Thursday, December 2, 2010

Defending the status quo

Map highlighting Teaneck's location within Ber...Image via Wikipedia
Map shows Teaneck's position in Bergen County.

In a region filled with small towns and bloated salaries for police and fire chiefs, you'd think The Record of Woodland Park would have lashed out at the police union for blocking Teaneck's plan to save taxpayers $250,000 a year by replacing two chiefs with a public safety director.

Staff Writer Joseph Ax reported the proposal in August and the Township Council's approval in September, but head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes never ran a story pointing out how neighboring Hackensack and Englewood have Police and Fire Departments that are also ripe for a single leader to produce the same significant cost savings in their communities.

So, where is the editorial today blasting Teaneck officials for abolishing the newly created public safety director position, which would have paid $110,000 a year (L-2, Wednesday)? Where is the supposed outrage over skyrocketing property taxes under the antiquated home-rule system? 

 Westward bias

Readers in Hackensack, Englewood and Teaneck know how little news coverage they've received in recent years -- with Sykes and her clueless minions running the show -- but now they have evidence that Sykes, Editor Francis Scandale and Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin are really defenders of the status quo. 

Instead of running an editorial about Teaneck police, Doblin is foaming at the mouth over the golden parachute for Paterson's police chief. That's in line with the greater emphasis on news of Passaic and Morris counties since The Record moved to Woodland Park and, out of incompetence or sheer laziness, reduced coverage of Bergen County.

Does Sykes expect readers to take her seriously when she gives L-1 play today to a story on tiny Demarest studying whether to share "police services" with Closter and Haworth? Besides shared police-dispatching duties, when has any Bergen County town ever approved consolidation with another town's police department?

Francis loves Pablo

Was Scandale upset when he learned he had hard news and a dramatic photo of a rescue for the front page today -- a male driver was killed by a falling tree during Wednesday's furious rain and wind storm, but his wife survived? 

That meant the editor couldn't run another one of those "lost" Picassos on Page 1 or a photo of football or baseball players or more drivel from Staff Writer John Brennan on the future of the Meadowlands. That meant he didn't get to high-five and slap the asses of the other male editors in Wednesday afternoon's news meeting.

Look at this brilliant sentence in the A-1 storm story:
"No other serious injuries were reported, but headaches and a few minor injuries were reported across North Jersey ...."
If the newspaper is going to start reporting headaches, it will have an endless stream of copy to run, especially in view of all the headaches readers get from poor local news coverage and inane editorial decisions under Scandale and Sykes.

Lots of free publicity

Just about two weeks after a big story on the first Business page gave a million dollars of free publicity to Capital Grille, a new high-end steakhouse in Paramus, another lavish, uncritical piece on the same restaurant appears today on the front of Better Living.

Free-lancer Amy Kuperinsky doesn't tell readers whether the beef is naturally raised, but she takes pains to get in a plug for Bahama Breeze in Wayne, a faux-Caribbean restaurant that is owned by the steakhouse chain. Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung forever cheapened her ratings by giving two stars (Good) to Bahama Breeze.

The other food story on the Better Living front is a fascinating glimpse at kosher recipes from a Teanfly woman who grew up in South Africa, but crass commercialism intrudes when readers turn to the continuation page, F-5.

"Quick bites," from Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill, are press releases from companies that send her free food and other items.

She discusses a new book on her bedside table, "Celebrity Chefs of New Jersey." Sherrill, a chatty, pretentious airhead, says in her last sentence:

"Sadly, the Chefs to Watch chapter includes the late Joe Cerniglia of Campania in Fair Lawn, who took his own life in September."

I'm sure she means his death was sad, not that his being featured in the book is sad, but the features copy desk has never met a sentence it knew how to edit. That's as true now as it was when frumpy Production Director Liz Houlton was running the desk.
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  1. Here is an explanation as to why they stopped publishing health inspections for restaurants

    Letter to readers concerning restaurant inspections.
    Friday, December 3, 2010
    The Record
    We recently discontinued publishing the weekly listing of restaurant health inspection reports.

    We did this for two primary reasons:

    1. The information we receive from local health departments is not complete. We do not get the details about why a restaurant or food establishment was cited as "conditional," which can create a false impression that the establishment is unsanitary, when the citation could have been issued for a variety of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with food safety or cleanliness.

    2. Compiling the listings requires the cooperation of local health departments. A number of these departments do not comply with our requests for this information or consistently report "no activity." We feel that it is unfair to report activity in some towns and not others.

    Some readers have reacted strongly to our decision, although most we have talked with understand when we explain our reasoning. Like all of our coverage in The Record, it is important that the listings be accurate and fair.

    We want to know what information is important to you. Send an e-mail to and put Inspections in the subject line.

    Susan Leigh Sherrill

    Food editor

  2. I read that in the paper today, but she is describing a situation that dates back more than a decade.

    They gave the job of compiling the list to a news clerk, who never checked restaurant names and so forth. The list was riddled with mistakes, and for a couple of years, it was my job on the news copy desk to fix them.

    What Susan Leigh Sherrill doesn't say is that when a restaurant is fined or closed, specific reasons are given and they appear in the paper.

    We know health departments don't cooperate by the small number of towns listed, but instead of not publishing the ratings from some towns, note on the list that towns don't always send in the ratings or get the reporter who covers the town to speak with health officials and try to get them to cooperate.

    You can't cover local news, including restaurant inspections, by sitting on your ass by the fax machine and waiting for news releases, which is the style of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, who sits on a reporter or two for good measure.

    Better Living on Friday is filled with wire-service wine and food copy, and mini-reviews. Readers really miss the health ratings and it's irresponsible for the paper not to print them.

  3. Quite informative blog.My friends would definitely appreciate knowing these facts.
    As being a student such blogs help me a lot.

  4. Thanks, Crystal. Please keep reading. I'd like to get a job teaching what really goes on at newspapers and other media.

  5. I like how Eye On The Record now responds to Spam messages.


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