Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stories you didn't see in The Record

An example of a breaking news intro graphicImage via Wikipedia















The County Seat, a weekly newspaper published by the Zisa family, has a front-page story in the issue dated Dec. 1 on a plan to remake Main Street in Hackensack, including a return to two-way traffic.

The proposal was put forward at a meeting two weeks ago in the Johnson Public Library, and hasn't been reported in The Record of Woodland Park. Head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Syskes and Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado likely were catching up on their beauty sleep.

The plan was put forward by the Upper Main Alliance, a non-profit group of business owners and city officials.

Meanwhile, The Ridgewood Blog reports today that a lawsuit challenging the validity of the H-Hospital Zone Amendment to the Village Master Plan was filed Monday in Superior Court in Hackensack.

This is related to expansion of The Valley Hospital, a controversy to which The Record has devoted a huge amount of staff time in the past two years, but the former Hackensack daily didn't have anything on the suit today. 


Instead, the legal action was reported in The Ridgewood News, a weekly owned by The Record's parent, North Jersey Media Group.



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Choking on tabloid news

Map of New Jersey highlighting Bergen CountyImage via Wikipedia

















After being chased by police, a suspect runs his car into a police cruiser at slow speed in Ridgefield. It's all over the front page of The Record of Woodland Park today. I'm so bored, I wonder whether the dead woman found in the passenger seat was belted in.

Bret Schundler is back in the lead, A-1 story, and the fired state education czar admits he is personally responsible for scratching out budget data that sunk the application for a $400 million federal education grant. Will Governor Christie, who fired Schundler, ever admit he made a mistake of any kind?

Staff Writer Leslie Brody says the Schundler-Christie story is "an unfolding drama that has riveted the education world and outraged taxpayers." Gee. Aren't taxpayers really outraged the governor let the Borgs and his rich friends off the hook by not imposing a special tax on millionaires?   

What local news?

The front of Local today has lots of law and order news, and there is more inside the section, which has no municipal stories from Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood or a host of other towns. In fact, there is so little local news, the desperate layout editors had to run just about every photo as large as possible to fill space.

Of course, the victims of this kind of coverage are the readers.

The hot weather returned with a vengeance Sunday, but Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes and their minions are cooling their heels in the office and don't think a heat wave is worthy of mention. 

Calling all carnivores


There's no sign of the new food editor, but the old food editor left behind a poorly disguised advertisement for two North Jersey steakhouses that serve drug- and hormone-filled beef at prices only the Borgs can afford (Better Living, F-5).

(Map: Bergen County, at the top of the state, at the bottom in The Bergen Record.)
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Monday, August 30, 2010

This front page caters to few readers

Passaic County CourthouseImage by joseph a via Flickr












If you are Korean-American with a limited or no ability to speak English, or you give a hoot about Passaic County politics, today's front page appeals to you. However, the vast majority of readers are left wondering what Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale might have been smoking over the weekend.


And what did head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes eat over the weekend that clearly disagreed with her? Maybe she was just pissed that the strongest story her assignment minions could come up with to lead today's Local front is the hiring of an assistant principal in Haworth's tiny school district.

Local journalists say F.U.

I hope Publisher Stephen A. Borg is taking note of what a great job Scandale and Sykes are doing with The Record of Woodland Park -- as day after day they give the finger to readers hungry for municipal news of Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and many other important towns.

Talk to the neighbors


I recall the staff meeting where Scandle promised to finally get around to talking to his neighbors on Monmouth Road in Glen Rock on what they would like to see in the newspaper. I guess he never talked with them. He likely feared that if he introduced himself as editor of The Record, they would laugh in his face.

News for Korean-Americans


It looks like the photography staff produced no better picture than of a golfer who won a tournament in Paramus and his family, but maybe all the space it takes up on A-1 is by design, not out of desperation. 
 
Koreans are big golfers themselves and that image would have led them to the story at the bottom of the page about Holy Name Hospital's special program for these North Jersey  immigrants, with everyone from drivers to doctors who speak their language. (The article may find a few more readers, if the staff translates it for patients.)


Passaic County politics


The lead Page 1 story, about Jerry Speziale's $1 million campaign fund, is a waste of space. The least the tin-badge lawman can do is give the money to the county to ease the tax rate after his years of overspending and padded payrolls as Passaic County sheriff.

Laughing off laziness


On Page L-3 in Local, a story on Labor Day travelers is dumped at the bottom of the page. There's nothing in the story about whether Staff Writer Karen Rouse or the paper's other transportation writers will for the first time actually ride a bus or train to evaluate service this coming weekend. 


Two huge wire-service obits of obscure people came in handy to fill more than half of L-5 -- another embarrassment Sykes dismisses with one of her belly-shaking laughs.

A couple of late hits 

I was moved by the personal accounts in the Paterson shootings story that was all over the front on Sunday, but wonder why the paper didn't put more of the blame on the city's Police Department for not protecting residents.

On Sunday's Better Living front, a bullfighter who lives in Verona justifies killing the animals with the preposterous claim that it is more humane than raising and slaughtering cattle for food.

It's pretty obvious the gullible reporter has never seen a bullfight, where the bull is brutally punished by the picadors, who drive lances into their muscles, and where the bull, in turn, drives its horns into the padded flanks of the sedated horse, causing serious internal bleeding that eventually leads to death.

Why is this bizarre profile in the paper in the first place? A bullfighter (bullshitter) lives in North Jersey? Gee-whiz. Big deal. Next time, Features Director Barbara Jaeger, assign a writer who doesn't have his head up his A-hole or do some intelligent editing before the story is published.


(Photo: Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson.)
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time to dump the restaurant reviewer

tourism map dining restaurant symbolImage via Wikipedia



















In her first Sunday column since returning from a six-month maternity leave, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung informs readers: " We're in a period of transition here, reevaluating all aspects of our coverage of food and dining [an apparent reference to new Food Editor Susan Sherill]."What do you find the most useful? What would you like to see more of? What should we dump."


What should The Record of Woodland Park dump? In a word, Ung or, as I like to refer to her, Ugh.


That would complete a house cleaning that began with the presumably voluntary departure of her  previous boss, Bill Pitcher. 


In their restaurant reviews and other coverage,  Pitcher and Ung almost completely ignored rising consumer concern with how food is grown or raised on America's factory farms, while celebrating artery-clogging desserts and hamburgers made with drug- and hormone-filled beef, as Ung does in today's column.


Ung has been in the job since 2007, and came to The Record from the Philadelphia Inquirer. But I guess she has never learned journalists, including food writers, should be leaders, not followers. Ung and her editor should be setting the criteria for food coverage, not readers.


The imam as landlord


What exactly is the connection between poorly maintained North Jersey apartment buildings owned by a Muslim cleric and the mosque and Islamic cultural center he wants to build near Ground Zero (lead story and Mike Kelly column on Page 1 today)? 


This coverage, including a rare byline for Jean Rimbach, clearly is intended to smear the imam, because The Record has virtually ignored all the slumlords in Paterson and Passaic city over the years, despite fire deaths, lead-paint poisonings and all the other ills visited on their working-class and immigrant tenants.


The front page today has a lot of hard news, but the story on shootings in Paterson is difficult for the majority of readers in North Jersey to relate to. 

More change needed 
  
You wouldn't catch John Cichowski dead riding a train or bus to evaluate the service for his Road Warrior commuting column. But here he is today on the Local front with a blame-the-victim piece on pedestrians killed by trains. It's time for him to go, too.

Nowhere does he question the adequacy of fencing and other safety measures taken by NJ Transit to prevent those deaths. And Cichowski's claim that one man determined to kill himself tried suicide by train three times before he was successful raises a question the gullible reporter never asked: How did anyone know that?  

No Hackensack news appears in today's paper. 


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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who is lying now?

Bret Schundler Property of Schundler.orgImage by julianboy89 via Flickr











Is Governor Christie lying about what he was told by Bret Schundler, the education czar he fired Friday, or is Schundler lying about what he told the boss in the state's failed bid for a $400 million federal grant?  Don't look for a definitive answer today in The Record of Woodland Park, which reports the dispute as he said-he said and pads the stories with so much extraneous information, readers are overwhelmed.


The most incisive quote in the extensive coverage on Page 1 and inside is Schundler's: "I think the governor gets rolling and a lot of stuff gets said."  This quote appears with and without an ellipsis (...) in today's paper.

That "stuff" includes Christie on Wednesday blaming the Obama administration and federal bureaucrats before Washington fired back on Thursday by showing a video in which Schundler and his aides -- when asked -- couldn't come up with budget data to complete the state's 1,000-page application. (No one has explained why New Jersey officials couldn't use their cellphones to call the office and get the data they needed.) 

Political Columnist Charles Stile (A-1) comes closest to saying who lied, but chickens out in the end, despite overwhelming evidence in Schundler's favor. 

An editorial (A-11) rambles around before saying, "Christie's abrasive style served him poorly in this case." Pretty mild, isn't it?  

The whole affair makes our steamroller of a governor look stupid. Remember, Christie at heart is a lawyer, a group that is not held in high repute. 


You're an editor, stupid

The news copy editor who worked on the other Page 1 story -- about better batteries for the military -- wrote awful headlines that turn off readers. Then, he didn't fix a problem left in the story by the reporter and the clueless assignment editor -- the batteries are not just for the military, but will hasten the development of affordable, plug-in hybrid cars, as readers learn if they ever get to the continuation page. 
You certainly don't know that from a phrase in the second paragraph on A-1: "The next generation of military hardware and vehicles."
This is the kind of copy editing imposed by Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale, who impressed on the news copy desk time and again all he was interested in was snappy headlines that would sell newspapers, and please don't touch the text. His own columns were dreadful, filled with cliches. And many of the stories sent over by the lazy assignment desk were reported and written at the level of a high school newspaper.


Zisa breaks his silence

After working on Ken Zisa's legal problems for more than a year -- and ignoring most other news about Hackensack -- Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado finally has gotten comment from the suspended police chief. The lead story on the Local front quotes him as saying The Record's coverage has been unfair and inaccurate.

There is so little town news from head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, that to fill half of L-6 today, the desperate layout editors had to run three wire-service or Star-Ledger obituaries of people readers have never heard of.
 
(Photo: Bret Schundler when he was running for governor.)
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Looking foolish again

Last Sunday, The Record of Woodland Park reported the death of CBS newsman Harold Dow the day before, but didn't have the cause of death. The obituary was based on information provided by the wire services.

But the lazy assignment editors working under the insufferable Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes never followed up, as is usually the case. 

This week, other media reported that Dow, who was African-American, died of an asthma attack behind the wheel of his car in Hackensack, where he grew up, and that an inhaler was found in the vehicle. Here is a link to one of the accounts: Why Harold Dow died
 
See commentary on today's newspaper in the post below

Find the real news on A-3

The Great Seal of the State of New Jersey.Image via Wikipedia



















The Record of Woodland Park is careful not to embarrass Governor Christie, who has shown time and again he is a friend of wealthy families like the Borgs and an enemy of just about everyone else, so it makes sense the editors downplayed a story contradicting the slash-and-burn Republican. 


Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale gave Christie a nice piece of Page 1 on Thursday to condemn the inflexibility of federal bureaucrats, who denied New Jersey an education grant of up to $400 million. 


But the truth came out today on A-3. It was the governor's education chief who screwed up by not being able to provide the correct budget data at an Aug. 11 presentation, putting the state 3 points below what it needed to finish in the money. Why wasn't this on Page 1, Frank?


Doblin shoots from the hip


But that didn't stop Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin from writing a column defending Christie from Democratic attacks (A-21) -- a column written before the otherwise fastidious Doblin learned the real culprits were the state's education commissioner and his unprepared aides. Doblin's bias is clear. 


What will Doblin say now that Christie fired Bret Schundler, his education czar, for misinforming him about why the state's application failed? 



Where is the editorial demanding that NJ Transit do more to safeguard pedestrians around its railroad stations -- a position taken forcefully by Jerry DeMarco on Cliffview Pilot.com? The Fair Lawn woman killed on Thursday was the fourth person to die on the tracks in recent weeks. Here is the link to DeMarco's editorial: Blood on the tracks




New Jersey gets the short end


The A-1 story today on a deal that would rebuild the Word Trade Center and raise the Bayonne Bridge omits the long history of the Garden State being thrown scraps by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. I guess the state still has an inferiority complex in the shadow of New York, and steamroller Christie has done little to change that.

Back to the Zisa case 



Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado is back to reporting every hiccup and fart of suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa's legal problems (L-1 today). Is this all head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes allows Alvarado to write about?  Let's hope the court hearing isn't postponed or readers will have to slog through a long story saying so on Saturday. 



Hear the sizzle?

A major redesign of the weekly centerfold restaurant review in Better Living today is the triumph of sizzle over substance, and is a disservice to readers. Now, a great deal more room is devoted to photos and headlines, and far less room is devoted to the review itself.

Former Food Editor Bill Pitcher, whose reviews outlived his job, and Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung, just back from maternity leave, rarely discussed the origin of the food they ate. 

It mattered little to them whether the salmon was wild-caught or artificially colored at a fish farm, or whether the beef was grass-fed or raised conventionally on antibiotics, growth hormones and feed containing bits of dead animals. But these gluttons didn't stint on describing in great detail all the wonderful, high-calorie, artery-clogging desserts they stuffed repeatedly into their gaping maws.

Now, Ung will have much less room than before for her reviews, even if she wants to address the concerns of a growing number of readers about how restaurant food is raised or grown. 
 
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Identifying with a sex addict

2010 Floods in Pakistan - A Race Against TimeImage by United Nations Development Programme via Flickr












Do Publisher Stephen A. Borg, Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale and other male mucky mucks at The Record of Woodland Park identify with sex-addicted golfer Tiger Woods? Why, then, do they give his divorce and a Paramus tournament half of the front page today?


Front and center is sports columnist Tara Sullivan's gentle handling of Woods, starting with a lame lead paragraph. Nowhere in her story does the phrase "sex addict" appear, and none of the reporters who questioned him asked whether he is still screwing around or going for therapy or what.


It's not as if Borg and the editors are unfamiliar with addictions. Former Publisher Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg is a reformed alcoholic who was ordered by his doctor to stop smoking. The elder Borg's behavior when he was drinking was common knowledge in the newsroom, and the paper even ran a story about his DWI arrest.


I recall being invited to lunch in the corporate dining room with the elder Borg and Stephen Berger, who at the time was the new executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (1985-90), an agency I covered as a reporter for The Record. Mac used the F-word to ask Berger, whom he was meeting for the first time, when an aviation museum would open at Teterboro Airport.


The main headline worries if Woods will be able to rebuild his game and life. What about the lives of his ex-wife and the children whom he betrayed? Aren't the editors worried about them, too? Even if you are a rabid sports fan who loves golf, Woods' behavior is reprehensible. His story deserves to be banished to the back pages.

Blaming Obama


Now, Governor Chritie has jumped on the bandwagon of blaming the Obama administration for everything. He says unyielding federal bureaucrats, who denied New Jersey an education grant of up to $400 million, are "the kind of stuff, candidly, that drives people crazy about government...."


Emphatically no. What drives people crazy about government is that a conservative Republican like Christie comes along promising to cut property taxes, then turns around and eases the tax burden on the Borgs and other millionaires. How does he make up for it? He refuses to raise the low gasoline tax, which boosts mass transit, and cuts aid to the middle and working classes, including seniors, women and poor schoolchildren. What a fraud.


Flooding where?

In Local, it took the former Hackensack daily a couple of weeks to report what Pakistanis in North Jersey are doing to to help victims  of flooding (photo).


A day after the death of a Fair Lawn woman in a plane crash  in Nepal was all over Page 1, another Fair Lawn woman, killed by an NJ Transit train on Wednesday, is banished today to L-3, where the photo caption doesn't even give her name. I guess her life isn't worth anything to head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, because she didn't die on her birthday or wasn't headed to Mount Everest.


No Hackensack news


 Local contains no news about the core Bergen County  towns of Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood.


Reviewer returns



The Second Helpings blog on northjersey.com resumed Aug. 23, with an entry by Elisa Ung, the restaurant reviewer who has been on leave. It's ironic that the highly promotional blog carries the same name of a food-rescue group founded in Indianapolis in 1998 that today serves 50,000 meals to the hungry every month.


With Ung's return and the appoinment of a new food editor, readers can only hope food coverage improves. Since Bill Pitcher left as food editor Aug. 6, what had been poor coverage became pathetically poor.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is there an app for unsafe airlines?

Mount Everest North Face as seen from the path...Image via Wikipedia














Many questions nagged me as I read The Record's front-page story on a Fair Lawn woman who died in a plane crash on her 30th birthday in far-off Nepal, but reporter William Lamb provided only some of the answers in the last paragraphs.


From the large A-1 photograph placed below a photo of the smiling woman, it was a horrific crash in poor weather. But the story is far more detailed than it should have been about her life and too skimpy on information about the 29-year-old plane that went down or the airline's safety record. 

In fact, this was the perfect opportunity to advise globe-trotting North Jersey residents of how they can check the safety record of both the plane and the airline they are using, especially in remote parts of the world, such as the staging area for Mount Everest (photo), the woman's destination. 

Agni Air? Give me a break. If the victim had known 29 of the same turboprop aircraft had gone down, with a total of 122 fatalities, would she have stepped foot on that plane? I wouldn't, especially given the heavy rain and cloud cover that forced it to turn back. Why does anyone get on a plane in a rainstorm?

If she was carrying the Web address of the U.S.-based Aviation Safety Network, which is cited in the story, she might still be alive today. And I guess the 13 others who died with her are so much chopped liver; their names and hometowns aren't given.

Especially in view of Governor Christie's severe education cuts, the state really blew it by finishing out of the money for a $400 million federal grant (A-1). What good will the finger pointing do? WBGO-FM news reported New Jersey lost by only 3 points, and it lost 5 points for not following instructions on the 1,000-page application.

And is the so-called plagiarism of a speech to Teaneck grads by the interim superintendent such a big deal that it lands on Page 1?  The original speech sounds like boilerplate, echoing what is said to just about every graduating class.


Can Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale say with any certainty that all the reporters and columnists at The Record of Woodland Park have never lifted a paragraph or two or three from somewhere else? I recall a Mike Kelly piece on a campaign rally for a presidential candidate that seemed to echo what had appeared in The New York Times. Vivian Waixel, The Record's editor at the time, didn't agree with me, however.

For the second day in a row, Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin runs an editorial criticizing NJ Transit train operations (A-12). Doblin has written columns about fare hikes from his personal perspective -- he commutes by rail -- but I'd like to hear more from the former Hackensack daily about the problems of working -class bus riders for a change, especially those trapped on the No. 780 Englewood-Passaic bus and other rickety lines.

Don't expect Road Warrior John Cichowski to leave the office and ride one of those buses, given all the hours he spends fielding and responding to hundreds of arcane questions from drivers, including some who regard pedestrians in crosswalks as so many moving targets (today on the Local front). 

Two days after the meeting, Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado reports school board re-votes on appointing personnel (L-3), and possible employment problems for the superintendent. There is no Englewood or Teaneck municipal news in the paper today, thanks to head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes and her minions on the clueless assignment desk.


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tits and ass on Page 1 -- yes, really

looking through NJ Transit train, when it appr...Image via Wikipedia














If you doubt Record Staff Writer John Brennan is in the pockets of Jets and Giants owners, just look at today's highly promotional, gee-whiz, Page 1 coverage of  technology at the New Meadowlands Stadium. The story isn't labeled advertising, but it reads exactly like the best public relations money can buy.

To make his case that the stadium is the "most technologically advanced ... in the world," Brennan has to attribute that boast to Giants co-owner John Mara. Still, the reporter is so inept, his lead paragraph is poorly constructed, with the attribution in the wrong place. You'd think Brennan is getting season tickets in return for gushing stories about the new venue.

Why doesn't he write about the sacrifices many Giants fan have to make to pay for exorbitant seat licenses, parking passes and $19 steak sandwiches? 


Instead, Brennan's breathless story in the Woodland Park daily is aimed at season ticket holders who like to stare at busty cheerleaders, informing these fans -- with a wink of an eye -- that for $259, they can access a "cheerleader cam ...yes, really." He's a hack -- yes, really.


Will Editor Francis "Frank The Castrato" Scandale come to his senses, and stop running this promotional garbage on A-1? It's doubtful. 

The debate over teenage drivers' license tags is back on Page 1 today, but if predators will use tags to identify their victims, as opponents claim, what did these perverts do without license-plate tags in all the decades girls were snatched and killed in North Jersey?


An editorial on Page A-10 opposes making all NJ Transit train and bus riders pay for parking near stations and stops, but doesn't address why some commuters have had to pay and others have parked for free. There's also no mention of how Governor Christie's cuts have forced the transit agency to raise more revenue from its parking lots.

This editorial stance only reminds you of what a piss-poor job lazy transportation reporters Tom Davis and Karen Rouse, and Road Warrior John Cichowski are doing covering mass transit now. They should plant their asses -- not in front of their computers for hours at a time -- but in buses or trains to see how the other half lives.


In Local, Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado provides readers with an update on a proposal for a 19-story, acute-care hospital, but the first paragraph must be in in error by saying it would be built "at Summit and Prospect avenues," which don't intersect (more sloppy copy editing).


Homes would be demolished, and hundreds of residents have attended hearings, but this Hackensack plan hasn't gotten anywhere near the gobs of coverage devoted to opponents of The Valley Hospital expansion in Ridgewood, though no homes or land would be taken there.

I guess head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes is pulling the strings of Alvarado and the reporters on the Ridgewood hospital-expansion controversy. 

Alvarado's last story on the Hackensack proposal appeared nearly a year ago. A brief, it reported the original height of the hospital was 24 stories.




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Monday, August 23, 2010

Asleep at the editing switch

World Trade Center site.Image via Wikipedia
















For the third time in less than a week, a front-page story in The Record of Woodland Park today has a confusing first paragraph that leaves readers wondering if it's them or just incredibly sloppy editing. 

And the biggest element on the page -- mosque opponents and proponents rallying near Ground Zero (photo) -- carries a headline that merely restates what has been obvious for weeks: "Mosque emotions high." Maybe the headline writer was high.

Transportation reporter Tom Davis and his clueless assignment editor abhor straight writing. Their lead paragraphs often contain a play on words or a distorted angle or some gimmick to snare readers, and so it is today with the A-1 story on the possible privatization of NJ Transit parking lots. (Why is this leading the paper; isn't it just a study now?)
"North Jersey commuters may soon have to pay more to park near trains and buses so that they can pay less to ride them."
Huh? "Pay less to ride them." What does that mean? Will the fares be cut? They just went up. Does the reporter mean pay less than driving? Commuters who use trains and buses are doing that now, have been for years. He couldn't resist the "pay more-pay less" tension, but he loses readers in the process.

Davis is like the other transportation reporters at The Record. He prefers writing about proposals, studies and reports rather than riding and rating mass transit on behalf of long-suffering commuters, who have to ride standing up on many lines.

And when writing about NJ Transit's deficit, as he does today, he never reminds readers that Governor Christie cut state aid to mass transit, forcing the recent fare hikes. 

A-1 coverage of the mosque controversy merely duplicates what other media have been doing for a few weeks now. Where are the North Jersey voices? Where are quotes from Muslims who opened mosques in Teaneck, Hackensack and Paterson?


The Local section today is consumed with non-profit and charity news. I wish the desperate editors would ban stories about bikers who roar around North Jersey on charity runs until the motorcycle owners stop making their machines as loud as possible and destroying the quality of life of every block they blast down, usually at some ungodly hour.


The lead story is about Bergenfield joining other towns in putting solar panels on public buildings, and last week a story reported how much Waldwick is saving from doing the same thing. Hackensack officials also have plans to install solar panels on their buildings, but I guess Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes still have their beauty-sleep masks on.


At least two people wrote letters to the editors recently, saying they couldn't find the entrance to the new Overpeck Park, but the letters were printed without comment by Editor Charles Saydah, who was out for his midday jog. Now, Mike Kelly devotes an L-1 column to the question, in a lame  attempt to ridicule county officials. 


For those who don't want to slog through Kelly's drivel, the entrance's address is shown in the photo with the column: 199 Challenger Blvd., Ridgefield Park.

Susan Leigh Sherill, the new food editor hand-picked by Publisher Stephen A. Borg, hasn't joined the staff yet, according to Page F-2 of Better Living today. Her previous journalism jobs are as food and entertainment editor of (201) magazine and editor of The Ridgewood News, a weekly owned by the Borgs' North Jersey Media Group.


She proved controversial in the Ridgewood editor's job, as a review of The Ridgewood Blog for 2007-08 shows. Although she had supporters, many faulted her for favorable coverage of the school board, and a multitude of other so-called sins.

You have to take these comments with a grain of salt, especially if you are familiar with the hysterical residents opposed to the expansion of The Valley Hospital. They are so desperate, they've resorted to saying construction will endanger the health of children at a nearby middle school, without providing any evidence to support that contention. (Of course, that didn't stop The Record's Mary Jo Layton and other reporters from printing and reprinting the allegation without ever asking for that evidence.)


If you read The Ridgewood Blog comments about Sherill, you'll probably agree with me the village should be renamed  "Richwood" or "Bitchwood."

Here's a link to some of the comments: "What's wrong with The Ridgewood News?"

I want to thank Editor Francis "Castrato" Scandale for the great job he is doing with the front page, appealing to readers' base instincts with fear-mongering, as today's mosque story is designed to do.
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sit down and read awhile

Thomas KeanImage via Wikipedia



There is a lot to digest in The Record of Woodland Park today, starting on Page 1, with more than you'd ever want to know about changing the system for getting rid of poorly performing teachers, a story that takes up a good part of two more inside pages. 

Also on A-1, the litany of bad financial deals made by Governor Christie's Democratic and Republican predecessors stops short of reminding readers how Republican Tom Kean Sr. (photo) deliberately hid a huge deficit from then-incoming Gov. Jim Florio. Kean must be one of The Record's sacred cows.

Check out Page A-8, the continuation of the teacher tenure opus by Staff Writer Leslie Brody. A photo of Michael Drewniak, the far-from-brainiac spokesman for Christie, will remind newsroom staffers of their fearful leader, Editor Francis "Castrato" Scandale. A frightening resemblance.


No matter how screwed up everything is, there is always room for sports on a front page inspired by Scandale. First, the Jets lost and now the Giants lost a preseason game in the new Meadowlands stadium. The end of the world must be next. 

Page 1 today also refers readers to the obituary on A-11 for Harold Dow of CBS News, an African-American journalist who grew up in Hackensack and lived in Upper Saddle River. His photo on A-1 reminds me of what a poor job Scandale has done attracting and retaining minority journalists, including three he got rid of. 


The discriminating editors devote a big part of the Local front today to scams against the elderly -- one of the few times seniors have gotten any real editorial attention in recent years (except for the older workers shown the newsroom door during the downsizing of The Record and Herald News).

An L-1 story on a "coupon queen" doesn't discuss why supermarket shoppers rarely see such discounts on healthy food.


Despite all the micromanaging of head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, there is no Hackensack, Englewood or Teaneck news of any kind today, but there is a five-paragraph, L-3 story on Fort Lee preschool accepting 3-year-olds, as if every parent there hasn't already received a letter from the school board on this subject.

The Opinion front has a meaty piece on how the governor is changing the home-rule system of government, and a forceful column from Mike Kelly on priests who sexually abuse boys, but the latter is padded with too much background information.



Let's hope the new food editor improves coverage that often amounts to inane wire-service stories, such as the one about frozen food on the front of Better Living today.


The selection of Susan Leigh Sherrill, an editor at (201) magazine, is a sure sign that Publisher Stephen A. Borg continues to be involved in major editorial decisions long after he moved his office out of the newsroom. That's a slap in the face to Scandale and Features Director Barbara Jaeger, who chose her predecessor.


I don't know whether Sherrill is a full-time employee at the North Jersey Media Group magazine or a free-lancer, or whether she will be paid the same $71,000-plus a year that Bill Pitcher received for far less experience. 


Unfortunately, the word on the street is that readers may not be well-served. A foodie I met at the Tenafly farmers' market this morning said Sherrill knows nothing about food.




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Saturday, August 21, 2010

New food editor is from (201) magazine

Bergen County, New JerseyImage by dougtone via Flickr












A North Jersey Media Group veteran says she has been hired as The Record's new food editor, replacing Bill Pitcher.

Susan Leigh Sherrill of Montclair, (201) magazine's food and entertainment editor, told other writers on Friday she is the daily newspaper's new food editor, according to the online edition of The Paramus Post.

"We had a nice chat with Susan and were pleased to learn that she had just been promoted to food editor of The Record," Mel Fabrikant reported on the weekly's site.  

Sherrill opened Village Green CafĂ© and Caterers in 1989 in Ridgewood. In 2000, she sold the restaurant and embarked upon a second career in community newspapers, becoming editor of NJMG's The Ridgewood News in the fall of 2001.  She later joined (201) magazine as food editor. 

The magazine -- a celebration of wealth in North Jersey -- is Record Publisher Stephen A. Borg's favorite NJMG publication.  As for its journalism, it is about as hard-hitting as a wet noodle, and seems to be simply a glossy vehicle for advertising from luxury car makers, upscale restaurants and others who cater to the rich and powerful, people very much like Borg himself.


Sherrill hasn't been listed yet on Page 2 of the Better Living features section in The Record of Woodland Park.

Her work and her photo appear online in an NJMG blog called Table Talk: 
 
http://blogs.northjersey.com/blogs/tabletalk/  


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Francis and Momma bury the real news

Community gardens often have several horticult...Image via Wikipedia










Editor Francis "Castrato" Scandale led the paper Friday with the perjury indictment of ex-athlete Roger Clemens, so why did he bury the DWI guilty plea of former athlete Jayson Williams, who is in prison for killing his limo driver after a night of drinking (A-4)? Now, The Record of Woodland Park's front page has no real news today.

Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes, also known as "Momma," have apparently agreed to cover only the more affluent towns in North Jersey -- turning their backs on minority communities such as Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood -- so it makes sense for them to bury a story on the growth of local news blogs that go after those same advertising dollars (A-8), and treat it as a business story.

Scandale, whose wife is Cuban, continues to assign Cuba stories to a reporter who is a Cuban exile and whose anti-Castro sentiments are well-known (A-2). He's hen-pecked, not objective.

The Local news section today has no Hackensack news, which isn't news. That's the way it is most days.

Other sections continue to lose local flavor. The Better Living editors didn't bother trying to locate any community gardens in North Jersey; they just ran a wire service story today that mentions Houston, Cleveland and San Francisco.

The spoiled Borg siblings have done so much to hurt Hackensack and its Main Street businesses, isn't it time for them to give back a little by establishing a community garden at the old headquarters on River Street? 

After all, former Publisher Malcolm A. Borg has insisted on maintaining a Hackensack "presence" for The Record and North Jersey Media Group. Hope the Old Man is enjoying his summer as much as possible in view of how his greedy son has pushed him aside so totally.

Was it Publisher Stephen A. Borg's idea to put a story on slow cellphone chip production on Page 1 today, in a pitch to cellphone addicts such as himself? He kept his phone glued to his ear as he left the Hackensack newsroom so he wouldn't have to talk to any of the peons he was planning to get rid of.

  (Photo: A community garden.)
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Scattershot approach to news

Green Aracari at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, W...Image via Wikipedia



























How many stories are followed up by the newshounds at The Record of Woodland Park? And how many stories are dropped after one day?

It's bewildering to see what Editors Francis "Castrato" Scandale and Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes think is worthy of a follow and which stories appear for a single day, then disappear, despite all the unanswered questions from poor reporting and even poorer writing.

The front page today has a heart-warming story about a dog surviving a horrific Route 80 accident Sunday -- and being found and reunited with the victim's family -- but does this really belong on A-1? Even the original story, involving the death of a human, wasn't on the front page.

And there has been no follow on whether the 1996 Ford Explorer involved had been recalled for safety problems, so I guess readers are supposed to believe the driver lost control on a curve simply because it was raining.

When a 23-year-old Glen Rock woman was killed by a train recently, there was no follow, not even any comment from the family, and no attempt to find out if it was an accident or suicide.

The Route 80 dog story jumps to the animal news page, A-6, where we learn a bull ran amok in Spain and rampaged through the stands. Unfortunately, no one was killed, so the bull's revenge was incomplete and he not only died for his troubles, but will be eaten by grateful Spaniards. When are the food pages going to run a recipe for rabo de toro (tail of the bull)?

Today's weird Page 1 leads with the indictment of a baseball player on perjury charges -- who cares, except him and Scandale? -- while the middle of the page is taken up by photos of minor incidents at airports in Dallas and San Francisco that wouldn't be front-page news even if they happened at Newark Liberty International. 

But Scandale and Sykes are desperately trying to sell the paper, and distract readers in Hackensack and other important towns that are withering on the news vine.


For example, the Hackensack and Englewood reporters never asked officials if a plan to combine Teaneck's Police and Fire Departments would work in their cities, which also have professional firefighters and are similar demographically. It would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Thursday, on Page A-8, a sharp wire editor ran a "FACT CHECK" on the controversy over building a mosque "roughly a half-dozen normal Lower Manhattan blocks" from Ground Zero (not the two blocks you hear repeated on TV news), but the newspaper hasn't interviewed Muslims living in Teaneck and Hackensack, despite the peaceful establishment of mosques in both towns.

By the way, the FACT CHECK by the Associated Press reported that opponents lied or distorted information about the backers of the mosque in Lower Manhattan, where Muslims are already praying in the building that would be replaced by an Islamic cultural center. Two other mosques are five and 12 blocks from Ground Zero.

A great Page 1 story is Governor Christie making New Jersey a potential leader in offshore wind power (L-3), if for no other reason than to show Christie isn't just looking out for the Borgs and other millionaires. Another potential A-1 story is the resurgence of layoffs (L-7). 

Or maybe the lazy editors and their pampered staff can finally get off their rumps and profile some of the long-term unemployed, such as those people shown the door by greedy Publisher Stephen A. Borg in 2007 and 2008. Those profiles would make better A-1 stories than a dog rescue.


In Better Living, you'll find another restaurant review by Bill Pitcher, the food editor who left the paper but who repeats on readers like a bad meal. He calls the tacos Mexicanos at Chapala Grill in Bergenfield "the real deal," but doesn't know an authentic taco is garnished with cilantro and onion, not cilantro and diced tomato.


The weekly Hackensack Chronicle, another North Jersey Media Group rag, is doing a better job of covering Hackensack than the daily's Sykes and Monsy Alvarado, the reporter nominally assigned to the city. 


Today, the lead story is about residents of 310 Prospect Ave., which shared a garage with 300 Prospect, the luxury building that was evacuated July 16 after the garage collapsed. One of those quoted is David Blomquist.

Is this the same Blomquist who once worked at The Record as a reporter and pollster?


(Photo: Green aracari at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Wash.)
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Old news: Lead story has big flaws

Rockaway Township highlighted in Morris County...Image via Wikipedia
















The lead paragraph of the lead story on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park today calls a Teaneck woman's death an "apparent homicide." In the third paragraph, the prosecutor confirms it is a homicide. Why "apparent homicide"?
 
The lead paragraph says the body was discovered by firefighters "battling a blaze," but none of the photos of the house show the effects of fire. Couldn't have been much of a fire. The lead paragraph begins, "Authorities are investigating" the death. We should hope so. You don't have to say so; it doesn't advance the story one bit.
 
The time of the fire is never given ("late Tuesday," whatever that means). This certainly is of no help to anyone who drove down that street or neighbors who need help associating a pedestrian or a stranger with the crime. By omitting the time, readers won't wonder why this major crime story wasn't in the next day's paper.

The lead paragraph of a story is the most important, but this one was botched, as so many have been. Just the other day, Staff Writer John Brennan's lead on the first game at the new Meadowlands stadium was incomprehensible, besides being dull.

Whether a reporter is a good one like Staff Writer Joseph Ax, who covers Teaneck, or a bad one, like Brennan, all need eagle-eyed editors backing them up. Sadly, The Record -- an editor-driven newspaper -- has some of the biggest turkeys in journalism. 

The local assignment editors under Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes likely were the first to edit Ax's and Brennan's Page 1 stories. They blew it big time on both pieces. Then, the stories would have been seen by four more sets of eyes: a news/layout editor, a copy editor, a copy desk supervisor and the Page 1 proofreader. All were on autopilot or brain dead.

When The Record was printed in Hackensack, the first copies were rushed up to the news copy desk, where copy editors read every headline, caption, lead paragraph and more to find typos and other errors, and most of them were fixed during the press run.

After genius Publisher Stephen A. Borg moved printing to Rockaway Township in 2007 (and dumped 55 press workers in the process), the news copy desk in Hackensack and later Woodland Park no longer saw the first copies off the press. Errors big and small are now delivered to readers.


There are other problems with today's lead story, especially with the A-1 headlines giving no clue the victim was a well-known gadfly in the township. 

There are other problems with Page 1. Why a front-age story on a $40 million stimulus grant for first responders? Far better in that space would have been the state's anemic economic progress, banished to L-7. 

Unless Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale -- Borg's chief "yes man" -- didn't want to draw attention to how North Jersey Media Group contributed to the severe unemployment and to emptying storefronts  along Hackensack's Main Street, while giving the boss $3.65 million to buy a McMansion in tony Tenafly.


Gee. I thought The Record reported a couple of months ago the legislative proposals to break up Teterboro were non-starters. But we continue to see front-page stories about them. 

The only Hackensack news today is a follow-up to the arrest of a former teacher's aide who disrupted one of the rare school board meetings covered by the paper. Why are 15 inches of precious space on L-3 devoted to this? Did anything happen in Englewood? Ridgewood? 


I got a laugh out of the lead paragraph in the L-1 story about a Lyndhurst homeowner who tried to pay his property tax hike with coins and dollar bills. It begins, "After receiving an unexpected hike [in] his property taxes...."


Unexpected? He lives in North Jersey, and didn't expect a hike? Everyone knows property taxes only go up. Does anyone who voted for Governor Christie really believe he can keep his pledge to lower property taxes?

(Map: Far-off Rockaway Township in Morris County, where North Jersey Media Group owns a printing plant that churns out The Record, Herald News and other publications.)
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A front page with the blahs

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 04:  A medical marijuana...Image by Getty Images via @daylife








Today's front page is about as soft as you can get, except for the photos at the bottom of the page on cleanup of the magnificent Great Falls in Paterson, one of the most neglected natural attractions in the Northeast. As far as The Record of Woodland Park is concerned, life stood still. 

Maybe the recent lack of sunshine has affected the editors, including Frank "Castrato" Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes.

Do the editors talk with one another? Is Page 1 play planned or just done haphazardly by Scandale while he sits on a toilet in the men's room? The main element on A-1 today and a column on the OpEd page both go over essentially the same ground on the controversial medical marijuana law.

In the Page 1 story, the reporter seems bored with her subject, quoting one bureaucratic delay after another. Couldn't she find anyone to express outrage over the denial of relief to the terminally ill, including the poor man with the face tumors in the big photo? "We're working diligently," a state Health Department spokeswoman is quoted as saying. Give me a break.

Former Managing Editor Jim Ahearn's column (A-9) is more focused, pinning some of the delay on Governor Christie, who did a major about-face on medical marijuana.

The lead story on A-1 finally gets around to reporting new regulations to keep emergency responders safe on state highways that went into effect in June. I guess the staff was on vacation then.

In Local, Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado covers a school board meeting for the first time in more than a year (L-1), and it is cut short by a disruptive former employee.

There is no other Hackensack news, or anything from Englewood or Teaneck, but there is a follow-up story on partisan politics in Englewood Cliffs, where one council Democrat resigned abruptly and another said he wouldn't run for election. The second Democrat has changed his mind.

The original Cliffs story -- in which one council member stormed out during an argument with another -- and today's lead L-1 story on voters backing Ridgefield's indicted mayor belong on the front page, in place of some of the nonsense Scandale loves. The Cliffs story reflects so well what is happening nationally, and deserves better play.

The process stories, such as the one on medical marijuana, don't really grab readers. Ahearn's column would have been enough.

I wonder why The Record didn't report an Appellate Division ruling in a dispute between two lawyers over hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees in a case that was covered extensively by the paper? One of  the lawyers is a good source for Kibret Markos, the Bergen County Courthouse reporter.

According to Cliffview Pilot.com, which reported last week's ruling on Monday, lawyer Rosemary Arnold of Fort Lee has been fighting with fellow attorney David Mazie, who took over a DWI case, brought it to trial, and won what originally was a $105 million verdict that later was pared to $25 million for young Antonia Verni’s Cliffside Park family. 

For his trouble, Mazie got more than $4.6 million, while Arnold collected only $227,500 -- even though Mazie argued that she should have gotten nothing. Arnold went in demanding half. In a published interview, Mazie said Arnold did little on the case when he was finally brought in.


But the appeals court said the lower court  judge erred in 2008 by not explaining why he cut Arnold's request so drastically, and sent back the legal-fees dispute to be heard by another judge.

Cliffview Pilot.com reported that when Arnold realized the drunk driver, Daniel Lanzaro, had only $100,000 in insurance, she brought in other defendants, including the New York Giants, National Football League, New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority and Giants Stadium, where Lanzaro had a staggering amount of beer during a game, as well as Aramark Corp., the stadium vendor that served him before he smashed head-on into the Vernis' vehicle in Hasbrouck Heights in 1999.

Have you noticed subtle typographical changes that allow more vertical room on some pages? The change is most noticeable on the editorial page, where the names of managers and editors now appear below the editorials. On the fronts, the changes seem to accommodate ads that run along the bottom of the pages.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Castrato" fires another blank

New Meadowlands Stadium / Eagles in Concert 20...Image by asterix611 via Flickr










If Frank "Castrato" Scandale wants to devote half of the front page to the first football game at the new Meadowlands stadium, no one can dissuade The Record's high-fiving, ass-slapping, jock-itching editor, who feels more comfortable in a locker room than in a newsroom. His mantra: "Business of sports. It's not sports, it's the business of sports."


But there's other business he doesn't attend to, not the least of which is finding a reporter who is at the top of his game and worthy of front-page play. Staff Writer John Brennan isn't that reporter, as he's shown so many times in the past, and as he demonstrates today with his clunky story on long-suffering Jets fans finally coming home to a venue with the team's name on it. 


Look at this veteran reporter's pedestrian lead paragraph, where he compares the fans to tenants in a building. Instead of hooking readers, this lead sends them packing. It doesn't even make sense:
"Jets fans have never been the primary tenant in any building where they've played in their 50-year history."
It's the team -- not the fans -- who are the so-called tenants. Who does "they've played" refer to? Fans don't play, the team does. This Brennan buffoon is referred to as a Pulitzer Prize finalist in his new sports business blog. What a smear on the Pulitzer Prizes. This guy gets the Palooka Prize.
 
The rest of his story is mostly one cliche after another, including, "The rain didn't seem to dampen [a fan's] mood." Try as he might, Brennan can't capture the excitement of the event. And the A-1 photo tells readers what he withholds: This preseason game was far from a sell-out.

It's one thing to obsessively talk up your stories in the newsroom, as Brennan does, but if you're going to fall for his bullshit, as Scandale does, at least have some great backup editing. None is evident here.


Scandale was castrated by head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes -- a lifer who has survived attempts to get her out of the way -- and later by Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who made wholesale changes in editorial coverage, while repudiating Scandale's coverage of 20-year-olds. All the editor has got left is the front page, and what a mess he is making of it.

 But I guess readers should be thankful for some real news on A-1 today. New Jersey political leaders deserve praise for trying to de-politicize the debate over the Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero, but Governor Christie's steamroller hasn't reformed the state's many authorities, boards and commissions. 

The lead story in Local is Teaneck officials' proposal to combine Police and Fire Departments, with a projected savings of $250,000. Why didn't Sykes ask the Hackensack and Englewood reporters to get reaction from officials in their cities, which also have professional fire departments and are similar to Teaneck demographically?

Of course, there is no municipal news of Englewood or Hackensack today, but you'll find an expanded obituary on Gene Hacker, the camera shop owner (L-6). Road Warrior John Cichowski squanders another column today, this one on roadside litter, as he ignores his mission of writing about the woes of commuters once again.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Reporters who won't go quietly

1996–1997 Ford Explorer (UN) Limited, photogra...Image via Wikipedia














They are the editors and reporters who seem like they have been around forever, and whose contributions to the newspaper -- in quantity or quality -- are in inverse proportion to their long years of service. Some of them are so obscure, they escaped Publisher Stephen A. Borg's rampage through The Record newsroom after he took over in mid-2006.

Borg folded every features section except Travel, giving klutzy Jill Schensul tenure in the editor's job. Not far away, fair-weather columnist Ray Edel survived the culling, as did Charles Saydah, editor of letters to the editor, who hid out in a back office except when taking his midday jog, leaving his pages filled with typos and inaccurate headings.


But others are far more visible, and command much higher salaries. Today, the centerpiece on Page 1 of the Woodland Park paper is by Staff Writer Jean Rimbach, who racks up what is believed to be only her second byline of the year with yet another story about quirky Teterboro. Are we to believe this piece took her months to report and write?

On the Local front, Columnist Mike Kelly has another laughable column. When I was still a news copy editor, his stuff was so bad, copy editors had to be ordered to edit it and write a headline.

John Cichowski, the Road Warrior columnist, has a workload few columnists can manage. He has to turn out three commuting columns a week, and his nonsense tells you he long ago ran out of ideas and should be getting out of the office more often to ride and rate mass transit, which he seems to abhor.

Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale got rid of several hard-working, productive veterans, including Columnists Miguel Perez and Lawrence Aaron, the only Hispanic and black columnists, respectively; and Elaine D'Aurizio, at the time the only woman writing a column outside Sports. Young Borg moved against others for no apparent reason, most notably Assistant Managing Editor/Photography Rich Gigli and Joanne Hoerr, supervisor of news clerks.


But Rimbach, Kelly and Cichowski are three do-nothing reporters who won't go quietly or otherwise, likely because they are protected by editors, including head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes. Are Sykes and Rimbach friends, and is that why the editor is pampering the least productive reporter on a staff of about 50?

Is anybody assessing the quality of Kelly's and Cichowski's columns? Today, Kelly pushes around hundreds of words about bears, but does he add anything to the debate over an issue that affects a minority of the paper's readership? For years, he has merely rehashed old news, too timid to go out on a limb with his own opinions, hence all the rhetorical questions he asks in his columns. 

Cichowski's Sunday column was about keep right-pass left laws -- just another obscure debate among drivers that he grabs onto in desperation. At least we should be grateful he isn't doing another column on potholes or license-plate tags for teenage drivers. 


Rimbach's splashy A-1 story today portrays Teterboro as a bastion of nepotism and a tax haven for industry, but didn't we know that already from several stories that ran recently in reaction to a legislative proposal to break up the borough?  She doesn't even assess if town officials are in their  right minds for insisting on living near the incredibly noisy airport.


A far more engaging front-page piece today would have been Sachi Fujimori's well-written story on Closter farms, free vegetables for residents and an honor system for buying brown eggs (Better Living front). Charming.

Five days after the paper hailed Sheriff Jerry Speziale in Passaic County as a jet-set celebrity, a story at the bottom of A-1 today reveals a darker side to the free-spending lawman: Lawsuits alleging cronyism, neglect and worse at the county jail. Another mixed message from a staff that struggles to handle breaking news.

In Local, there is no Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood news, or anything from many other towns. 

On the front, a horrific Route 80 accident (story and photo) occurred near the exit for the Garret Mountain Plaza building where the paper has its newsroom. More savvy editors would have said whether the 1996 Ford Explorer involved in Sunday's fatality was one of those recalled for its allegedly defective Firestone tires.


Inside, Monsy Alvarado's follow-up to Saturday's head-on collision in Englewood fails to mention that the Bergen County cop's car crossed the double-yellow line, an important detail also missing from the original coverage by three reporters.


(Photo: 1996-97 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle.)
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Readers are scratching their heads

2006-2007 Ford Crown Victoria police car photo...Image via Wikipedia











If part of Grand Avenue in Englewood is one way and another section carries two-way traffic,  readers need to know that right away, especially if you cover much of the front page with a big photo showing a collision between a bus and a cop car. Instead, with this story and others today, The Record of Woodland Park leaves many scratching their heads.

Well, you can search the A-1 caption and read the story and caption on L-1, and unless you are familiar with Englewood, it's all very confusing, as the former Hackensack daily bobbles yet another routine story, leaving readers to fill in the blanks for themselves. 

Here's what the three reporters who worked on this epic tale don't tell you. The Bergen County police officer's car crossed over the double-yellow line before the collision in front of Sonny's Pizzeria -- on the two-way stretch of Grand Avenue south of Route 4. North of Route 4, Grand Avenue is one way until Palisade Avenue, where it becomes Engle Street. 

The A-1 photo shows the police car straddling the double-yellow line and angled toward the front of the Red & Tan bus, but the story never addresses that. Was the cop on his cell phone or was there a mechanical failure in the Ford Crown Victoria, which many police departments continue to use despite safety problems and fatal crashes involving officers? Did the officer have a seizure or other health problem? Your guess is as good as mine.

Yet the story contains a lot of unnecessary information, such as interviews that reveal "it is not uncommon to see police pursue vehicles on Grand Avenue." Huh? The officer in the collision wasn't involved in a chase, his superior told the paper. And one of the reporters uses a quote on a save-get key: "It sounded like a bomb." Where are the weekend assignment editor and the news copy desk on a story this bad?


If the officer was at fault, it's the second black mark against county police, who reportedly shot at burglary suspects during a chase the other day. The county prosecutor is investigating the gunfire. But with nearly 70 police departments in the county, why do we need this county force?

Back on A-1, Staff Writer Michael Gartland continues his excellent work covering Bergen County government with an expose of the huge debt rolled up by the county Improvement Authority. But below the fold, two Business reporters bore us with a long story about a builder of multimillion dollar homes who foundered during the recession, and who owes creditors $11 million.

Does anyone feel sorry for this man, who was at the center of artificially inflating the values of homes that frustrated many first-time home buyers? And is it really fair to readers to portray greedy investors -- who gave him money to help build these monstrosities in hope of a big profit -- as victims? Why is this story on A-1?

In the A-section, Teaneck reporter Joseph Ax has a story about the township's Muslim mayor visiting the White House, but there is no Hackensack or Englewood municipal news in the paper, or news of many other towns. 

The L-1 story on "green" burials is fascinating, but it makes no mention that Orthodox Jews and other groups have been burying their dead in this fashion for eons.

 If it wasn't for Your Money's Worth Columnist Kevin DeMarrais, the paper would have little consumer reporting. Today, on the Business front, he tackles the hidden fees that are so difficult to learn about when you're trying to compare airline fares. 

Of course, the real question is why this issue hasn't been covered extensively in the Travel section, where klutzy Editor Jill Schensul today celebrates hugely wasteful and polluting RVs.


The Borgs can rest easy tonight, knowing Editor Frank "Castrato" Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre "Mother Hen" Sykes and their minions are doing such a great job.


(Photo: The infamous Ford Crown Victoria police interceptor.)
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