Sunday, October 17, 2010

He's no Jeff Page

Secaucus StationImage by Zohar Manor-Abel via Flickr
The Record's lack of concern for rail riders is well-known, thanks to car-centric Road Worrier John Cichowski. The rail station in Secaucus, named after a U.S. senator, is shown on a quiet day.

You can tell instantly from his first paragraph on Page 1 today how skewed John Cichowski's focus has been in the seven years he's been writing the Road Warrior column for The Record. He thinks his audience are readers who drive to shopping malls and into the city, so he's turned his back on mass transit users in what was conceived as a column on commuting woes.

He succeeded Jeffrey Page, who started the column in 1990. Page was a reporter who, despite his massive girth, knew what it meant to hustle and do legwork in pursuit of a story. The tall, thin Cichowski, on the other hand, has undoubtedly grown warts on his ass from all the hours he spends in front of the computer, reading complaining e-mails from spoiled drivers.

Chick, as he's known around the Woodland Park office, has become the Desk Warrior and the Road Worrier. He doesn't seem to think taking a train or a bus is commuting. And he's no Jeff Page.

Chick's mind is literally in the gutter as he muses endlessly about potholes and arcane state driving regulations. 

He's completely untroubled that mass transit into Manhattan -- buses and trains -- has been at capacity for years, resulting in the huge success of the so-called Spanish bus system, the building of a rail-transfer station in the Meadowlands and construction on a new Hudson River rail tunnel. 

People who can't afford cars and have to ride the decrepit local buses are just poor black and Hispanic trash to this white journalist.

His Q&A with the head of the Motor Vehicle Commission should be with the head of NJ Transit, in recognition that mass transit -- not roads -- are the future of North Jersey. But the irresponsible Cichowski and The Record appear to be in the pockets of car dealers, who spend a huge amount of money on ads.

In fact, only a few words are devoted to buses and trains in his main story today and four -- count them, four -- sidebars. This windbag boasts of the 900 columns he has written so far, showing that his real value to the editor who promoted him in 2003, Deirdre Sykes, is as a space filler -- as the rest of the local news staff produces less and less. 

Cichowski is skilled at overwriting in the journalistic sense as well as writing too long, as he did when he was a reporter in the Passaic County bureau. 

Cichowski's massive presence on the front page today minimizes the importance of a second, A-1 story, this one on Governor Christie's deep social conservatism, as seen in cuts to programs for working poor, legal aliens and women. No mention of his pandering to the rich appears in the story. We can all take comfort in the prospect he may seek higher office after his first term. 

The Local news section has stories from many towns, but none from Hackensack or Englewood, two core Bergen communities.

What's wrong with the economy

How can anybody fix the economy with company presidents like Michael Fleischer, who says hiring workers is too expensive in terms of health care costs and taxes. Amazingly, a Q&A with Fleischer, who runs a company in Ramsey, doesn't disclose what his salary and perks are. But there is room for a large photo of the smug executive.

Limp cake slices or limp coverage?

In Better Living today, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung frets over the sad state of dessert trays, while Food Editor Susan Sherrill's first byline is over a story on judging a pie contest.

The fiction corner

The highly promotional Real Estate section sinks to a new low today with a story on Paterson that is partly fictional. This from The Record, which has for years under Editor Francis Scandale portrayed the city as a center of drug dealing and prostitution, and which chronicles every drive-by shooting fatality.

The "Moving Up" story by a free-lancer makes no mention of the murder rate this year, the vibrant South Paterson neighborhood of Middle Eastern restaurants, bakeries and markets; or the enclaves of deteriorated and slum housing, whose landlords The Record has never sought to identify. One homeowner is quoted as saying, "It's nice place."

Animals rule

I guess human behavior has deteriorated so far, the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation is celebrating animals and people who write about them, giving Travel Editor Jill Schensul a Gold Metal for her 2009 trip to Namibia to help rescue big cats and restore their habitat. 

I guess she couldn't find a volunteer position helping people in that African country.

She might want to begin wondering why there is so little diversity in the readers who send in photos of their vacations. The standing feature on F-3 appears to be all-white again today, with the exception of native dancers in Belize. Is that an Asian woman in one photo? Wow.
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