Monday, December 20, 2010

Editors are at a loss for words

Jersey City - Hudson-Bergen Light RailImage by wallyg via Flickr
Has the departure of Tom Davis meant the end of anti-light rail stories in The Record?

Editor Francis Scandale is like a lot of journalists, including many members of his own staff. Issues bore him. He probably hardly notices the decidedly anti-mass transit slant of The Record of Woodland Park, and you'd have to pull him and other editors kicking and screaming out of their gas-guzzling SUVs.

Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes are probably totally unaware of  the dysfunctional legal immigration system, and, besides, illegal aliens sell papers big time, so don't bother them.

Couple that with the awe in which they hold Governor Christie, who gets support in news stories as well as in columns and editorials by Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin, and you have a newspaper that fails to serve readers day after day. 

Ignoring readers

Serving readers is another issue that bores them, as they struggle to put out a paper with a staff whose overall productivity has plummeted, but the problem is some of them are their "pets."

Look at today's front page. Apparently, there is so little going on in North Jersey, a big chunk of A-1 is taken up by football photos -- this despite surveys that show sports is way down on the list of topics readers want to read about.

The lead story is a preview of the sentencing of an ultra-right-wing radio host who had to threaten to kill federal judges in a blog post before anyone paid any attention to him, and he sucked in the paper and Columnist Mike Kelly, who helped cover his three trials.

Also on A-1 is a story on a bilingual class that readers normally would find on the front of the Local section or on L-2, which carried "daily" education coverage ordered by Publisher Stephen A. Borg until it petered out this year.

Burying genocide

The Local section today isn't even worth mentioning, except for how Sykes buried a new curriculum at Bergen Community College to bring to the fore "the forgotten genocide" of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in the early 1900s (L-2).

Over the years, this issue has been handled with such cowardice by the so-called journalists who run the former Hackensack daily.

And food writer Elisa Ung rubbed salt into the wounds in 2009, when she called South Paterson a "Turkish enclave" and "Little Istanbul" -- even though the Paterson neighborhood had been settled decades before by Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians, some of the very same people who were oppressed by the Ottoman Turks.

Readers' holiday wishes

In Better Living on Sunday, Ung ran a column of comments on "holiday wishes" from wealthy restaurant owners, chefs and others in the food business -- to whom she seems beholden -- rather than from the restaurant patrons who made them rich. 

Here are some of my holiday wishes, directed at some of the food professionals she quoted.

To Tracy Nieporent of Tenafly, a partner in the Myriad Restaurant Group: 

Why were there flies in the dining rooms of Tribeca Grill and Nobu in Manhattan during my lunchtime visits? As you know, flies spend most of their time in shit, and are among the filthiest of insects.

To John Piliouras, executive chef of Nisi Estiatorio in Englewood:

Why do you charge $23 to $34 per pound of whole fish, which is inexpensive for the restaurant to buy?

To Christine Nunn, chef-owner of Picnic in Fair Lawn:

For patrons watching their cholesterol and their weight, do you serve alternatives to dishes with butter and heavy cream that seem to be your specialty?

To all of the food professionals quoted:

If you're not already doing so, please tell your customers more about how the food you serve was grown or raised so they can make intelligent and healthy choices. Not everyone you serve is like Ung, who is blinded by an obsession for dessert.

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  1. I guess a small buried article is better than nothing at all right?

  2. Because I love you, Victor, some perspective: BOTH pro games yesterday were huge.

    We're in the home stretch. Both the Giants & Jets went into Sunday unsure whether they'll make the playoffs -- the 1st key goal of any team and its fans. Get to "the dance" and a championship is possible.

    The Giants' loss was one of the the biggest collapses in team history, in a game that was their most important since winning the Super Bowl three years ago. I am a lifelong fan -- as are a great many people in North Jersey -- and I can't get enough media on the team (of course I do it online, not through pulp). You can't walk through a supermarket in the valleys without seeing sweatshirt after sweatshirt after jacket in Giants colors and logos. Big Blue is a Big Deal in North Jersey, same as the Jets are in Queens.

    Speaking of: The Jets were cruising this season, then suddenly got whomped. They needed to beat the vaunted Steelers IN PITTSBURGH yesterday to all but assure themselves of a playoff spot.

    I think a good way for you to gauge these things is to pull the TV ratings (they're usually out by early Tuesday). They're broken down by region. I would guarantee that yesterday's Giants/Jets games accounted for one of the largest sports numbers in this region EVER.

    Yes, it's silly when they put Tiger Woods on A1 every chance they get. I remember a day when he lost big. "You gonna put THAT on the front page?" I asked GirlyMan. He gave me that contemptuous look. I shot back: "He wins all the time and you put him out front. Wouldn't THIS be the REAL time to do it?" (Balkun understood what I meant. So did Rivera. That's cause they're both real journalists. You could put them in any department, any situation, and they'd nail the story).

    The bottom line: It's not "just sports." Sometimes it transcends. I guarantee you can pick any bar or diner or restaurant or coffee shop from Alpine to Wayne today and all you'll hear are people talkin' football. It was the same last Monday. And it will be that way till after the Super Bowl in February. Get used to it.

  3. JerryD misses the point. While it is sad but true that people care so much about something as stupid and trivial as football, there is a place for it - the sports pages. That's WHY there's a sports section. That's where all those brain-dead fans (whose love of their teams border on jingoistic) in your supermarkets can go and find it.

    Real news stories about things of importance belong in the A section, especially the front page. As Noam Chomsky said about sports, "It occupies the population and keeps them from from trying to get involved with things that really matter."

    So let the mindless drones have their sports in their own section and save the precious space in the main section for real news.

  4. JD, that is some hilarious stuff about JB. Big diff between knowing how the state works and simply looking at a budget line to feign comprehension in a meeting. Remember, he's a poker player -- would obviously clean you out at the table in a heartbeat.

  5. ... would not know a gerrymander from a salamander, if you catch my drift.

  6. Are you anons slinging mud after having spent time with JB talking about various issues? Have you been in crunch NEWS situations (the blackout, for one) and worked with him to hit deadline? If you have, I'm mighty surprised to read your comments. As for sports being stupid: You don't own or publish. You either work for, read and/or buy. So your opinion on what should go where isn't gospel. I keep a close watch on many key issues -- local, state, national, worldwide -- at once, and y'know what? The Giants are still extremely important to me. So important that I've kept what I consider collector's editions of A sections from each of their Super Bowl years, going back to 1986. When Ray Charles died, or Johnny Cash, was the "stupid" entertainment news? What about when John Lennon was shot? When Letterman switched networks? You keep trying to shove spinach down people's throats, they ain't patronizing your establishment anymore. Which millstone came first -- print itself or you?

  7. Again, JD, my experience is you have been duped by the poker player.

    Good at making trains run on time? Yes. But virtually all sports people are good at that.

    Good at talking a good game and ingratiating himself? Yes. You don't get yourself a promotion under Mitch Krugel unless you are an adept office politician.

    But able to thrive in any newsroom situation? Does not really read the newspaper, does not know the towns in Bergen and Passaic since he's never lived there, does not know Jersey politics, could not digest a muni budget. Sports section has become a non-entity competing with the big boys on pro sports beats, so he can't coach others on how to break news on a beat, either.

    JB could do Babs' job, maybe Frank's as long as Stevie Blunder is publisher. Would be a disaster as a replacement for Hindenburg Sykes or Prairie Hag Houlton or even Timmy. He is a Chauncey Gardiner, same as Frankie Tinkle Pants is.

  8. Hi, just came across your blog and wanted to set the record straight on Chef Chrissie Nunn, a good friend of my wife.

    First of all, she is not a "wealthy" restaurant owner or chef. I hope that eventually she is very successful, and if so she will have earned every dime the hard way. Certainly all her reviews to date have been very positive.

    Second, Picnic does in fact serve dishes every night that provide "alternatives" to those with heavy creams and sauces. You could have answered your own question just by checking out her menu on the restaurant website.

    Chef Chrissie does a great job of keeping the online menu up to date, which is particularly impressive since she changes it often in accordance with the best produce and meats currently on offer.

  9. Thanks for your comment. I'll take a look at the menu.

    I wrote about Ms. Nunn for The Record when she had a takeout shop, and I assumed that her expansion to a full-service restaurant was a sign of success.

    To me, all successful restaurant owners are wealthy.


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