Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shootings, suicides and slapstick

George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson ...Image via Wikipedia

They're mowing them down on the streets of Paterson, and The Record of Woodland Park is there with its body-count journalism. A distraught teen and an equally distraught chef apparently jump to their deaths from the George Washington Bridge two days apart. A man falls off a roof on top of another man.

The Record's crack assignment desk, under the leadership of Deirdre "Loafs A Lot" Sykes, covers it all, with stories as detailed as today's front-page takeout on the Ridgewood teen suicide to others with so little detail they are merely filler. No names, no comment. 

Desperate Editor Francis Scandale probably wakes up every day in his Glen Rock home, shaking from a nightmare of having no real news to run on the front page. So he has made sports, police, fire and court news the new local news, especially when Sykes has sacrificed local coverage to embark on endless investigative voyages that get lost in the doldrums.

The stories lack detail, because a lot of reporters are encouraged by their lazy editors to do them by phone; who has time to do legwork? We don't pay overtime. People are charged with crimes, then hide behind their high-priced lawyers' "no comment."

I'm waiting for a Record reporter to confront a lawyer who has pocketed a big retainer, but who suddenly loses his tongue, and say "no comment" isn't good enough.

You certainly don't see that in today's "Ridgewood teen takes life" on A-1, paired with a story about that wasteful high school sports organization and another shamelessly hyped piece on horse racing.  Could the headline be any duller? Was Vinny Byrne supervising the copy desk Wednesday night? Did he allow this clunker to get past him?

The New York Times and The Star-Ledger did far better:

Private moment made public,
then a fatal jump

That was the Times headline on Page 1 today. The Star-Ledger took the Ridgewood teen's Facebook message for an effective main headline:

"jumping off the gw bridge sorry"

That's weird, because The Record quoted the Facebook message in its lead paragraph this way: "Going to jump off the gw bridge sorry."

Then, four of the paper's best reporters tell us way too much about this troubled Rutgers student, and way too little about the dorm mates who exposed him in an Internet video showing his intimate encounter with another male student.

Why run thumbnail photos of the two 18-year-old perpetrators with big smiles on their faces? Where are their mug shots? What was their relationship? Were they doing it? Is there video of that, too? Is this a case of two know-it-all Asian kids ganging up on the white guy? 

An A-5 story about the arrest of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei appeared in The Record on Wednesday, but there was no mention of the suicide seven days before by Ravi's roommate,  Tyler Clementi, who left his wallet behind. His leap from the GWB on Sept. 22 was followed two days later by the suicide of Chef Joseph Cerniglia of Campania restaurant in Fair Lawn.

The chef's death led the paper on Monday -- three days after it happened -- but the staff was never able to pin down whether financial problems were the cause. Apparently, no reporter spoke with family members or the restaurant's staff. 

Will these two bridge suicides prompt editors to assign a story on what the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is doing to prevent people from jumping? If it can be done by phone, maybe. But the suicides, like the deaths of pedestrians killed by NJ Transit trains along unfenced stretches of track, make far better copy.

When is the last time you saw an expanded obituary about a suicide? Yet, don't these front-page stories about the Ridgewood teen and the Fair Lawn chef amount to long, elaborate re-tellings of their lives -- just to sell newspapers?
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We get only half the story

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg opening ...Image via Wikipedia

Could the front page get any more boring? "Recession took its toll on paychecks." That's not news, especially to the poor schmucks who reported, wrote, laid out and edited the story. "EnCap ... shows Trenton's ugly side." Is Columnist Charles Stile's spin on the latest corruption indictment really news?

The third story on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park today appears to be another chapter in the escalating war of words between Governor Christie and the teachers union over evaluation and tenure. But when you read it closely, you realize crucial information was left out of the story to  make the governor look good.

Of course, Staff Writer Leslie Brody includes the background that every good newspaper story contains, and introduces it this way: "The governor's announcement came as education reform has [been] catapulted into the national conversation." Sounds a little exaggerated to me.

But where is mention of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's own proposal just a couple of days ago for revising tenure rules for city teachers -- a plan that was endorsed by their union? That's just across the river. Where is mention of how Christie and his education aides blew $400 million in federal aid?

And when is the media going to acknowledge the "elephant in the room," as illustrated by the A-12 photo of Christie with his jacket off. When is The Record going to acknowledge that Editors Francis Scandale, Deirdre Sykes and others have deliberately ignored the obesity epidemic, to the detriment of readers?

On the front of Local, Staff Writer Merry Firschein reports that Fort Lee voters rejected an $81 million expansion plan for the schools. Let's hope she does a follow on whether the proposal was the victim of the recession or whether the negative votes of seniors were enough to overcome support by Korean and Japanese residents, who traditionally support education.

There is no municipal news from Hackensack or Englewood for yet another day, but Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado tells us the Middle School is raising $10,000 needed to send back to Africa the body of a 12-year-old boy killed by a train.

Alvarado, who wasn't involved in the initial coverage Sept. 22 and 23, is the first reporter to mention the district doesn't provide busing to students, including Caesar Muloki, who was walking along the unfenced tracks on Railroad Avenue when the NJ Transit train brushed him. 

But the paper has never taken the governor to task for his deep cuts in aid to NJ Transit -- money that could have been used to provide security guards at train stations and fences along Railroad Avenue in Hackensack and in other densely populated neighborhoods divided by tracks. 

In fact, Desk Warrior John "Limp Chick" Cichowski took glee in writing a column blaming pedestrians for getting killed and not the agency for its lack of safety measures. What a great journalist.

What is a Local section without breathless news about Harrington Park, the burg where head Assignment Editor Sykes lives? Check out the six-inch story on L-2 telling North Jersey readers that renovation of athletic fields will be finished by November. It'll be a great Thanksgiving for all.

The Record has struggled for years to get votes from night meetings into the next day's paper, as apparently it did today with the Teaneck Council's historic decision to merge the Police and Fire Departments -- a move that could work in two neighboring communities, Hackensack and Englewood, and save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. 

The story is on L-3, but it should be Page 1 news.

(Photo: Mayor Bloomberg of New York. His business news service employs former Record staffers.)

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The editors just don't care

Do you think Francis Scandale, Deirdre Sykes and other editors at The Record of Woodland Park lose sleep over the trash they produce day after day? Forgetabout it. If their jobs depended on circulation figures, they would have been out the door long ago.

The only incentive editors were given when I worked there was to stay within their newsroom budgets. That produced a bunch of stingy managers, including  Features Director Barbara Jaeger, who used to berate staffers over their spending habits. She even barred restaurant reviewers from purchasing alcoholic beverages.

The two New Jersey stories on Page 1 are classic crap -- instant turn-offs to readers who are largely left in the dark about what is going on in their towns.

What justifies leading the paper with the EnCap indictment of a former senator, who is in prison, and a lawyer? It's justified by all the ink EnCap got -- first the gee-whiz promotional stories about golf courses and housing built atop garbage, then the paper's tedious investigation to uncover wrongdoing long after it occurred.

And the vast majority of readers already know New Jersey is a corrupt state; just run it inside with a refer, and be done with it. As for the major element on A-1, who outside of horse-racing fans in the newsroom really care if the industry goes the way of the horse and carriage? 

The death of a well-know North Jersey chef gets bumped back to L-1 today, but the staff still struggles with documenting whether financial problems were behind his suicide. And yet, for a second day, no reporter apparently attempts to talk to Chef Joseph Cerniglia's family or the staff at his Fair Lawn restaurant, Campania. This is Reporting 101.

You can read comments about Cerniglia from readers of Jason Perlow's food blog. Just click on the following link:  Off The Broiler

There is no Englewood or Hackensack news today.

Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado worked her fingers to the bone, filing five stories in a seven-day period ending Sept. 17, but I haven't seen anything about the city since then. The last two Englewood stories I saw were written by Staff Writer Ashley Kindergan, not Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano.

Maybe head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes has Fabiano working on some endless project, imparting the "Loafs A Lot" philosophy to yet another member of the local staff.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Newsroom nightmares

Kitchen NightmaresImage via Wikipedia

Four reporters worked on today's front-page lead on the possible suicide of a well-known North Jersey chef, but it seems that none of them went inside his Fair Lawn restaurant on Sunday to interview the manager or staff. 

So readers are left in the dark. Is Joseph Cerniglia's death linked to his Campania restaurant again falling on hard times, as it did before it was turned around by Chef Gordon Ramsay on TV's "Kitchen Nightmares"?

Susan Sherrill, the new food editor at The Record of Woodland Park, contributed to this inadequate story, which is being reported three days after the Wayne man's death. We don't know the identity of the brain-dead weekend assignment editor, but demotion would be an appropriate penalty.

Precious A-1 space  is wasted again today on the slaying of a Seton Hall student from Virginia at a party in East Orange, the second day in a row this story was played out front by balls-less Editor Francis Scandale, who apparently believes crime news -- even from outside the circulation area -- is the new local news. 

The Local section is another disaster -- another slap in the face to readers -- from the desk of head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Loafs A Lot" Sykes.

A leering Mike Kelly weighs in with another smear column against the imam behind the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. A disaster drill is the major story on the front of the section. A drill. Not even a disaster. Where is the Hackensack news?

Without the backup of the assignment editor and the news copy desk, even the most talented reporter can turn in an incomplete story that leaves readers shaking their heads over the paper's knowledge of North Jersey. Sadly, most of the assignment and copy editors at The Record are brain-dead, as are their supervisors.

So it is with Staff Writer Ashley Kindergan's L-2 story on the closing of the Sol & Sol deli in Englewood after more than 60 years. Yes, the deli's whitefish was immortalized on "M*A*S*H" by Hawkeye, who was the main character on the TV series, not "one of the main" characters.

But Ashley, sweetheart, did you ask yourself, why Sol & Sol out of all those thousands of Jewish delis out there? It's because Alan Alda, the actor who played Hawkeye, lived for many years in Leonia, and undoubtedly ate regularly at the deli in neighboring Englewood. 
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Editions I missed

Midtown Manhattan and New Jersey from Empire S...Image by stephenhanafin via Flickr

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, The Record and Columnist Mike Kelly continued their Page 1 smear campaign against the imam who is behind the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. I can't recall any stories about other apartment landlords in North Jersey, including those who own buildings in Paterson and Passaic.

I also can't recall any stories smearing the shore rabbi who is at the center of the biggest corruption scandal in New Jersey history -- the one that brought down numerous officials, including the cocky young mayor of Hoboken -- or the paper railing against the synagogue he is affiliated with. Is Kelly targeting the imam because he is Muslim?

Just below Kelly's diatribe is an A-1 story on Governor Christie's cuts to after-school programs for 9,000 children of the working poor. Shame on Christie, who continues to live large and cater to such millionaires as the Borgs and his rich, fat-cat supporters.

In Local, a family with seven dogs continues getting better coverage than many towns, and photos are blown up as big as possible to take up the space of local news that was never filed.

I have two problems with Sachi Fujimori's Better Living story on sustainable seafood. Recommending big-eye and albacore tuna flies in the face of everything I've read about high mercury levels in those fish. 

And while Costco's sources for farmed fish are condemned by Greenpeace, the warehouse store gets no credit for selling a wide variety of fresh and frozen wild-caught fish and other seafood.

On Sunday, Sept. 12, free-spending food writer Elisa Ung recommends "gourmet" takeout dinners for $10.95 to $14.95, some of them frozen. I will match the restaurant-quality takeout dinners from Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood ($6.99) against any of them.  And I'll give you a piece of sound advice she neglects: Plate your food and heat it in the microwave; don't reheat food in plastic takeout containers.

(Photo: Manhattan and New Jersey.)
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

This one is for wrapping fish

Opname van een hoorspel / Recording a radio playImage by Nationaal Archief via Flickr

The Sunday paper leads with a crime story -- a Seton Hall student from Virginia is slain at a party in East Orange. Gripping news for Bergen County readers of The Record of Woodland Park.

The dominant A-1 story is about North Jersey's ridiculous home prices, still artificially high despite the recession, and for that we can thank the greedy real estate industry, whose advertising  helps keep the paper afloat. 

The third front-page story is about a Navy veteran whose slaying hasn't been solved. Why is this cold case on Page 1?

The Local section is another Deirdre Sykes' joke on readers. The big L-1 story has the headline, "Towns weigh change" -- a guaranteed room-clearer -- and the subhead uses the word "service" twice -- a major no-no.

Desk Warrior John "Limp Chick" Cichowski continues to roam far from his mission of writing about commuters, with a story on the driving record of a moron from a reality TV show. You won't find any Hackensack or Englewood news in the section.

Could there be anything more promotional than Elisa Ung's F-6 column on a single pizzeria in Allendale? Does she really expect us to believe the owner is "America's Best Pizza Maker," as an industry magazine proclaims? What a sell-out.

Three letters to the editor in Opinion today objected to the A-1 story Sept. 18 about an obscure Jewish practice of killing chickens for Yom Kippur. Let's hope the editors kill any more story ideas from Staff Writer Deena Yellin, if they involve Orthodox Jews.

Who isn't bored with the full page of photos in Travel showing readers holding up the section while on vacation? This is one page less in a thin, six-page section that the self-styled klutz of a travel editor has to fill with useful information for travelers. 

Take a good look at those photos. All of the people appear to be white or Asian, which largely reflects the racial make-up of The Record newsroom, although Publisher Greedy Stevie Borg long ago gave the heave-ho to most of the older workers.

(Top photo: The Record's local news assignment desk.)

Note to readers

Don't miss the previous post: "Tales from the old Hackensack newsroom," and don't forget to click on "comments" for Jerry DeMarco's recollections of working side-by-side with head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes (aka Mama Crass).
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Tales from the old Hackensack newsroom

The Rim and the SlotImage by Bill on Capitol Hill via Flickr
A newspaper copy desk rim and slot long before computers.

When I worked as a news copy editor in The Record's Hackensack newsroom, my chair and computer were near the door to the men's room.  

That seemed appropriate, because too many of the stories we handled were so poorly done, they were the equivalent of shit -- this from the perspective of having been a prize-winning reporter at The Record and two other daily papers. 

I spent many years near the men's room door, processing hundreds of stories by reporters good and bad. I worked with so many assistant assignment editors, I have forgotten all their names, but many of them had one thing in common -- they themselves were mediocre reporters who became mediocre editors and who often knew nothing about the towns their reporters were covering.

Some of the men in the newsroom had appalling bathroom habits. I did my major business at home, but others would disappear into the bathroom with a newspaper, and the noises I could hear were distracting, to say the least. The men's room also needed a system to freshen the air after each toilet flush, but never got it.

But if some of the reporters and editors who used the men's room were slobs, a couple of my colleagues weren't ashamed to do their thing in public, and gross out their desk mates in the process. 

One, across the desk from me, had chronic flatulence, and all the other copy editors could smell his gaseous output, but no supervisor ever spoke to him about the problem. For a number of years, he was supervised by his ex-wife. To make matters worse, this copy editor was given supervisory duties, even though he was among the least productive on the desk.  He is still employed as a copy editor.

The copy editor who sat behind me often picked his nose and fell asleep -- sometimes with his finger still in his nose. The supervisor, or slot, occasionally had to wake him to complete a file and write a headline so we could make deadline.

The news copy editors worked at night, and there was a clear divide between the day and night staffs. The local news assignment desk, headed for many years by Editor Deirdre Sykes, did its best to thwart the copy desk. 

One way was to hold onto a story until a few minutes before deadline to prevent the the copy desk from doing much more than spell-check the text. Sykes specialized in this, along with her peels of laughter that prompted homicidal thoughts in nearby layout editors.

Reporters and their fragile egos were defended no matter how incomplete or how inaccurate or how poorly written their stories were. The assignment desk hated the copy desk, because copy editors were a daily reminder of all the errors the reporters and their supervising editors made, all the garbled writing, all the long and winding lead paragraphs.

It was not uncommon for a reporter covering Englewood or another town to misspell the names of officials, get street names wrong and leave out major information. I lived in Englewood for many years and knew the city better than any reporter or editor in the newsroom.

In the nearly two decades I lived in that city, The Record never reported on the noise from an open-air police firing range, which was used hundreds of days a year and woke residents as early as 8 a.m. with gunshots and shotgun blasts. 

When Staff Writer Deena Yellin was assigned to do a round-up on such police ranges a few years ago, the published story omitted any mention of the one in Englewood, despite having been edited by Assistant Assignment Editor Christina Joseph, who once covered Englewood herself, as did Sykes when she was a reporter for a weekly. 

Editor Francis Scandale was brought in from the Denver Post in 2000 or 2001, and it soon became clear he wanted the copy editors to write great headlines that would sell newspapers, and not to do much more. He even told them to stop calling reporters after they went home about such problems as misspelled names and inaccuracies.

The copy desk was regarded as a scrap heap for older employees. In all my years there, no copy editor was ever promoted to the job of assistant assignment editor.

The paper was so dysfunctional, it had trouble printing and delivering the paper on time, and kept on making the deadline earlier and earlier to accommodate press malfunctions and inclement weather, which would slow the rag-tag fleet of vehicles used by independent deliverers.

Not only was the paper unable to print late sports scores or the results of municipal night meetings, but copy editors often had one to two hours before the end of their shift at 12:45 a.m. with nothing to edit (yet they were denied a dinner break earlier in their shift because of the tight deadlines).  

They, and their supervisors, would use the time at the end of the night to play computer solitaire, write personal e-mails, and plan vacations.      
I began free-lancing for the paper's Food section in 1999, and in later years, I would write major pieces or Dining Out on $50 restaurant reviews at the end of my shift, and ask a colleague to look them over before sending them to the food editor. I stopped writing food stories in mid-2006.

I was fired in May 2008 during a downsizing that claimed many veteran employees. After the copy desks of The Record and Herald News were combined, the decline of copy editing continued. Now, inaccurate and dull headlines appear regularly, as do typos and garbled writing, even in lead paragraphs, and stories are published with crucial information missing.

One example occurred just last week, when a 12-year-old boy was killed by an NJ Transit train along an unfenced stretch of track in Hackensack. None of the coverage mentioned he was walking home because Hackensack doesn't provide school busing to students.

What else can you expect when the former Hackensack daily is being run by a flawed journalist,  Scandale, and a bunch of lazy assignment editors who refuse to give copy editors -- with their experience and superior knowledge of North Jersey -- the power they have at many other newspapers. 

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

The media's power to deceive

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of FacebookImage via Wikipedia

Would you look at all those $100 million dollar smiles on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park today. Don't Governor Christie and Oprah Winfrey make a great couple? Next to them, the mayor of Newark and Facebook's founder are just beside themselves with joy.

Does young Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg (photo) know anything about New Jersey and what Christie has put state residents through since he took office in January? Does Oprah? If they did, would they really have the guts to smile in front of a nationwide TV audience about this huge donation to help Newark schools?

The news copy editor's heading over the photo makes me laugh. "A $100M GIFT WOULD MAKE YOU SMILE, TOO." We're not going to be getting any gifts. We're only going to get screwed by Christie and other politicians in one of the most corrupt states in the nation (despite all the indictments he crowed about in his years as U.S. attorney in Newark).

Editor Francis Scandale's decisions regarding A-1 photos -- dating to 9/11 -- will haunt him should he ever try to get a job at another newspaper.

Read the A-1 caption under the smile photo, read the A-3 story, read the A-11 editorial.

Why is the governor getting so much credit for this Facebook scheme, which might violate state education law? Why is there no mention of Christie's huge cuts in education aid, municipal aid, senior tax rebates, school breakfast programs for poor children and on and on, while the governor has given the elitist Borgs and other wealthy residents the tools to make them even richer? 

Christie just blew the state's chances at $400 million in federal education aid. Does this gift even come close to making up for that?

Does Zuckerberg know there are other segregated schools that could use his money, especially those that have been ignored by head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes.

Hey, kid, come to Englewood, where Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg has grown fat on his profits in an East Hill mansion and raised the two Tarnished Silver Spoons running North Jersey Media Group and destroying The Record's reputation.

It's in Englewood where Zuckerberg would see lousy schools in one of the wealthiest communities in Bergen County -- a city that recalls, sadly, a plantation, with the rich, white folks living on a hill and most of the blacks and Hispanics living on the wrong, red-lined side of the tracks.

Today's Local section hammers home the drastic decline in local news, with more than half of L-3 taken up by the gossipy obit of Eddie Fisher and no news from Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and lots of other important towns.

A 10-inch story on L-3 tells us the school board in Sykes' town has lowered milk prices. That's earth-shaking news.

Bitch, bitch, bitch. On the front of Better Living today, food writer Elisa Ung complains about the lines, the waiting, the prices, the lack of grab-and-go prepared food and more at Eataly, a new, 42,500-square-foot Manhattan marketplace for Italian food. And she was being paid to go there.

I could have saved her a trip into the city, and she could have at least told her readers about a saner alternative right here in North Jersey -- Jerry's Gourmet & More on South Dean Street near Route 4 in Englewood, where the parking is free and the free samples delight shoppers. 

Jerry's carries most of the imported products sold at Eataly, plus lots of prepared food, including restaurant-quality takeout dinners with fish or meat for a low $6.99. Does Eataly offer free samples?  Ung doesn't say. More great food reporting.
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Where exactly is the local news?

Cory Booker at a Barack Obama campaign rally i...Image via Wikipedia

What would The Record of Woodland Park do without Staff Photographer Tariq Zehawi? His work is all over the paper today -- big photos of two accidents and one tractor-trailer fire, taking up the space of local stories the rest of the staff never filed.

This Johnny on the Spot, one of the most talented photographers at the paper, must live in his car or at least spend all his time driving around, awaiting word over the police scanner about more traffic mayhem to bolster the tabloid quality of the former Hackensack daily.

Look at the size of his Page 1 photo today of a truck driver walking away from an inferno on Route 80 -- there's room for only three stories on the rest of the page. The photo is big on drama, but two reporters could manage to squeeze out only the barest details. I guess no other story was worthy of the front page today.

His two other photos appear in Local, which is packed with so much police, court, trial and higher education news there is no room for municipal stories from Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck and a lot of other towns whose reporters apparently started the weekend early.

This is another "toilet seat" edition created by head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, who has been telling readers for many, many months that tabloid-like police, court and fire news is good enough in the absence of any detailed reporting on what town officials are doing or not doing. Just eat this slop, Sykes says.

It's hard to believe Editor Francis Scandale did something right today -- pairing two stories about education aid on A-1 today. The story about Facebook's $100 million for Newark schools appears on top of  the story about the continuing embarrassment over the loss of $400 million in federal aid.

Governor Christie still has egg or worse on his face from the latter, so why is the headline on the former story praising the governor for trying "to fix bad schools"? He cut school aid drastically. The Record will do anything to stay in the good graces of this bully, who has visited so much misery on middle- and working-class state residents.

Just look at the moronic phrase seized on by Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin, who apparently knows jack about Newark. In his column on A-23 today, he praises the "Ironbound Alliance" of Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker (photo) to improve the city's segregated schools. 

But the Ironbound is an ethnic enclave of Portuguese, Spanish and Brazilian residents where the city's blacks have made few strides. In the 1980s, some Ironbound restaurants refused service to African-Americans. 

I guess Doblin is just trying to be cute again, acutely aware that without gimmicks, his columns would bore readers to tears. Is he a journalist or the governor's apologist?

In her three-star review of Sorrento in East Rutherford, Staff Writer Elisa Ung boasts of the restaurant's authenticity by saying there is no "parmigiana in sight" on the menu. But "parmigiana" means "from Parma" or "Parma-style," and isn't a reference to parmesan cheese.

Would she give three stars to the quality of the ingredients? We don't know, because this restaurant reviewer cares little about whether the "huge" salmon fillet she sampled is artificially colored farmed fish or wild-caught; whether the prosciutto is cured with harmful preservatives; or whether the pork dish she tried is pumped full of antibiotics. 

God forbid she'd put a restaurant owner on the spot, and ask such questions so readers concerned about where their food comes from can know before they go. Or does she imagine everyone is like her -- eating whatever is put in front of her? After all, it's the paper's money she's spending, not her own.

Also, it's disturbing to see how much space is now devoted to mouth-watering close-ups of food and how little space is left for text under a redesign of Friday's Better Living centerfold, where her reviews appear. 

There are so few restaurant health ratings today, the layout editor had to use a house ad to fill out the column. This is great food reporting: mystery fish and meat, and mystery restaurants.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Editors say F.U. to Hackensack -- again

Train #1651 leaves Hackensack-Essex Street, bo...Image via Wikipedia

Take a good look at the Page 1 photo in The Record of Woodland Park today -- the one showing classmates and friends mourning the 12-year-old Hackensack boy killed by an NJ Transit train. Much has been written about his use of an electronic device, but nothing about the irresponsibility of the transit agency, which does little to keep people off the tracks.

It's right there in the photo: There isn't a fence in sight along the entire length of Railroad Avenue to prevent 12-year-old boys or anyone else from walking on the tracks that divide a neighborhood. And what does The Record do? It blames the victims.

Read the short follow on the front of Local by Staff Writer Erik Shilling. He's relatively new to the paper, but his story focuses on the distractions of cellphones and other devices, and is missing so much detail.  

Why doesn't the reporter tell readers Caeser Muloki was walking home from Hackensack Middle School, where the dismissal bell rings at 2:55 p.m. Why doesn't the reporter tell readers there is no school busing in Hackensack, and that if the boy was on a bus, he'd still be alive today? Why doesn't the reporter know Caesar always walked home with another student, but didn't Tuesday? Why didn't the reporter talk to the boy's parents?

Why? It's because Shilling and the white editors don't care one bit about this handsome African boy, and whether he is alive or dead. It's because the lazy, irresponsible editors, who spend most of their day in the office in meetings, don't care about Hackensack students and whether they have busing or about the added pollution and stress of hundreds of parents jockeying for parking spaces morning and afternoon in front of schools.

It's another royal F.U. to readers by the elitist Borg family, now represented at North Jersey Media Group by Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg's two spoiled brats, Stephen and Jennifer (Jenniphen, Stepher, Stephenfer?).

And that F.U. is delivered day after day by Francis Scandale, the editor, and Deirdre Sykes, the head assignment editor, and the minions that jump at their command. Instead of challenging authority, these editors and others at the paper roll over and play dead.

Hey, would you look at the A-1 photo and refer showing our bully of a governor getting in the face of a heckler at a political rally in California. Reporters love Chris Christie. He makes good copy. Unfortunately, he makes bad policy and has screwed more middle- and working-class residents than any New Jersey chief executive in memory, while favoring the Borgs and other wealthy residents.

But that doesn't stop The Record from quoting him in the A-3 story as telling the heckler, "We're here to bring this country together." What bullshit. He's done nothing but divide the Garden State into the haves and have-nots.

On the front of Local today, the great journalist Mike Kelly has nothing better to do than pick on an 84-year-old woman who is partially blind and deaf. Shame on you, you hack. Readers will find two stories about Emerson inside the section, but nothing about Hackensack, Englewood or Teaneck.

Don't look for any local food coverage in Better Living today. So far, Susan Sherrill, the new food editor, has fallen flat on her face.

In discussing this past Saturday's paper in the previous post, I neglected to mention the A-1 story on Jewish rituals for Yom Kippur, another in a series of such stories by Staff Writer Deena Yellin, herself an Orthodox Jew. She followed that with a story on sukkahs.

The editors are so desperate for copy, they are running these stories, but neglecting other religious groups and conducting a smear campaign against the imam behind the mosque proposal near Ground Zero. That's more inspired journalism.
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The hard sell of crime news

Crime of passionImage by aftab. via Flickr

The Record of Woodland Park published four editions in a row with front pages dominated by crime or police news.

This crime-against-readers spree began on Friday, Sept. 17, with nearly three-quarters of A-1 covered by the arrests of 53 people in a Korean-American inspired bank-fraud ring, and ended, weakly, on Monday, Sept. 20, with an inane Mike Kelly piece about speeding enforcement in Mahwah, accompanied by that idiotic, unflattering photo of the columnist. 

Is he laughing, leering or sneering? That sheepish grin matches so well with his sheepish columns, where he always seeks refuge in cop-out questions, rather than forcefully stating his opinion. The speeding column is no exception.

"The police in Mahwah are enforcing the law. This is a good thing, isn't it?" he writes lamely in his last two sentences after wandering all over the landscape in the column, including a discussion of acne-treatment ads on a speed-trap Web site. What a cowardly journalist. Who is this reporter's assignment editor, passing along this crap time and again?

There was no Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood news in Monday's paper, but the front of Better Living regaled readers with a long story about a Ridgewood cheese shop, where a "recent deal" was an item selling for $25.99 a pound.

The front page on Sunday, Sept. 19, was dominated by a story on the spread of heroin to suburban teens -- a reprise of the blanket condemnation of Paterson as a drug bazaar that an investigative team produced several years ago. That story, championed by Francis Scandale, the editor, and Deirdre Sykes, the head assignment editor, included a user-friendly map showing readers exactly where they could buy the hard stuff.

In view of the editorial decisions Scandale and Sykes have been making for years, you'd think they were on something themselves.

The lead A-1 story this past Sunday was a rare appearance of Staff Writer Jean Rimbach's byline over a report on a serial killer's confession to a 1967 slaying in Little Ferry. The killer "quietly pleaded guilty last month" -- newspaper code for Bergen County Courthouse reporter Kibret Markos completely blowing it by missing this big story.

In Sunday's Local section, Hackensack and many other towns continue to be ignored, while precious space is devoted to a story on Leonia seeking bids on solar panels for the DPW building and municipal pool. Wow. That's real news.

In Better Living, Elisa Ung, who returned recently from maternity leave, reports on fine-dining with infants. Let's hope her poor son doesn't choke on a piece of cheesecake shoved down his throat by the dessert-obsessed restaurant reviewer.

The paper on Saturday, Sept. 18, leads with a plot against the pope's life, but there is little else of interest in the thin paper.

In Local on Friday, Sept. 17, Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado weighs in with an upbeat, first-anniversary story on the county homeless shelter, which is next to the county jail. 

She omits any mention of whether shelter residents are still wandering into the nearby Hudson Street neighborhood -- the source of many complaints after the building opened.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More inadequate reporting

Bits 'n Pieces2Image by terrydu via Flickr

A three-paragraph promo on A-1 of  The Record today reports that a 12-year-old Hackensack boy was killed by an NJ Transit train on Tuesday afternoon, and readers are referred to the "complete story" on the Local front. But the story is far from complete, in another pathetic effort by a reporter, assignment editor, news copy editor, copy desk supervisor and Loafs A Lot Deirdre Sykes, the head assignment editor.

In Sykes' defense, she might have been stuck in a toilet bowl and could not get out to the newsroom in time to edit the story and possibly question why crucial information is missing, if she even noticed it. 

Unfortunately, she has a separate bathroom equipped with a custom-made crapper large enough to accommodate her big, white bottom, and her cries, whimpers and laughs couldn't be heard. Her toilet water: Eau de Mierda.

Readers have to search the story for clues as to whether Caesar Muloki was walking home from Hackensack Middle School when he was hit by the train around 3:15 in the afternoon, because Staff Writer William Lamb never says so. ( Hey, Lamb, how about more Lion in your work?)

If the boy was walking home from school, his death could have been avoided if Hackensack provided school busing; it doesn't. None of this appears in the story, either. 

After I bought a home in Hackensack, I suggested to Staff Writer Colleen Diskin that she do an environmental story on the lack of school busing, the attendant pollution and parents' frayed nerves, but she dismissed the idea, saying no group was clamoring  for change. She calls herself a journalist?

It's unclear why this story wasn't handled by the Hackensack reporter, Monsy Alvarado, who wrote another L-1 story today. Does Alvarado know there is no school busing in Hackensack? Did she tell Lamb, the night rewrite reporter, or clueless Tom Troncone, the night assignment editor? 

Sykes has smothered Alvarado so long, the reporter apparently has a one-story-per-day limit. She didn't even manage to write a Hackensack municipal story today.

If past practice is any guide, there won't be a follow to the death of the Hackensack boy, just as no follow was ever done on the death of a 21-year-old Korean woman from Glen Rock who was killed by an NJ Transit train last month.

Oh, Desk Warrior John Cichowski wrote a column blaming the half-dozen or so victims of NJ Transit trains this summer, never questioning the adequacy of fencing and other safety measures provided by the transit agency. Today, Chick, as he is known around the office, is off in La-La Land writing about electric cars that aren't for sale yet.

On Page 1 today, readers are treated to another expose of massive pay-to-play at a Bergen County agency.  But this story, written by Jeff Pillets with the help of four other reporters, amounts to little more than journalistic masturbation as orchestrated by Castrated Francis Scandale, the editor.

Municipal reporting is shoved aside for these projects, yet despite hundreds of such exposes over the years in The Record and other papers, little has changed. 

The really important story on A-1 is about the dying, debt-ridden Transportation Trust Fund, which repairs roads and benefits mass transit. Governor Christie refused, after he took office, to raise the low gasoline tax to bolster the fund, and now Democrats are pressuring him to do something.

Christie knows the Borgs and his rich friends would be disproportionately hit by a higher gas tax, because virtually all of them drive gas guzzlers. Curiously, the story omits any mention of mass transit or the gasoline tax.

On A-12, an editorial urges readers to contribute to the food drive sponsored by the North Jersey Media Group Foundation, headed by prim and proper Legal Beagle Jennifer A. Borg, one of the Silver Spoons running the papers.

Can her kid brother, Greedy Stevie Borg, the publisher of The Record and Herald News, assure readers that the downsizing he ordered didn't put former employees in the same dire straights of people who will benefit from this annual drive?

Has anyone seen the byline of Susan Sherrill, the new food editor, in the Better Living section since she joined the paper a few weeks ago? All I've seen are the highly promotional press releases from restaurants and food and wine stores she rewrites for Second Helpings, a blog on
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An orchestrated counter-attack

Typical clown makeupImage via Wikipedia
Is this the clown that attacked me?

One of the many Anonymous commentators used my absence to go over posts new and old, and attack me in a series of messages I received on Saturday (Sept. 18) while I was in Italy.

There were nearly a dozen messages, all apparently written by one person who worked in The Record's  Hackensack newsroom and was familiar with where I sat and what I supposedly did before I was fired in May 2008 -- several months after I filed an age-discrimination complaint against managers and editors.

None of those messages will see the light of day. I suggest the author identify himself/herself and start a blog, if the goal is to discredit me. Also, the author of the poison-pen messages strikes me as being an editor, not a reporter -- an editor who needs more polish as a writer.

'Eye on The Record' is back

Sukkahs in Jerusalem.Image via Wikipedia

Thirteen days without seeing The Record, and what greets me when I unfold the paper today is a front page with more glorification of the filthy rich owner of a New York sports team who died in July.

It's business as usual for Castrated Francis Scandale, editor of the Woodland Park daily, an ass-slapping, high-fiving jock-editor who loves nothing more than putting sports on Page 1.

The caption with the A-1 photo tells us Yankees manager Joe Girardi is "looking at the plaque of George Steinbrenner." We can't see the manager's face or his hands, and I suppose the copy editor wanted to dissuade readers from any notion that Girardi is praying to one of his gods. I suppose the next Steinbrenner story we see will inform us the 80-year-old was mummified.

A paper owned by a wealthy family glorifies other rich people, and ignores minorities. That's no surprise when the publisher is Greedy Stevie Borg, who is nothing like his father. Even when Malcolm A. Borg was hitting the sauce every day, he was a far better captain of industry than the two spoiled brats he raised in the big house on Englewood's East Hill -- Stephen and Legal Beagle Jennifer A. Borg.

What else is on the former Hackensack daily today?

Why bury on A-3 Governor Christie's pledge to cut income taxes on the rich? Isn't that Page 1 news, as Christie continues to cater to his wealthy supporters at the expense of the middle and working classes?

Loafs A Lot Deirdre Sykes, head assignment editor, leads the Local news section with police news -- a fatal tractor-trailer accident in the middle of the night. The driver burned to death.

Am I the only one who feels it is in poor taste for a second L-1 story to refer to two Korean suspects in a cooking oil theft as "greasy," even if the reporter is quoting a detective?

What about the breathless story on Jews buying sukkahs for the Feast of Tabernacles (photo)? Staff Writer Deena Yellin gives us these gems in her L-1 story: "Trucks pulsed in and out of the driveway," "e-mails floated across cyberspace," "keep up with the Goldbergs" and "bonding in the great outdoors." (How do you bond in the "great outdoors" when you're inside a sukkah?).

The reporter never mentions whether any of the sukkahs are heated. As every Jew who has eaten in one at this time of the year knows, you freeze your ass off.

I didn't see any Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood municipal news in Local today.

In Better Living, where Witch Barbara Jaeger waves her wand as features director, the 15 Minute Chef appears on F-2 under the sponsorship of a kitchenware store in Paramus. How cozy. This weekly feature once ran in the middle of the page with a big color photo.
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Help me with new nicknames

Are you tired of "Frank The Castrato," "Mother Hen," "Laughs A Lot," "Road Worrier" and the other nicknames I have given editors and reporters at The Record of Woodland Park?

Is "The fish stinks from the head down" a mouthful?

Please send me your suggestions for new nicknames that adequately describe the desperation, laziness and incompetence of most of the editors and managers of The Record, and the owners of North Jersey Media Group.

I'll publish submissions when I return from my break.

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'Eye on The Record' shall return

Bald Eagle - Woodland Park ZooImage by TwelveX via Flickr

Eye on The Record is taking another break, this one about twice as long as my one-week hiatus in June.

I'll be spared all the dreadful local journalism in The Record of Woodland Park, but unfortunate readers won't. 

There is plenty of good reading, so spend a few minutes reviewing observations from the early days of this blog, including "Abandoning Hackensack" and "Stephen Borg prospers despite the recession."

Today's paper isn't anything to speak of, thanks to Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale. 

The lead story is about the $400 million federal education grant screw-up, and the more than $500,000 paid a consultant. The Record didn't question the role of the consultant until the state attorney general launched a probe Tuesday.

The Local news section is thin, as usual, with big photos taking up the space of stories the staff didn't file. There is no Hackensack news today; reporter Monsy Alvarado is resting from filing two stories in two days. Englewood news? Nope.

But editors made room for a story about Rockleigh on L-3. Most residents live in an old-age home.

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes or one of her minions should take Road Warrior John Cichowski's pulse. His "Check Brain" light has been on for a couple of years now.

You'd think that with at least two highly paid food staffers -- the food editor and a restaurant reviewer -- Better Living could do better than boring wire-service coverage of food and wine. 

Before dim-witted Publisher Stephen A. Borg folded the Food section, readers enjoyed locally written food stories, a column by the food editor, and recipes every Wednesday. Now, readers get slop.
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reporter deserves a pat on the back

Circuit CityImage by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Business reporter Hugh R. Morley deserves a hearty well-done today for his profile of an Oakland man who lost his job two years ago and who remains unemployed. It's filled with detail, and the reporter does a good job of exploring all the sacrifices the man and his family have made.

The story gets the play it deserves, on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park, but a nagging question remains: Why have the editors waited so long to try and tell the story of North Jersey's long-term jobless? Would a man out of work only one year make for a less-compelling story? And is this the only story readers will see?

I heard a horror story about a former colleague who left The Record more than two years ago, but have been unable to confirm the details. Surely, there are other stories about the long-term unemployed out there. Why stop at just one? 

Nothing says more about the abysmal state of local news under the so-called guidance of head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes than the lead story on the front of L-1 today. When the addition of turn lanes and traffic signals to a downtown intersection dominates the Local news section, you can only throw up your hands in disbelief and disgust.

The headline, "Traffic plan inches ahead," is about as dull as you can get. For the second week in a row, the word "inches" appears in black headline type. Last week, it was associated -- nonsensically -- with Hurricane Earl.

Now, the Johnson Public Library apparently has become so alarmed about the lack of Hackensack government news in The Record in the past couple of years that it is giving a seminar on "the city's inner works," according to an L-2 headline.

The story was written by Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado, who joins Sykes in shouting to all far and wide, "See, naysayers. We cover Hackensack government."

No. They cover their asses.
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Monday, September 6, 2010

No real news on Page 1 today

Labor Day ParadeImage by Shaun Greiner via Flickr

The three stories on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park today could have run yesterday, tomorrow or never, and readers would have been no worse off. They don't amount to more than holiday weekend filler in the absence of any real news.

The main element on A-1 isn't a story at all, but a graphic on the bleak New Jersey job picture. That's not news, as the tens of thousands of jobless residents know, and with companies like North Jersey Media Group around, it's not likely to get better anytime soon.

What does a company do with its millions of dollars in reserve? Should it hire more editorial workers to improve its product, in this case local news? Absolutely not. 

It forked over $3.65 million in the form of a company mortgage to dim-witted Publisher Stephen A. Borg so he, his wife, and their kids can escape the confines of a $2 million mansion in Tenafly, then downsized The Record and Herald News, bidding adieu to dozens of loyal and hard-working employees.

The lead story today is a speculative one about politics and the November elections. These are among the most-boring topics in The Record or any other medium -- so far removed from most readers' concerns with paying the mortgage and their property taxes, and sending their  kids to college.

Will the media ever stop reporting every bill, every law, every government program in terms of its impact on the next election? Why not write more about the victims of recession -- not charts with up and down arrows, but profiles of people facing their biggest challenges?

The third story on the front page today is on the hot-button issue of illegal immigration, and deportations in New Jersey. I have yet to see a story as extensive on the need for reform of the legal immigration system, which is the cause of much illegal immigration.

In Local, Mike Kelly is back for a second day in a row, like a bad case of indigestion.

His L-1 column on the Ground Zero mosque controversy reads like a news story. He quotes both sides and an expert, but refuses to venture an opinion of his own. Why is this a column? He breaks no new ground. He calls himself a journalist, but as a columnist, he doesn't have the balls to take a stand.

Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado has her second story in nine days on L-1 today. The Police Department, it seems, may hire experienced officers laid off by other towns. Hey, Monsy, don't overwork yourself.

Alvarado quotes City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono on police hiring, but apparently doesn't take the opportunity to ask him about the new property tax rate, plans for solar panels on public buildings, a proposal to change the zoning of downtown to encourage development along Main Street and other pressing issues she has ignored for more than a year.

Monsy, I know you're just obeying head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, who always tells you: "We're not interested in Hackensack, anymore. It's so passe. It's so far away [from Woodland Park]. It's so tres, tres fey."

As are Teaneck and Englewood, it seems, two other diverse communities that are ignored for yet another day. 

(Photo: Labor Day parade.)
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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Paper hits my driveway with a thump

Tower of BabelImage via Wikipedia
The Record's Tower of Babel.

God knows my language can get stale, when, for example, I used the word "lame" three times in the same post recently before rereading it and revising it. But some writers latch onto a word and don't let go for years and years, and it crops up all the time in their work.

The Record of Woodland Park today provides a perfect example in Columnist Mike Kelly, who has an unusual affection for the word "thump." 

Kelly long ago stopped writing creatively and now merely pushes around words, as he does in this Opinion front column: "The thump of bombs and the pop of bullets will likely continue as part of Iraq's tumultuous soundtrack."

I did a Google search and from my own editing of his columns and stories over the years, I recall Kelly has used the word thump time and again, and not just to describe bombs. 
He's used the "thump of jackhammers" at least twice. (Jackhammers don't thump, do they?) And there was the "thump" of rhetoric, drums and shoes.

Kelly is one of those reporters who has been around so long, no one -- not the editors, not the publisher -- pays any attention to what he writes, just as long as he files his three columns a week. 

Others who fall into that category include Road Warrior John Cichowski, Staff Writer John Brennan and Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin -- all of whom are glorified, overpaid space fillers.

They get away with this because some writers become the editors' favorites whether they have talent or not, while others never get off the shit list. Who loses here? The reader does, big time.

Burying news

The best story in today's paper is on North Jersey police departments struggling to diversify, but why isn't it on Page 1, in place of the lead story about high school athletics' governing body?

It's probably because Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes didn't want to give too much prominence to the police story, lest anyone question their own miserable records in diversifying the newsroom or covering minority communities in Bergen County. 

For example, Kelly and Cichowski are two of the overwhelmingly white, male columnists at the former Hackensack daily. Scandale, Sykes and Features Director Barbara Jaeger have methodically gotten rid of their black, Hispanic and women columnists.

The Local news section is pretty thin today, with no news of Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and many other towns, except for references to them in the police diversity story. 

On L-1, Cichowski blabbers on about crossing guards -- about as far away as you can get from his mission, which is to cover commuting.

On L-6, a package on the Labor Day fire in Passaic city 25 years ago omits anything on whether the devastated area was rebuilt.

Paid for gorging

In Better Living, we find a clue to why Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung failed readers by not writing a fine-dining review for this past Friday's paper. She apparently was stuffing her face at three places favored by the so-called real housewives -- who, along with Ung, are another joke played on the Garden State.

Why have the editors commanded so much copy about these trashy housewives and the other young, white trash from "Jersey Shore," compared to "The Sopranos," a series that was superior in every way imaginable? 

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Selling Page 1 for all its worth

English: I took this photo December 2006
A fire hit two restaurants in Tenafly, above.

Stories promoting companies are an almost daily feature in the Business pages of The Record of Woodland Park -- free advertising with unfiltered claims of how great these products or services are. 

On Page 1 today, you'll find another one about a store selling stuff to fans of "Glee," the TV show.

The desperate editors would probably justify this naked commercialism by saying the show is immensely popular. 

If so, why couldn't Staff Photographer Don Smith come up with a photo of a customer on A-8, the continuation page, instead of the beaming store manager? How low can you go?

And would you look at the size of that A-8 photo and others in Local -- filling space that rightly should be devoted to text -- that is, if the lazy assignment desk had any to put there. 

Another great Saturday paper from Editors Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale and Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes.

Does a non-fatal earthquake in far-off New Zealand justify a huge A-1 photo? Hurricane Earl was a bust, despite all the hype from the media, including big front-page photos in The Record this week, all designed to raise the anxiety level of readers. 

Three readers wrote letters to the editor (A-11) to defend the concrete Jersey barrier, which was called dangerous in another letter Aug. 31. 

It's bad enough the first letter writer was misinformed, but Letters Editor Chalres Saydah made it worse by slapping on an inaccurate heading, using neither quote marks nor attribution: Jersey barriers are no safety devices.

There is so little local news today, the layout editors had to run two big wire-service obits of obscure people (L-5), a big house ad for Road Worrier John Cichowski (L-6) and a photo of a deer in a Ridgewood back yard (L-2). 

You'll search in vain for any news of Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck and many other towns. The last story by Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano appeared on Aug. 13.
 For some reason, an L-3 story today on two restaurants recovering from a fire in Tenafly fails to mention that a third eating place will be opening in the same building, 1 Highwood Ave. 

Simply Vietnamese -- slated to open in mid-September -- will replace Saigon R in Englewood. I guess the reporter did the story by phone.
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Friday, September 3, 2010

What a crappy edition

Mel Gibson's mugshot from his 28 July 2006 arr...Image via Wikipedia

When was the last time The Record failed to publish a weekly restaurant review, as it did today? The centerfold of Better Living looks positively weird after nearly three years of mouth-watering food photography. 

I guess frugal Features Director Barbara Jaeger was economizing or her planning was way off, with one food editor leaving and a new one taking over this week.

Look at all the Page 1 space Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale devotes to the niche horse-racing audience, while relegating the potential loss of New Jersey Network and the actual loss of farmland to Pages A-3 and A-6, respectively.

The lead A-1 story on workers' growing health-insurance burden isn't news, especially to employees of the Borgs' North Jersey Media Group, where health benefits began to erode a dozen or more years ago. Curiously, the story quotes only business groups, with no input from employee unions whatsoever.

Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin sounds like a blithering idiot today, with his comparison of the Governor Christie-Bret Schundler brouhaha to actor Mel Gibson's physical and verbal abuse of Oksana Grigorieva (A-19). 

I guess we should have expected dumbing down of the opinion pages from this former Herald News staffer.

Except for the Road Warrior column on traffic alerts, the entire front of the Local news section today is devoted to court stories, with the most interesting one pushed down to the bottom of the page in favor of tabloid news. A fourth court story appears on L-2.

Meanwhile, you won't find any news from Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck or many other towns, big and small.

The L-1 story about natty Hugh Johnson of Closter carries a headline identifying him as a gadfly, but nowhere in the text does that word appear, nor is there any description of his gadfly activities. This is another example of the decline of news copy editing at the paper that seems to be irreversible.

A quarter of Page L-6 is given to a breathless account of the capture of a 4-foot alligator in Wayne.

Publisher Stephen A. Borg probably is spending the Labor Day weekend in the Hamptons or down the shore, but he can rest assured that in his absence, Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hens" Sykes are doing a great job for readers.

However, he might want to check on the health of the new food editor he hand picked. Is Susan Sherrill on a hunger strike? Is that why Better Living failed to deliver a restaurant review today? 

What about Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung, who returned from a six-month maternity leave about 10 days ago? In view of her appetite, it's a puzzle why her review won't appear until next Friday. Maybe no one could get her to put down her dessert fork.

(Photo: Mel Gibson mugshot from his 2006 DUI arrest.)
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