Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick-or-treat edition

Edgewater, NJ view of GWBImage by notladj via Flickr
Edgewater has great views of the Hudson River, but it is badly polluted as well.

The front page of The Record of Woodland Park today is dominated again by another in a series of contaminated Superfund sites -- sad tales of bureaucratic delays, powerless residents, skyrocketing costs and continuing pollution.


But nowhere in this takeout by Staff Writer Scott Fallon does the paper question its own role in allowing the cleanup to drag on for nearly 30 years. Is it enough for a powerful newspaper -- once every five or 10 years -- to report on how screwed up the federal Superfund program is?

From the photograph on the front of Local today, you'd think a head of state died. A horse-drawn hearse carrying the remains of John Abraham certainly seems unusual for a Teaneck police officer. 

Nearly a week after he died, readers still know nothing about why his Ford-built police car veered violently out of control at a high rate of speed and smashed broadside into a telephone pole across from police headquarters. 

He was a on a double shift, but the paper doesn't know why or ask if he was overworked. Did the Police Interceptor, which has a history of safety problems, fail him? Did he have a heart attack? Fall asleep? Was he even wearing his seat belt? 

Instead of trying to get answers from a number of sources, Staff Writer Joseph Ax is waiting for the next handout from the police chief. 

Why are the funerals of the 3- and 5-year old siblings from Wayne buried on L-7? They were shot to death by their father on Oct. 18 -- a story that was all over Page 1. 


Road Warrior John Cichowski, who has never had to stand up on a rush-hour train or bus into the city, arrogantly says we can live without new train tunnels under the Hudson River. He feels supremely comfortable in the pockets of the automobile dealers who advertise so heavily in the former Hackensack daily.


There is no Hackensack news in this trick-or-treat edition from Editor Francis Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and their lazy minions. Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado is being beaten regularly by by even the crappy weekly papers.


In the edition dated Nov. 1, The County Seat reports Maywood, Rochelle Park and South Hackensack have begun the process of pulling their students out of Hackensack High School.



In Better Living, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung promotes the latest book by a former waiter and reports his advice on tipping in many situations -- from food deliverers to valets to skycaps to furniture movers. But nowhere in her Sunday column does she provide his guidance on how much to tip in a restaurant. Your guess is as good as mine on whether 15 percent still is the standard -- or is it 20 percent?


I've blasted Columnist Mike Kelly on numerous occasions, but today on the Opinion front he forcefully delivers his opinion on the pay-to-play stench remaining after the puzzling acquittal of Ridgefield Mayor Anthony R. Suarez. Now, if he'll just take another photo to replace the shit-eating grin that runs with his column.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Editors have contempt for older readers

2000–2001 Toyota Camry, photographed in the Un...Image via Wikipedia
A 2001 Toyota Camry, like the one above, barreled into a Paramus house.


The 77-year-old man who launched his Toyota Camry into the side of a house in Paramus told police the "brakes failed," according to a caption with the handiwork of Staff Photographer Tariq "Crash" Zehawi. But the real failure is head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, who refuses to launch a project on the challenges facing older drivers and the help available to them.

You've seen variations of this photo in The Record of Woodland Park scores of times in the past 20 years: an elderly driver loses control of a car, climbing stairs or hitting a store, a house, a tree, another vehicle or a pedestrian -- sometimes with fatal consequences. The paper covers most of the accidents with a single photo and caption or just a few paragraphs, rarely following up. The man in the latest accident isn't even identified.

Sykes and Editor Francis Scandale have contempt for older drivers, just as they do for Alzheimer's victims and older newsroom workers. They've discriminated against the elderly by running more than one series about autism, but none about Alzheimer's. Scandale even thought he could stop declining readership by aiming coverage at 20-year-olds. What a farce.


Today's Local section has a dozen election stories, but residents of Hackensack, which has municipal elections in May, are out of luck, and there isn't any Englewood news, either.

Bomb scares for Halloween

A-1 today is dominated by the worldwide for search for explosive cargo at airports. Six Record reporters worked on the story.


An A-2 correction notes the A La Carte column in Better Living was mistaken on Friday when it reported Avenue Bistro in Clifton had closed, when it had just moved to a new location.

The erroneous closing notice still appeared this afternoon on the Second Helpings blog at northjersey.com. It was posted by Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung -- only one of the major errors she has made since joining the paper about three years ago.

A second erroneous notice in A La Carte on Friday wasn't corrected. 

Omusubi Gombei, a Japanese chain known for its handmade rice balls, opened a kiosk at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater on Friday and will sell rice balls there through Nov. 7. The notice in The Record says it will open "by Nov. 7." 


See: Warm, delicious Japanese rice balls


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Friday, October 29, 2010

Dirty restaurants get a pass

tourism map dining restaurant symbolImage via Wikipedia


It looks like The Record of Woodland Park has pulled the restaurant health inspections list from the Friday Better Living tab --which is filled with restaurant reviews, news and ads -- after many years of burying it in the Local section.


The list is missing today, and a reader of Eye on The Record says he believes there were no ratings last week, either. The last inspections listed on northjersey.com are for Sept. 25. Readers who like to try new restaurants will just have to hope for the best.


For many years, the health inspections appeared in the back of Sunday's Local news section, along with the Dean's List and other unrelated material. Compiled by a news clerk from faxes sent in by health departments, the list often was filled with typos and misspellings when it arrived at the news copy desk. 


One week (it might have been last year),  Roberto Clemente, the dead baseball player, was listed in the paper as "conditional." (It was the Paterson school of the same name that was conditional.)


Although there are 90 or so towns in The Record's circulation area, there were never more than 15 or 20 towns listed, and some towns, including Wyckoff, refused to release the ratings.


If The Record has dropped the list without informing readers, it will ensure that only positive news about restaurants appears in the paper, save for occasional gripes in reviews. That's in keeping with the reduction in food coverage and should boost ad sales considerably, in addition to making the greedy Borgs even happier.

Defendant as victim 


Page 1 has two moronic stories today. 


The major element on A-1 transforms Ridgefield Mayor Anthony R. Suarez into a victim -- just one day after he was acquitted on bribery conspiracy charges by a federal jury, which ignored persuasive evidence of his guilt. An editorial on A-22 says trust in the mayor was compromised by his indictment, but The Record stops short of asking him to resign now, as it did after he was indicted.


The off-lead story on A-1 is ridiculous. Staff Writer Karen Rouse says commuters "should brace for tight squeezes on buses, standing-room only on trains and crowds" at Penn Station in 2018 -- the year new rail tunnels under the Hudson River were scheduled to open before Governor Christie aborted them. Then, she quotes an expert saying if job growth remains slow, the new tunnels probably won't be needed anyway.


But Rouse and her clueless editors, including Francis Scandale, Deirdre Stykes and Dan Sforza, must be the only so-called journalists in the metro area who don't know the buses and trains are at capacity now during rush hour -- why the tunnels were being built and why the Spanish bus system grew so rapidly.


Big photo, no news

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes couldn't find any legitimate news for the front of Local, so she ran an artistic shot of golfers by Staff Photographer Tariq Zehawi, whose talents have been wasted on every traffic accident he comes across. 


There was no Hackensack or Englewood news, and Teaneck reporter Joseph Ax lists streets that will be closed Saturday for the funeral of a police officer, without offering any details on the cause of the violent, high-speed crash of his patrol car into a telephone poll that killed him early Monday.


'Wild night out'


The redesign of the restaurant-review centerfold in Better Living -- more photographs, much bigger headlines and less room for text -- and the limited number of dishes sampled, to save the paper money, are proving to be a disservice to readers.


The three-star review of Picnic -- The Restaurant in Fair Lawn notes the fine-dining venue  wouldn't be appropriate for a "wild night out." I wonder what eating places would be appropriate for that kind of behavior. Maybe the Quiznos sub shop it replaced.


The reviewer, Bob Probert of (201) magazine, doesn't provide a lot of information. Noting the Manhattan-like entree prices, he explains, "This is artisanal work ... using high-quality ingredients," but never tells you whether the lamb is raised naturally or the shrimp wild-caught.


If you're watching your cholesterol, there is no information on butter and heavy cream in the "French sauces" and whether the preparation of dishes can be adjusted if you want to avoid those artery-clogging ingredients.




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$145 wine trumps health inspections

Robert Mondavi WineryImage by prayitno via Flickr





Where are the restaurant health inspection reports today? If you're looking for health inspectors' ratings of your local restaurants, you won't find them in The Record of Woodland Park.

Did Features Director Barbara Jaeger bounce the weekly inspections to make room in the Better Living tabloid for a wire service story on California wine, at $144.99 and $148 a bottle?


Or maybe she was ordered to do so by Publisher Stephen A. Borg and his big sister, Jennifer A. Borg, Esq., who have an interest in an Englewood wine bar.

More later 
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christie aggravates state fiscal woes

I take this nice picture of Pennsylvania Stati...Image via Wikipedia
Penn Station on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan in 2005.
Tunnel under the Hudson, 1910sImage via Wikipedia
Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels under the Hudson River in the 1910s.

All this talk from Governor Christie about saving taxpayers money is costing us a fortune. Now, New Jersey may have to repay $350 million dollars in federal aid that has been spent on the Hudson River rail tunnel project he aborted.

That's on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars that state won't see, because Christie refuses to hit the Borgs and his wealthy friends and supporters with a millionaire's tax. 

And then there are even more millions the state won't get, because he doesn't want to add a few cents to the low gasoline tax -- a hike that would fall disproportionately on the wealthy, who insist on driving their gas-guzzling luxury cars and SUVs. They wouldn't be caught dead on a train into the city.

Did I mention the $400 million in federal education aid Christie blew?


When a Republican fiscal conservative like Christie says "we can't afford" to build the Hudson River tunnels or another project or program, it's code for how he and his wealthy supporters want to keep more money in their own pockets. 

And why is today's story on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park the first time we've heard about a possible partnership with Amtrak on a new rail tunnel to Penn Station in Manhattan?


Today's paper has three stories on the tunnel, the governor's political ambitions and the state debt, and another three on the acquittal of Ridgefield Mayor Anthony R. Suarez -- for a hard news front page you don't see that often anymore.

But maybe Editor Francis Scandale can explain why there is nothing here on how the governor's policies seem to be targeting the middle and working classes, while allowing the rich to get richer and the state to get poorer. 

Nor is there any reporting on jury nullification -- where a panel ignores substantial evidence of a defendant's guilt, because the defense attorney put the government's chief witness on trial.

Get a load of the A-21 Op-Ed piece by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood -- a publicity monger who claims President Obama has "shamelessly overexposed himself." It's Boteach who should be ashamed of himself and so should the paper, which plays into his hands time and again.

The rabbi knowingly bought an East Hill mansion next door to the one owned by the Libyan Embassy -- then parlayed that into at least five stories in August 2009 when he protested preparations for a visit by the Libyan leader. Those stories ran during a 33-day period when not a single story about Hackensack appeared in the paper.

Later, Staff Writer Jim Beckerman  wrote a long, flattering story for Better Living, publicizing Boteach's new book on visits to his home by Michael Jackson.

When head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes has to blow up a photo of a New York Giant getting a flu shot and run it on the front of Local, as she does today, readers are in trouble. 

You won't find any Hackensack or Englewood news inside, or anything from many other major towns, either.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Police spoon feed reporter

Teaneck Municipal BuildingImage via Wikipedia
The municipal building in Teaneck is not far from where an officer's car crashed.

You'd think reporters at The Record of Woodland Park would gag on all the no-comments and "we can't release that now" and "the results will take a few days" and all the other bullshit they hear from news sources, especially the police. 

You'd think they'd do independent reporting, showing the hustle and legwork of a great reporter -- one who doesn't take no for an answer. You'd be wrong, of course.


Today, as on so many days in the past on other stories, you have Staff Writer Joseph Ax reporting that Teaneck police refused to release any information on the cause of the crash that killed Police Officer John Abraham early Monday, when his car slammed into a telephone pole across Teaneck Road from headquarters. Do they have something to hide?

This kind of half-assed reporting has long been acceptable to the lazy, incompetent editors at the former Hackensack daily: Francis Scandale, Deirdre Sykes, Tim Nostrand, Dan Sforza, Richard Whitby -- the list is too long for inclusion here.

What happened to the newspaper that feuded openly with the Hackensack Police Department for many years over the release of information?

"So what should I tell the copy desk?" Sykes shrieks, punctuating her question with a run-on peal of laughter. "Should I tell them to use the word 'mystery' or 'puzzle' in the headline? Oh, I love this. Wait till Frank [Scandale] hears about this in the news meeting. This is a great L-1 lead story. Good going."

Did Ax go to the scene to look for skid or brake marks? Did he try to reach the paramedics or the hospital on the officer's injuries? Did he call the prosecutor's fatal accident unit and the medical examiner, which performed an autopsy Tuesday? How about the wife? Did he ask her why her husband was working a double shift?

Readers are left to find clues in the two photos that ran Tuesday or go to the scene, as I did Wednesday.  The A-1 photo shows Abraham's Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor was moving at a high rate of speed when it hit the pole between the doors on the passenger side -- one of the strongest parts of the body structure -- yet the force of impact bent the car noticeably.

The police car ended up on the sidewalk, pointing in the opposite direction of travel on that side of the four-lane street, which is a long S-curve. No side air bags are visible in the photo, and a side impact may not have deployed the front airbags. If the officer wasn't wearing his seat belt, he would have been thrown around violently inside the vehicle. 

The lack of skid marks may indicate he fell asleep or had a heart attack. The Police Interceptor has a history of safety problems, including power steering that "freezes" on hard turns and at high speeds.  


There's no other Teaneck news in Local today, nor any from Hackensack or Englewood.


Tunnel vision

The lead story on Page 1 today reports Governor Christie is pulling the plug on the Hudson River rail tunnels, although his authority to end a bistate project has never been explored by the paper.

Rail travel into Manhattan is already at capacity, but the end of the project won't inconvenience wealthy people like Christie, the Borgs and the governor's fat cat supporters, who believe they have a constitutional right to drive into the city or be driven there.

The real flaw of the tunnels is that they won't deliver rail travelers to the East Side of Manhattan, not that they won't connect to Penn Station (the latter is cited by Editorial Page Alfred P. Doblin to explain why he opposed them). But neither is enough to sink the proposal. Many cities, especially in Europe, have several major rail stations or terminals.

Christie's decision to stop the project is another blow to the middle class -- just the latest of the many royal F.U.'s from the Republican bully. 

Ass-slapping news meeting 

How many of the male editors' asses did Scandale slap in celebration of his decision to put Staff Writer John Brennan's poorly written story about inexpensive sports tickets on Page 1 today?  Brennan's drivel runs on A-1 only because Scandale can't inspire his staff to produce anything better.

Day of the 'dead copy'

Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill is fast fulfilling the stereotype of the dumb blonde. Just take a look at her "explanation" of why she started "In Your Kitchen," a column based on a cookbook recipe that runs with her husband's photos:
"Judging by the number of cookbooks delivered to my desk every week, it is clear that people are hungry for recipes and stories about food and cooking."
Huh? Not at all. What is clear is that publishers are showering her with free books every week in the hope she will give them a million dollars worth of free publicity, which she gladly does and passes off as a service to readers. 

Today, for example, she focuses on a recipe for pan de muerto from a book called "A World of Cakes" (Better Living front). Why would a reader want to tackle this complicated recipe when there are so many wonderful Mexican bakeries in North Jersey?

Look at the big smile on her face in the photo on F-1.  She loves free stuff -- cookbooks, lunch at the James Beard House, deliveries from ShopRite. Does she also accept free meals in return for her gushing, non-critical reviews in (201) magazine? Maybe she is just acting dumb.



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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Did the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor kill the cop?

Police car emergency lighting fixtures switche...Image via Wikipedia
Ford Crown Victoria safety problems have resulted in officers' deaths and lawsuits.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

How many police officers have to die in Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors before The Record and other media beat a steady drum for replacement of the outmoded, rear-wheel drive cruiser used by state and local police agencies across the country? 

You won't find a single word exploring the Crown Vic's well-known safety problems in today's front-page coverage of the crash that killed a Teaneck officer. 

A Paramus police officer also was  killed when his Police Interceptor hit a telephone pole during a high-speed pursuit in the 1990s -- in a crash blamed on the car's power-steering problems. 

Did the Teaneck officer's car experience power-steering problems before it hit a telephone pole near police headquarters early Monday?

Except for photos of the battered cruiser, the story ignores how the accident occurred and doesn't answer obvious questions -- were there brake or skid marks, and were there signs of mechanical problems?

It's also hard to believe "investigators have not confirmed" whether Police Officer John Abraham was wearing his seat belt.

Clueless reporting

Did the reporters try to talk to the paramedics who were called to the scene to get a description of his injuries? Obviously not.

This is another half-assed story from the Woodland Park paper and Editor Francis Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her clueless assistants, including Dan Sforza.

Most police fatalities occurred when the Ford police cars were hit from behind while parked on the shoulder of a highway or road, and the gas tanks exploded. 

A smaller number, including the Paramus officer and possibly the Teaneck officer, died in crashes attributed to power-steering problems -- the steering wheel "freezes" in hard turns or at high speeds. 

Here is an item from The New York Times on the fires, one of which killed a New Jersey state trooper:
A 10-month federal investigation ended today without finding a defect in the Ford Crown Victoria police cars linked to the fiery deaths of a dozen officers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the car exceeds federal standards for fuel system safety and the rate of fires was not much greater than with Chevrolet Caprice police cars. Each of the 12 officers' deaths since 1983 involved a Crown Victoria gas tank catching fire, often after being hit in the rear in a high-speed crash.
The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2002
Problem dates to 1985

Consumer Reports listed a problem with the power steering in Crown Victorias dating to the 1985 model. 

Ford stopped selling the Crown Victoria to the public, but continues to supply them to police agencies and taxi fleets.

After the Paramus officer was killed, I suggested a project on the Police Interceptor to find out whether Ford was deeply discounting the cars to get police departments to continue buying them despite the safety issues, but Law & Order Editor Jerry DeMarco never did anything with it.

How's that again?

In today's Local section, Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano says more than two dozen residents  "crowded into" the municipal courtroom for a hearing on expanding a private school's athletic field (near Chairman Malcolm A. Borg's East Hill home).

The courtroom has seating for more than 100, so it's hard to understand why two dozen people would have to "crowd into" it.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

News or advertisement?

200Image via Wikipedia



Is that a news story or a lavish advertisement for Hackensack University Medical Center's new cancer building on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park today? Like all hospitals, HUMC is big business, and this one is a big advertiser in The Record and on northjersey.com. 

And it's no coincidence that Jennifer A. Borg, Esq., was a board member at the hospital while it spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertising in the paper. (Borg, one of the two Tarnished Silver Spoons running North Jersey Media Group, is a lawyer whose iron fist is well-known in the newsroom.)

Over the years, the medical center has been treated deferentially in the former Hackensack daily, notably while Francis Scandale has been editor and chief seller of the front page to the highest bidder. Recall the Page 1 story this past July 25, promoting a new venture by John P. Ferguson, who had resigned as medical center president during a scandal.

And the frequent expansions of the hospital's campus in a residential neighborhood -- despite loud and determined opposition by neighbors -- gets nowhere near the coverage that The Valley Hospital's expansion proposal in Ridgewood does, even though Valley plans to stay within the borders of its property. 

You couldn't rouse head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes or Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado from their deep slumber to cover those protests in recent years.

You call this recycling? 

Teaneck reporter Joseph Ax has a story on the front of Local today on plans to expand recycling, because the township lags behind others. But he doesn't compare Teaneck's effort to other communities. 

If he did, he could tell readers Teaneck has a long way to go on recycling. Hackensack collects all recyclables weekly, compared to once a month for some recyclables in Teaneck and twice a month under the new plan.

And Hackensack residents can bring electronics, computers and other items to the DPW -- a program that few other North Jersey towns have.

There is no Hackensack or Englewood news today, but be sure to check out the story on the Kinnelon police (L-7). Sykes and her clueless assistants continue to do a great job on local news -- if you live in Passaic and Morris counties.


Hold the cow feces

There is more junk food and cupcakes promoted in Better Living today, thanks to Staff Writer Elisa Ung, the restaurant reviewer, Sunday columnist and dessert addict. 

Ung, who returned recently from maternity leave, has been eating an enormous quantity of cupcakes, cheesecake, pizza and other crap, according to her Twitter tweets and articles in the paper.


Today, she reports the Food Network will be comparing sliders at White Manna in Hackensack and White Mana in Jersey City, and cupcakes on another program.

But Ung doesn't tell us anything about the ground beef used in Hackensack beyond saying is it 10% fat. What I really want to know is whether this ground beef, like much of the conventionally raised ground beef produced at the big packing houses in the United States, contains cow manure.

Miss something?

The political profile of Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney that ran on Sunday had an interesting tidbit that wasn't addressed in the story by Staff Writer Michael Gartland, who did an otherwise good job comparing the incumbent to his Republican challenger.

The bio box noted McNerney was "vice president [of] derivatives with UBS, Paine Webber" from 2001-03. Wasn't it trading of derivatives that caused the financial meltdown, failure of big banks and the recession? Do we really want to reelect this fat cat to office?

 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What does this say?

Age pyramid for Bergen County, New Jersey, Uni...Image via Wikipedia
Age pyramid for Bergen County, based on Census 2000 data.



owns consider tax lien sales

How long did it take you to figure out what the lead headline on the front of today's Local section says? Or didn't you bother, seeing the embarrassing typo -- "owns" for "Towns" -- as another sign of The Record of Woodland Park's precipitous decline in quality -- writ large? (On Friday's Page 1, a subhead had "overuns" instead of "overruns.")


After all, this Local section is head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' pride and joy. It's where this lazy, incompetent woman and her clueless assistants showcase their best local news. Today, the best they could do is to lead with a process story on tax liens. Yawn. 


Overall, the section has become Sykes' trash can -- often filled with minor police and fire news and accident photos that are blown up as big as possible to take the place of real news the staff didn't generate.


Holes in is head


Thank God Brockhuizen Lane in Hawthorne finally has been paved. Hopefully, we won't hear anymore about it from White Road Supremacist John Cichowski, the columnist who continues to ignore his mission of writing about commuting problems. 


Is this his fourth or fifth column on the handful of bitchy families who were outnumbered by their dinky little street's potholes (L-1)?


Joseph Ax, the Teaneck reporter, was on weekend duty Saturday, when he was assigned to cover Nicole Polizzi, the reality show bimbo who is also known as "Snooki," signing autographs at Westfield Garden State Plaza (L-3). Is this news? It's hard to believe there was nothing better to cover. See how far Ax has fallen. The Record sent him to Haiti to cover the earthquake's aftermath.



Real news on A-1


On Page 1, there is real news for a change -- the battle for Bergen County executive  -- the most important election for Bergen residents next month. Democratic incumbent Dennis McNerney and challenger Kathleen Donovan, the Republican county clerk, have debated twice, but those stories were relegated to Sykes' disgraceful local section to make room for the Yankees or some other nonsense on A-1.


Democratic voters finally have a real alternative to McNerney, who has been too cozy with three political figures who were indicted and who seems determined to keep the county police force, though few residents can tell you what it does except issue traffic summonses and drive him to a baseball game in the Bronx.


You'd think a bunch of overpaid athletes like the Giants would be eating nothing but wild-caught seafood, grass-fed beef and lamb, and organic produce, but there's no mention of that in Staff Writer Kara Yorio's silly story on the Better Living front today. She says one player focuses on "quality real ingredients."


Shut Pizza Hut


With all the great pizza available in North Jersey, does anybody really care how Pizza Hut makes one of the worst pies out there or would want to read a book by someone who spends time trying to recreate it? Look at that recipe and the one for Cheesecake Factory's red velvet cheesecake (F-3).


Does The Corner Table Columnist Elisa Ung think readers want to chain themselves to the stove and try these, long, complicated recipes? Maybe she gets paid for doing that, but we don't. Hey, Ung, get real, and try to overcome your obsession with dessert. You're out of touch with thousands of your readers.


If you thought there was little good food coverage when Bill Pitcher was food editor and glorified recipe editor, the emphasis on sweets and recipes has reached new lows under Food Editor Susan Sherrill, Ung's supervisor.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Journalism jock itch rules again

Cap logo of the New York YankeesImage via Wikipedia




Even when the Yankees lose, Editor Francis Scandale just can't stop the itching from his jock strap and resist the need to slap the other male editors' asses in the news meeting, where he undoubtedly ordered the layout drones to cover most of the front page today with a photo and caption about those turkeys.

The other stories on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park are more federal fine-tuning on the cost of the Hudson River tunnel Governor Christie dislikes so much, a story about charter school teachers who have joined a union and another on third-party candidates. 

How boring can you get? A-1 seems to alternate between gory, tabloid news and process stories that put readers to sleep. 

In Local, Hackensdack reporter Monsy Alvarado has the second story in three days on the possible rezoning of the struggling Main Street shopping district -- after she ignored public forums on the proposals held in the past couple of months.


Today's story reports the City Council on Thursday night hired a planner and an attorney "to help revamp zoning regulations along Main Street." Why is this buried on L-3?


Gee, I'm surprised the city doesn't already have enough planners and attorneys to do the job in-house. Alvarado reports Douglas Doyle of the DeCotiss Fitzpatrick & Cole law firm will be paid $125 an hour. The hourly rate for Planner Francis Reiner isn't given.

The reporter doesn't quote one of the city's many gadflies on the need to hire them.


City taxpayers should be concerned because the Main Street Business Alliance hired Street-Works LLC of New York to work up a detailed proposal for rezoning Main Street, with specific suggestions on what kind of developers could be invited to remake downtown, including a return to two-way traffic.


Is the planner and attorney hired by the council just going to duplicate that work?


See previous post on the first anniversary
of Eye on The Record




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One year later: Best of 'Eye on The Record'

Pulaski Skyway, Spanning Passaic & Hackensack ...Image via Wikipedia
One day, Editor Francis Scandale sent word to the news copy desk not to to use the words Pulaski Skyway on Page 1 because readers had never heard of it and he had never used it.

Today is the first anniversary of Eye on The Record, which has survived lawsuit threats from North Jersey Media Group, scammers hacking into my e-mail account and the outrage of the newspaper's current and former staffers that anyone would cast a critical eye on what they are doing or not doing -- and then tell the world about it.

In the early weeks, these staffers demanded that I recognize the good job some were doing, but I didn't see that as my role then and I don't see it as my role now. Besides, there is so much bad writing and editing, so many poor headlines and so much irresponsible journalism in the paper day after day, there isn't room for anything else but criticism.

What is happening to the former Hackensack daily is sad. Yet through it all, such incompetent, lazy and desperate editors as Francis Scandale, Deirdre Sykes, Tim Nostrand, Jim McGarvey, Barbara Jaeger, Liz Houlton and their minions have somehow kept their jobs, and in some cases, been promoted.  

And the Borg family -- a trio of absentee landlords, the father and his two Tarnished Silver Spoons -- grow fatter, literally or figuratively, as they squander the legacy of family members stretching back a few generations.

The news staff weathered a significant downsizing as well as defections, including the latest, award-winning Staff Writer Liz Llorente, and both the newsroom and local news coverage have become less diverse. Frank Burgos, the former managing editor who was newsroom enforcer, got a taste of his own medicine. 


Here are links to earlier posts that have traced the decline of this once-great daily. Don't forget to read the comments at the end of each -- they range from the sublime to the ridiculous -- or add a comment of your own:



Abandoning River City

'I'm not in this for the money'

How an editor can ruin a project

Taking Bergen out of The Bergen Record

Despite recession, younger Borg prospers

Anti-mass transit tirade

Not-so-lovable Hackensack

Were they really a jury of my peers?

The irrepressible Jennifer Borg

Help me with new nicknames

Tom Troncone throws his own going-away party

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Christie credibility gap widens

NORTH BERGEN, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 19: Anthony...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
NORTH BERGEN, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 19: Ana Tav...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Hudson River rail-tunnel workers demonstrate.

New Jersey handed Chris Christie a resounding victory over Jon Corzine, based on his campaign promise to save middle-class taxpayers money. But since the Republican bully took office, he's refused to reinstate the millionaire's tax, he's blown $400 million in federal education aid and he told U.S. transportation officials to shove $3 billion for the Hudson River rail tunnel you know where.

Now, The Record of Woodland Park reports, Governor Christie's decision to pull the plug on the tunnel was based on false or erroneous information or he just made up huge cost overruns to justify it. The lead story on Page 1 today declares (with an embarrassing typo in the drop head):


Hudson
tunnel
was on
budget

Documents dispute
cost-overrun claim

It's clear the onetime U.S. attorney is facing a widening credibility gap. If he is so imprecise on the big things -- education and transportation funding -- how can he believed on the little things? Yet just about every move he makes brings praise from The Record's editorial page editor, Alfred P. Doblin, who sighs, "My Hero," at the mere mention of Christie's name.


Is the world ending?

What goes with the lead paragraph on the A-1 wire story about President Obama urging women to vote next month? "In a last-ditch effort to prevent electoral disaster..."

The election is two weeks away, so how would a rally on Thursday be "last ditch"? Who says it will be an "electoral disaster"? The AP reporters? (Is it The Associated Press or The Associated Mess?) 

It just goes to show you how The Record and the rest of the media are bored with any election that isn't really close, and they'll make it close no matter which facts they have to twist. 

On A-11, there's a gushing wire story on the celebrity of a Russian ex-spy who was deported, but no mention of her reported relationship with an Englewood restaurant owner, Michel Bittan, who managed to avoid comment despite the best efforts of The Record's local staff. Maybe head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes should have threatened to sit on him.

With two extra A-sections and a 10-page Local section, it's a big paper today, but there is no Hackensack, Englewood or Teaneck news. Road Worrier John Cichowski has another pedestrian column today (L-1).


Restaurant follies

For comic relief, turn to the restaurant review in Better Living. On the cover, a refer says Halcyon in Montclair is "unique" and in the centerfold, it's called a "seafood brasserie," yet two of three photos above the headline show meat dishes.

You immediately don't like the owners, who told the naive restaurant reviewer they opened a seafood place because "having to drive to Point Pleasant for a good lobster was ridiculous." Huh? There is a lot of good lobster around -- at any Spanish or Portuguese restaurant in Newark, at the Sea Shack in Hackensack or Seafood Gourmet in Maywood, so it's the statement that's ridiculous.

The ingredients, we're told in the data box, are "excellent," but  Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung never says whether the salmon she recommends is wild or farmed and artificially colored. The bar is filled with "jabbering neighbors," which I guess would be true if you live in Montclair. 

Two of the best dishes are the all-fried fish and chips ($17) and brioche chocolate banana bread pudding ($8). Of the latter, she says: "Trust me. Just order it." Ah, but do you trust her three-star rating?



New e-mail accounts

I have two new e-mail addresses.

They are vsasson44@hotmail.com and vsasson7@gmail.com.

Please delete vsasson@hotmail.com from your contact list, and disregard any messages from that account.



VICTOR E. SASSON

Hotmail account compromised

If you received an e-mail asking you to send money to me, it is fraudulent. My Hotmail e-mail account has been hacked into, and a distress message has been sent out, supposedly from London. Ignore it. 

I can no longer access my e-mail, because apparently my password has been changed. I cannot reset my password because the alternative e-mail address Hotmail has for me was the one I had at The Record.

VICTOR E. SASSON

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Check the lost-and-found for all those jobs

NEW YORK - APRIL 02:  People wait on line to s...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
People wait on line to speak to job recruiters at a career day program.


Is The Record of Woodland Park trying to hide its role and the role of every other employer in the dismal jobs picture -- a main issue in next month's congressional elections? On Page 1 today, a refer carries the headline:

Jobs not growing
in Garden State
Gee, if you could grow jobs like tomatoes or corn, New Jersey would be in great shape. But the text below the headline says "the state lost 20,200 jobs" last month as the rest of the U.S. added them. How did it "lose" jobs? Did anyone check the employment lost-and-found?

Of course, the Borgs and every other employer would like nothing more than if readers believe jobs could be "lost" and "found." Publisher Stephen A. Borg is especially sensitive about this issue because of the $3.65 million he sucked out of North Jersey Media Group in the form of a mortgage for his 8,000-square-foot home in Tenafly.

If Greedy Stevie had stayed in his $2 million home, could he have postponed the downsizing that followed several months later or made it less severe? 

The quality of the paper had been going downhill under the incompetent leadership of Editors Francis Scandale, Deirdre Sykes, Tim Nostrand, Jim McGarvey, Barbara Jaeger and others, but when Borg jettisoned many experienced workers and moved to Woodland Park, the decline gathered great speed.

In the employment story on L-8, the first Business page, Staff Writer Hugh Morley does not use the word "employers" or "companies" or "businesses" or "small-business owners" anywhere. Jobs are identified as "government" and "private sector." It's other-worldly. 

So, if you read between the lines, you learn that businesses in New Jersey fired, downsized, laid off or otherwise royally screwed 9,400 more people in September than they hired. How many thousands of families saw their lives turned upside down, while Stephen sipped a great Bordeaux at the Englewood wine bar in which he and his big sister have invested?

Recently, the Business pages had a Q&A with an executive from Ramsey who said it was "too expensive" to hire employees. What goes unsaid by this moron, Borg and others is that the worker who remains standing is expected to do the work of two, three or more who have been shown the door, while the executives keep more of the money for themselves.

The L-8 story reports "the state lost 10,800 government jobs." Was that because of Governor Christie's state aid cuts, which have fallen most heavily on the middle and working classes? Not a word on the cause of the jobs "loss" appears in the story.

This is Zisa's defense?

On A-1 today, the defense attorney for suspended Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa complains  the investigation of him was one-sided and he was denied the chance to testify before the grand jury. He also proclaims his innocence, but if this is all his attorney has, he'll soon be going down in flames. 

Why is this on Page 1, in place of the debate between Bergen County executive candidates?


Monsy catches up to the weeklies

Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado has a second story in the paper today, an L-1  report on  zoning and other changes proposed for Main Street that are many months old. 

She buries on the continuation page that one of the changes sought is a return to two-way traffic, and omits any mention of how The Record's abandonment of Hackensack has affected businesses.


Better Living


Thursday's Better Living section has been missing food coverage for years, but a Starters column appears today, moved up from its usual Friday slot. Unfortunately, this first look at a new restaurant in Tappan, N.Y., completely omits prices, making the piece sound suspiciously like an advertisement.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From Big Cheese to small potatoes

A pumpkin stem.Image via Wikipedia


A couple of weeks ago, Tom Troncone was night editor of The Record of Woodland Park. Now, he is an editor at AOL Patch -- the local news site -- posting a photo of pumpkins with a story on a pumpkin patch on Ridgewood Patch.


All those patches confusing you? What does Patch mean, anyway? Patched up? Patched together? Pumpkin patch? Turf? Territory? Your guess is as good as mine. It just seems like small potatoes.


This is a link to the story about Ridgewood's only pumpkin patch. It's chatty, but not well-edited.

Pumkin patch on Ridhewood Patch

The first paragraph notes there is no hay ride, but there are plans for one next year. Later, we read this:

"There's no muss, no fuss, no expensive farm markets or rip off expensive hayrides."
 A little off-message, don't you think? 

Patch is covering only four towns in Bergen County now, and hardly represents a threat to The Record, even though local coverage in the paper is, well, patchy.
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Laughter amid the tears

The Big Story logo from 2005-01-19 to 2006-11-26Image via Wikipedia


I've said it before and I'll say it again: Editors Francis Scandale, Deirdre Sykes, Jim McGarvey and the rest of that sorry lot at The Record of Woodland Park cannot handle The Big Story.

Today's tabloid-like front page is dominated by the sad tale of a father who killed his two young children in Ringwood, then took his own life; and the indictment of suspended Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa on new charges. 

Both stories have problems, and near the end, the latter story provides comic relief by reporting, "Zisa....comes from a family of public servants." What a joke.

How many decades is The Record and other media going to report there were no outward signs of trouble and the neighbors were shocked or stunned after a murder, suicide or other tragedy, and never do the story on 1) how superficial our relationships with our neighbors truly are, and 2) is there anyplace a troubled person can turn for help in North Jersey? 

Instead, 11 reporters, a photographer and a graphic artist are thrown at assembling the main bar under the questionable leadership of Editor Jim McScreamy. The bodies were discovered Monday night at 8, so either the late police checks missed this important story or the cops withheld it until Tuesday.  
This map shows the incorporated and unincorpor...Image via Wikipedia
Why are there no interviews with Hackensack residents on the indictment of  the police chief?

Turning to the Zisa story, why did the Hackensack reporter find it necessary to attribute the indictment to the Prosecutor's Office, and why didn't any editor catch that clunky construction in the lead story on Page 1? 

Why are there no interviews with residents, who flooded northjersey.com with comments (see previous post)? Where is the sidebar on whether Zisa's legal troubles, lawsuits filed against him and cops' disciplinary hearings have affected the morale of the department or the quality of policing? Does the public still have confidence in the department?

In short, when is Sykes and her minions going to get their heads out of their ample asses, and give some real direction to Monsy Alvarado, who has been pursuing the Zisa story for nearly two years, often to the exclusion of basic news about the city, where the newspaper was founded in 1895?

Even when the paper's employees filled four floors at 150 River St., only a few blocks from Hackensack Police Department headquarters, I cannot recall a story on the Zisa family dynasty and the nepotism, in what many refer to as "Zisaville."

Do you think Karen Rouse or any other reporter who covered the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in recent years ever asked to see the agency's budget? (See A-1 story today on "$43 million in waste.")

In Local, a story reports a Hebrew-immersion elementary school in Englewood is applying for designation as a charter school -- just what that city needs to further segregation in the lower grades.


Food Editor Susan Sherrill's "In Your Kitchen" column debuts in Better Living today (F-1) with two recipes from a French cookbook that use butter, cream and pancetta (similar to bacon). The F-2 photo is by her husband. If you're watching your cholesterol, please turn the page.

Editor Barbara Jaeger's Better Living section is always designated "F," as in F.U. to readers who want to eat healthy meals.


Comments on the Zisa indictment

Here are comments from northjersey.com on the indictment of suspended Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa (as of 10:30 this morning):

Wednesday October 20, 2010, 10:22 AM - lj says:


The people do not want their representatives offering him a plea. His pension should be taken away from him. Zisa should not be rewarded for his criminal behavior. That would be a disgrace.

Wednesday October 20, 2010, 9:42 AM - Sue B says:

Is his a picture of remorse?!

Wednesday October 20, 2010, 8:45 AM - The Truth__9076 says:

There has been talk of a plea deal where Zisa will KEEP his pension??. ... I certainly hope NOT!!!!.

Wednesday October 20, 2010, 8:36 AM - thistle1967 says:

Corruption all over the county this is just the tip of the iceberg. It deflects off of everything else.

Wednesday October 20, 2010, 8:29 AM - FarmerSays says:

ZISA AND HIS CRONIES ALL THOUGHT THAT THEY WERE THE UNTOUCHABLES.

Wednesday October 20, 2010, 7:36 AM - lily2010 says:

Is Tiernan still on the county payroll ?

Wednesday October 20, 2010, 6:17 AM - lily2010 says:

What about a RICO charge-Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization ,it appears that he ran this place like the mob with his own little crew. Disgraceful. Somebody should have told this guy respect is earned. I guess thats what happens when you don't earn your rank or when you are propelled to higher authority by politics. I'm sure some others are using some type of stomach medication today-who knows what Kenny will tell about.

Wednesday October 20, 2010, 6:12 AM - da-mayer says:

The Ziss's give the citizens of Hackensack pure hell. Good riddance!

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 11:49 PM - lily2010 says:

What about Fredo ? When the music stops who will be left standing ? Just another blow to the Democrats in this County.Who will be named next ? Maybe the County will hire more spokespeople to spin the misdeeds,time to flush the bowl on all these turds.

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 11:14 PM - jazmen says:

leaning tower of zisa is crumbling down. lol

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 11:14 PM - jazmen says:

leaning tower of zisa is crumbling down. lol

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 11:00 PM - retired and lovin it says:

Nobody wins

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 10:21 PM - realtor101 says:

Lets see if the Chiefs Association goes to bat for him and embarrases themselves!

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 9:58 PM - lj says:

Indictments are not convictions. Bergen County should not feel vindicated yet.

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 8:51 PM - NJ Dissident says:

This further confirms New Jersey as The Soprano State. Lock up the scum.

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 7:32 PM - lily2010 says:

Thank you Prosecutor Molinelli for conducting this investigation and not caving in to the pressure. Wonder who in his party Kenny may sing about,could it impact the coming County Exec and Sheriff races ? Yes sir there is trouble in river city.

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 7:07 PM - Mr. Knickerbocker says:

One thing that Zisa and his crew forgot was that not everyone is your enemy, even if they don't go along with your "program." Sometimes you got to throw the others a bone just to keep them happy. What he did was pick-and-choose "his guys" and alienated everyone else. Big Mistake! Then, the first time he stepped on his d..k, the alienated crowd pounced! Whatever punishment he gets for his legal problems won't make up for the grief he caused the Hack PD on a day-to-day basis. Good Riddance!

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 6:42 PM - Sparky says:

Saudino next!

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 5:58 PM - libs_r_phony says:

Bet he still gets his pension

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 5:54 PM - Redline says:

Before you all get too excited, just wait to see the plea deal he ends up striking. He'll get 3 months at club fed with daily passes to Bada Bing's WORST case.

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 5:35 PM - hackrez says:

Finally!

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 5:31 PM - mm4218 says:

Enjoy Bergen County Jail.

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 5:27 PM - hillman says:

Ya think the heat got a little too much for the county Prosecutor's office to continue covering up things? Potentailly bad news for those past and present involved with certain other Bergen PDs. Everybody for themselves.

Tuesday October 19, 2010, 5:23 PM - LuckyOne says:

Its about time!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Grand jury indicts Hackensack's police chief

The Bergen County courthouse in Bergen County,...Image via Wikipedia
A grand jury returned an indictment against suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa.


This is what we'll probably see on the front of The Record of Woodland Park on Wednesday:

Hackensack police chief indicted

Compare the Cliffview Pilot.com version, above, to what appeared on northjersey.com just before 10 p.m. Tuesday. Who is responsible for these two messy paragraphs?

northjersey.com story
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'Your honor, Mr. Green isn't here'

picture of 1882 Rutgers College Football teamImage via Wikipedia
The Rutgers College football team in 1882.

I feel sorry for that Rutgers football player who is paralyzed, but does Editor Francis Scandale really expect me to read this much about  it? I follow Formula 1 racing, not baseball, so I'm totally uninterested in the main element on Page 1 today. The Democrat turned Republican who is intent on unseating the congressman from Wantage? Yawn.

But look at the fourth A-1 story today in The Record of Woodland Park -- a glowing profile of the defense attorney for Ridgefield Mayor Anthony R. Suarez, who is on trial in federal court. Look at that client list. Read about his rags-to-riches rise. Why should I be interested in that? What kind of hourly rate does he command? $300? $400? More?


Oh, that's not in the story. Is that a deliberate oversight? 

In deference to the bar, The Record long has avoided discussing legal fees or even what attorneys keep when a jury award or settlement yields many millions of dollars for a plaintiff. And, of course, the former Hackensack daily has never explored the larger issue of how high legal fees and the snail's pace of civil litigation limit people's access to the courts.

Poor Suarez. Even if he is found not guilty, he'll probably be broke or his "legal defense fund" will be empty.


The relationships among judges and attorneys is so cozy. A criminal defense attorney can walk into a courtroom and say, "Your honor, Mr. Green isn't here. I'd like a postponement." And the judge, who was an attorney, immediately understands the lawyer hasn't been paid his retainer. No retainer, no representation, no hearing.


The front of Local has an "Accident of the Day" photo on the front -- a signature of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes. No Hackensack or Teaneck news appears in the section.


Food Editor Susan Sherrill and Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung have been so busy stuffing their faces with cupcakes, apple pie and other desserts, they didn't have time to write anything local for Better Living today.


Sherrill has been slaving away on her debut "Your Kitchen" column, based on a cookbook recipe. I've been eating takeout for days in anticipation.


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