher and chairman of North Jersey Media Group, have a lot in common. Both were born into wealth and privilege, both got much richer during their careers and both passed their businesses to a couple of spoiled brats.

Still, compare what the Steinbrenner sibs have done with the Yankees and what Publisher Stephen A. Borg and big sister Jennifer A. Borg, NJMG vice president and general counsel, have done with The Record, especially Stephen's emphasis on personal gain and Jennifer's expensive defense of what many see as long-established age-discrimination policies.

It's well-known the elder Borg is a reformed alcoholic, and many observers agree he lost control of The Record when he started hiring a series of out-of-towners for newsroom and executive jobs, the latest being Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale, who probably orchestrated today's shamefully excessive coverage, while continuing to neglect local news.

The Steinbrenner eulogy covers almost all of the front page, continues through two and half pages of the main news section under a special banner, an editorial and an editorial cartoon, then picks up in Sports, with more than four pages of added drivel. I could just manage to scan the stories and photos, but read few words. Isn't Bruce Springsteen the real "Boss"?

Steinbrenner's life and death mean nothing to me and tens of thousands of other readers, likely the majority. And what is important to me, as a resident of Hackensack, continues to be ignored by Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, who supervise a stubbornly unproductive news staff.

Look at today's Local section. Look at all the space devoted on the front to a cop who shoots a dog after he was bitten. Neither died. Page L-3 is all police or court news, except for a story on the postponement of a meeting in Englewood; it runs more than 10 inches. There's no Hackensack news today.

Local reporters like Giovanna Fabiano and Monsy Alvarado have become adept at writing long previews of meetings or hearings or court proceedings, then long stories when they are postponed. That is what passes for productivity under Scandale and Sykes. 

But is Fabiano working on a profile of Michel Bittan, the Englewood businessman linked to one of those alleged Russian spies, to finally tell readers just how influential he is in that city? Is she planning to write about the segregated schools there? 

And is Alvarado ever going to tell readers about the Hackensack budget and tax rate, or write about the new mayor? Karen Sasso's swearing in appeared in The Hackensack Chronicle on July 9, more than a week after it occurred.

Employee news

The name of Managing Editor Frank Burgos did not appear on today's editorial page for the first time, and presumably, he has returned to Pennsylvania. He won't be missed.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Last Monday's paper is nothing to speak of, nor was there any Hackensack news.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

'Eye on The Record' is now a book

The former Fairmount Avenue station in Hackens...Image via Wikipedia

Two volumes of posts from Eye on The Record are now available at the Johnson Public Library in Hackensack, complete with comments from readers, anonymous or otherwise.

The first volume contains posts from the inception of the blog on Oct. 23, 2009, with "Abandoning River City," through March 25, 2010, "Another wasted front page." The second volume, which the library received on Tuesday, adds posts and comments through July 1, 2010, "When will the editors tell readers the real story?"

The books are available for reading at the library, and cannot be borrowed. In a delicious twist, they have been placed on a shelf next to the official history of The Record, in the library's Local History section.

Unfortunately, both books are crude productions of a publisher called Shared Book. The first volume (Eye on The Record, By Victor E. Sasson)  contains many of the photos that appeared online, but the second (Victor E. Sasson's Eye on The Record, Volume 2) has only black squares where the photos appeared.

The second volume is dedicated to veteran newsroom employees who were mistreated by the editors and owners of The Record.

(Photo: Hackensack's former Fairmount Avenue train station is now a gift shop.)
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Now the filler is on the front

The Great Seal of the State of New Jersey.Image via Wikipedia

Now, the desperate editors of The Record of Woodland Park can't come up with enough news worthy of the front page, so today they use a big element of filler on the U.S. Senate Democrats' to-do list. Though there are New Jersey references in the piece, don't readers really need one on the state Legislature?

The only other story worthy of Page 1 is by Staff Writer Lindy Washburn, who reveals that AIDS patients are another group being screwed by Governor Christie's austere budget. How did this fall through the reportorial cracks?

What is the sentencing of Otis Mann doing on A-1, and why does the reporter call him a tribesman and refer to tribe members? I don't believe the Ramapough Mountain People have been recognized by the U.S. as a legitimate Native American tribe. Workers being laid off by the Turnpike Authority? Why is this on what all in all is a pretty lousy front page?

On the front of Local, the story of a giant oak tree facing the ax in Teaneck is written by an Ax, which leads me to ask whether head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes and her assignment minions shouldn't be the ones facing the ax? They always seem to have their reporters -- including Monsy Alvarado, Shawn Boburg and Jean Rimbach -- barking up the wrong tree.

I urge them to turn over a new leaf and branch out to coverage of Hackensack. Remember Hackensack, Deirdre? It's where The Record was founded in 1895, where it prospered for more than 110 years and, famously, where you fell on your well-padded derriere trying to cross a snowbank, leading to a long period of convalescence.

The lead story on the Local front -- "First aid officer charged in crash" -- appeared Monday on Jerry DeMarco's Cliffview Pilot.

Page L-2 has a piece on Paterson's new mayor, but I have yet to see one on Hackesnack's new mayor, nor is there any other Hackensack news in the paper today. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

There was no Hackensack news in last Tuesday's paper either, but there was a Tenafly budget story, reporting a $7.6% tax hike on residents, including Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who lives in a $3.65 million McMansion he bought with a company mortgage several months before layoffs began.

In Better Living, a story by free-lancer Abigail Leichman carried the headline: "A MOTHER-DAUGHTER DUMPLING DYNASTY," and the third paragraph describes fried, baked or boiled "dumplings" called kubbeh or kibbeh.

I grew up eating kibbeh made by my Sephardic Jewish mother, who was born in Syria, and to call the fried version -- made with bulgur -- a dumpling is simply wrong. We referred to them as torpedos (see photo on Page F-6).

Unfortunately for Leichman and anyone else who writes about food for The Record, the features copy desk is notorious for all the errors it misses or creates, especially in food stories. This was the case when I wrote for the section from 1999-2006 and self-described foodie Liz Houlton ran the copy desk and, sadly, still is the case now, when the young food writers make numerous, uncorrected errors.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Overemphasis on sports

New Jersey Supreme Court sealImage via Wikipedia

The Record of Woodland Park, which has denied the front page to New Jersey Supreme Court justices who have died, today leads Page 1 with a column on a stadium public address announcer most readers have never heard of. The tribute is in the form of a sports writer's tortured prose, and on the front of the Sports section, there's another big story on the dead guy. Bob who?

This likely is the work of Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale, who often dictated what went on A-1 when I was still at the former Hackensack daily. Scandale acts more like a high-fiving, ass-slapping jock than a journalist.

You'd think another front-page story -- asking if homeowners will save money under Governor Christie's proposal to cap property taxes at 2% -- would have gotten the biggest play, but that doesn't happen with Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, who have shown contempt for the concerns of North Jersey residents, especially those who live in Hackensack, where the paper was founded in 1895.

The lack of state and local news must have driven the desperate wire editor to use a story on upscale hamburger restaurants on A-6, when such a story should appear in Better Living. Only one of the new chains uses naturally raised meat -- many years after Fuddruckers began serving natural ostrich and buffalo burgers.

The misplaced food story raises the question of just how much work is being done by the overpaid food editor, Bill Pitcher, who has been filling in for the restaurant reviewer while she is on leave. Although he has written weekly reviews, he hasn't attempted to write her Sunday column. About all he seems to do is edit recipes, run wire stories on food and, this summer, visit farmers' markets.

Today's thin Local section contains no municipal or development news about Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood. Did the Hackensack City Council pass the budget and set the tax hike? Maybe that was reported while I was away, but I am still reviewing a week's worth of papers. (My "Vacation Pack" was missing Thursday's paper.)   

Even if Monsy Alvarado (Hackensack) and the other municipal reporters had gotten off their asses to report and write something, non-profit news today would have prevented the layout editor from using those stories. 

And would you look at all the space the incompetent editors devote to a pair of wealthy Asian Indian sisters from Franklin Lakes who made their "artistic debut" before a select audience of 200 on Saturday (Page L-6). What's next, lavish coverage of bar mitzvahs?

It was Publisher Stephen A. Borg's idea to hire a non-profit reporter, but the editors have never matched his enthusiasm, placing the charity copy in the Business pages for several years before moving it to Local, where it fills space the local reporters can't fill. 

Maybe that was why it was moved to Local,  just as more and bigger accident photos and stories are being run to fill the section, in the absence of basic news every North Jersey resident needs.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A half-dozen staff members managed to work on the Page 1 heat wave story last Wednesday without leaving the building and interviewing people on how they were coping with the heat. Apparently, the entire story was done by phone. Not a single ordinary person is quoted, not one cook trapped in a hot restaurant kitchen, not one motorist without air-conditioning.

Reporters at The Record of Woodland Park are no fools, and their assignment editors allow them to get away with such incompetence on a daily basis. It just shows you what a great job head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes is doing in inspiring her staff.

The only Hackensack "news" in Local is an L-2 photo showing three men watching a World Cup game at Lazy Lanigan's.  Obviously, it was too hot for Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado to venture out or even to pick up the phone.

An L-7 story reports that Michel Bittan, the Englewood businessman linked to one of those alleged Russian spies, is named as a defendant in a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault. Staff Writer Giovanna Fabiano has yet to report the extent of his holdings in Englewood beyond his ownership of a restaurant and a club.
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