Did Jill Schensul, editor of the Travel section, accept a free trip to Louisiana to report on the 75th annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival -- a direct violation of the newspaper's ethics policy? Is this her first free press junket or has she gone on others without informing readers?
What about other staffers, such as Graphics Editor Jerry Luciani and Photo Technician Bill Hillermeier, whose work has appeared in Travel; did they accept free trips, too?
Greedy Stevie Borg, publisher of The Record of Woodland Park, folded Food and other weekly sections when he took over in 2006, but he left Travel intact.
He then downsized and merged The Record and Herald News, the first in a series of cost-cutting measures that may have been necessary after he got a $3.65 million company mortgage to buy a Tenafly McMansion for his family of six.
Has Schensul's travel budget been slashed, too? In her column on the front of Travel today, she notes that in the wake of the massive BP oil leak, the Louisiana Office of Tourism felt it was "the perfect time to bring some travel writers down and let them get a first-hand look" at the Gulf Coast.
Now, I love Louisiana as much as anybody and hope the state can convince the nation that its seafood -- including its extraordinary oysters -- is safe to eat. But should The Record's vegetarian travel editor -- who doesn't eat seafood -- have accepted this free trip or any other, especially when the paper's ethics policy forbids accepting anything of value (airfare, hotel room and all the funnel cake, coleslaw and homemade pickles she could eat)?
There's no denying Schensul is a good reporter and one of the better writers, but here she never even tells readers whether the seafood is safe. (Folks, that photo that runs with her column is like a decade old. Even in 2008, when I would see her schlepping through the newsroom, she looked nothing like that.)
Talking about features in today's paper, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung's Sunday column is basically a rewrite of her Second Helpings blog post Sept. 27 on the suicide three days earlier of Chef Joseph Cerniglia of Campania Restaurant in Fair Lawn. There isn't much new today, because Ung, like all the other reporters who worked on the story, never spoke with the chef's family or restaurant staff.
Is this normal eating or gluttony? If you want to know more about Ung's eating habits, check out some of her tweets on the blog (northjersey.com):
Mike, how about sorting through your retirement paperwork?
I'm having a hard time seeing the relevance of today's huge, front-page coverage on the trafficking of girls and women. Staff Writer Herb Jackson must have done this takeout by phone from his Washington correspondent's chair in the District of Columbia.
The paper could have at least gone to the trouble of finding Asian women who have been forced to work in Chinese restaurants. And, unfortunately, the continuation of the story on foreign-born sex slaves, prostitutes, strippers and nannies in New Jersey runs opposite an ad showing makeovers for six young teenage girls, who look a lot older and a lot more alluring than in the "before" photos.
If that's a joke on readers played by Editor Francis Scandale, than the Local section must be one big belly laugh after another from Deirdre Sykes, the head assignment editor. The only Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood news is about high water company fire hydrant fees.
How does Desk Warrior John Cichowki manage to write a second L-1 "blame the victims" column on pedestrians killed by NJ Transit trains without discussing safety measures, assuming there are any?