Friday, December 31, 2010

Huge typo on the Editorial Page

A cup of Turkish coffee served on a terrace in...Image via Wikipedia
Turkish coffee is ready to drink when it comes to the table.


Was today's upbeat editorial on the "Year of Christie" written by Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin --  The Record's chief apologist for Governor Christie? 

The Woodland Park daily is so eager to praise Christie no one noticed the huge typo on the size of the state budget. It's $29.4 billion, not the $29.4 million that appears on Page A-22. How sloppy can you get?

Doblin is the only Editorial Page editor I've ever heard of whose editorials represent the paper's official position on important issues, but who then turns around and writes opinion columns, most of which seem to be in awe of the governor. 

It's laughable how many references this popinjay makes to Hollywood movies in his columns and editorials.

Today, he was so eager to avoid any mention of how Christie balanced the state budget on the backs of the middle and working classes -- from poor schoolchildren to women to mass transit users -- he apparently deliberately low-balled the size of the budget, using "millions" instead of "billions" in the we-love-the-Republican-bully editorial. 

Let's see if this major error is corrected. Production Editor Liz Houlton usually doesn't bother correcting all the screw-ups by her news copy editors and page proofers. She thinks readers are too stupid to notice all the mistakes in the paper.

World focus

On the last day of 2010, The Record's front page mainly focuses on events outside North Jersey -- in another slap-in-the face to readers in Bergen, Passaic and Morris counties.

The lead stories today and Thursday reveal how well the Christie administration has managed the news media. Just on Wednesday, a non-profit group that pushed the Republican governor's legislative agenda released its donor list, showing how companies and others who do business with the state circumvented the pay-to-play ban.

Editor Francis Scandale ran a huge picture of Times Square getting ready for New Year's Eve, even though the poor cleanup from the blizzard that ended Monday remains evident in Hackensack and many other towns in North Jersey.

No local news

Was the biggest event in North Jersey on Thursday a non-fatal accident on Route 80 east -- shown in a huge photo on L-1 today? And is that a new style -- with the photo over line flush right and the bare-bones caption flush left?

If all head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes can come up with to fill L-1 is that accident and the approval of variances in Lyndhurst, she's not doing her job. But she made sure to get a story on the police chief retiring in her small town on L-3 today, even though there is no Hackensack, Englewood or Teaneck news or anything else from a lot of other towns.

You'll have to pick up the weekly Hackensack Chronicle for a report on the $1.5 million the city has spent on legal fees in connection with lawsuits against indicted Police Chief Ken Zisa and salaries for officers who were suspended after Zisa charged them administratively.

Chinese lesson

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung devotes far more text today to "the story" of Cheng Du 23 in Wayne, the owner and the chef than she does to the dishes she sampled -- now severely limited by penny pinching Features Director Barbara Jaeger. 

Ung doesn't recommend this three-star restaurant (Excellent), if you're "looking for a more formal atmosphere." Would that be a restaurant where you have to wear formal wear? Hasn't she ever heard of a multi-course Chinese banquet? Isn't that formal?

Next to her review in the Better Living centerfold today is a mini-review of Bahama Breeze, a faux-Caribbean restaurant in Wayne that she rated two stars (Good). 

The review, published Sept. 3, 2009, reports she was served "mushy" pasta, raw or undercooked scallops three times, as the staff apologized profusely; "scorched" shrimp and sweet potatoes she enjoyed more than the desserts she sampled. But by giving the restaurant two stars, she has cheapened her ratings for all restaurants that follow.

Jeff Page, the free lancer who writes the renamed Eating Out for Under $50 feature, doesn't even mention if the bread served at Hummus Elite, an Israeli restaurant in Englewood, is any good. He calls it a "kosher Mediterranean" restaurant.

In his review, he cautions readers not to stir the Turkish coffee. Mr. Page, that coffee is brewed with sugar, so no stirring is necessary. 

You'll need strong coffee to get through today's paper. Don't expect anything to change in the new year. Lazy editors and absentee owners add up to bad journalism 365 days a year.
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Get the time element right, stupid

The Rim and the SlotImage by Bill on Capitol Hill via Flickr
The rim (news copy desk) and the slot (supervisor) in the old days.

Since Production Editor Liz Houlton began supervising the news copy desk of The Record and Herald News,  the quality and accuracy of headlines and captions has declined dramatically, and errors abound. 

Of course, anyone familiar with her supervision of the features copy desk could have seen it coming. Numerous errors in food copy got past her cursor, and proofing of pages routinely missed other mistakes. 

Yet, she got a big promotion, to assistant managing editor (before her title was changed); presumably a big raise and her hen-pecked husband, George Cubanski, took over her job as slot of the features copy desk. How cozy.

Houlton apparently is powerless to do anything about the news copy desk -- or rim -- which is spinning out of control under her supervision and the supervision of slot Vinny Byrne. With the departure of co-slot Nancy Cherry in 2008, the desk lost an eagle-eyed editor to whom quality and accuracy mattered.

The Record of Woodland Park today struggles to get the time element right, and columns and other stories are strangled by overwriting. For a daily newspaper, accuracy is essential when describing when something happened or will happen, and yet the former Hackensack daily often misses the boat.

What year is it?

Political Stile Columnist Charles Stile must have been told the column that appears on the front page today would run on Jan. 1 or later, but when it was being processed Wednesday, no one -- not the assignment editor, presumably Deirdre Sykes; Houlton, the copy editor or the slot -- noticed the time element had to be corrected. 

It wasn't, as his lead paragraph shows: "Governor Christie succeeded in seizing New Jersey's political agenda last year." Last year? 2009? He didn't take office until January of this year. The copy editor must have been on autopilot.

On the jump (A-6), Stile says redrawing of congressional districts, based on the 2010 Census, means an incumbent "will find himself out of a job next year [2011]." But the next election isn't until 2012, and the new member of Congress won't be seated until 2013. Autopilot again.

What week is it?

On the front of Sykes' Local section, Staff Writer Michael Gartland reports concerns about cost and accessibility of Saturday's traditional Jan. 1 reorganization of the Bergen County Freeholder Board.

One freeholder is quoted on L-6 as saying "he would rather have held the ceremony later in the week on Wednesday." But the words "later in the week" are inaccurate, because Saturday, Jan. 1, is the end of the week. Those words should have been dropped. Autopilot again.

The reporter also never explains clearly why a Saturday reorganization will cost more than one during the week, and there seems to be no basis for the main headline: "A taxpayer-funded party?"

Nexus, schmexus

Columnist Mike Kelly has been spinning his wheels for a number of years, but I have to recognize him today for being the first at The Record to question the absence of both Governor Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadano during the blizzard clean-up this week.

Still, can't anyone edit this guy and put a stop to his overwriting -- to his apparent belief that a columnist doesn't have to follow the basic journalistic principle of writing simply and clearly? He fails to communicate with readers, who are left muttering, What the F does that mean? Here, try to digest this:
"The nexus between the public and private lives of elected officials is often filled with thorns, emotional fissures and weird detours into secrecy and bad choices."
Another snow job

Blizzard clean-up coverage is banished to L-3 today. Yet, three days after the storm ended, numerous corners at major Hackensack intersections remain uncleared, endangering drivers and pedestrians alike. 

This morning, I watched an FDU student bounding over a couple of feet of snow in front of the Dunkin' Donuts as he crossed Hackensack Avenue, but on the other side he decided to walk in the street rather than repeat the effort. The turn lane at University Plaza Drive was mostly covered by snow.

The Business staff must have taken an early New Year's weekend. Only one byline appears in the Business pages today. The baby boomer shown on L-7 is from Florida.

Screw the photographers

And why are the paper's talented photographers given A-8 for some of their best 2010 photos? The photos are so much more interesting than all the drivel Sykes and Editor Francis Scandale run on the fronts. 

Sykes must really hate them, judging from all the accident photos she has Tariq Zehawi and others chasing.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jerry DeMarco takes on critics

Corey Feldman at the Sugar Cane Club in Las Ve...Image via Wikipedia
Corey Feldman

Dear Anonymous: 

I'm a reader commenting on a blog here, not a publishing writer. I can swipe Harry Potter whole cloth here & it wouldn't matter. This is a blog, a  unique form of media. Apples & oranges.

The fact that you're not aware of that, or of what Wikipedia is all about, lamentably speaks to my very point. Surrender the pedantry, please, and maybe you'll hear it.

Bemoaning your "loss" is less time spent in the here and now. It turns you into an autoworker instead of the multi-skilled pro that you are. The people who made VCRs didn't fold their tents. Neither did lots of other people in dying industries.

"Change only brings more problems," the councilman played by Kevin Nealon on "Weeds" said. It was his campaign slogan in running for re-election. Funny, too -- only it's not true. Change brings opportunities ESPECIALLY for those with word, image and other communications skills.

The world's not getting dumber but sharper. Problem is: People who run certain newspapers aren't keeping up.

You, for instance, have an ARMY of weekly reporters & photogs who are treated like second-class citizens. Why? Because they didn't go through what you went through. Because they don't have "daily experience."

They're boots on the ground, unlike the clueless eyes-on-the-monitor/phone-in-the-ear drones you have. They KNOW the people in their towns. They're TRUSTED. If anyone in management had half a brain, they'd use these COMPANY-PAID resources to bring readers comprehensive local coverage under one kick-ass umbrella.

NEW SLOGAN: "We're up the ahole of Bergen. Have a look."

Honestly, if The Record is fulfilling Corey Feldman's mission (does look like him, doesn't he?), then he's an even bigger dunce than he acts. I mean: The weekly reporter gets all the detail, the color, and yet Will Lamb or Bautista has to independently produce a separate story -- forbidden from using any of the material ALREADY OWNED BY THE PARENT COMPANY -- when either could be using his particular skills to produce ADDED VALUE.

[Above, Jerry DeMarco apparently is saying Stephen Borg and Corey Feldman resemble each other. -- Eye on The Record.]

Crude, rude, etc.

Yeah, I'm crude, rude, inappropriate, blunt, tactless, you name it. But I'm loyal to the people who are good to me, I defend them to the death, and I don't suffer toxic types easily.

For two years, I've lived out here in the real world, where the answer isn't to lament -- or tear down -- but to find paths to success.

Maybe it's by building a website... and landing an adjunct post at a college that makes ALL of its media classes interdisciplinary... and taking on freelance assignments rebuilding websites, editing newsletters, and more.

I don't know who you are, but if you think you're safe, that newspapers are somehow going to withstand the march of time, that the product produced by your division isn't going to be sold or folded sometime soon... well... then I REALLY don't wanna fight with you.

I mean that, sincerely.

Get over it already. Own your destiny. I'M not your enemy.

Jerry DeMarco

See comments at end of post,  
'Unforeseen problem' delays delivery
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'I'm so bored with this blizzard already'

Snow removalImage via Wikipedia

"When was the blizzard over?" head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes said to no one in particular at Tuesday afternoon's news meeting in Woodland Park. "I'm so bored with it and all these people complaining about glacial snow removal. Get a life, will ya?

"I mean," she said, stopped by her own laugh, "Monday's paper badly low-balled the estimate of how much snow would fall, and today's front page [Tuesday] was upbeat, looking forward to warmer temperatures. 

"But don't readers appreciate how all those vignettes turned their drab suburbs into a bootiful winter wonderland?

"I'm so glad The Record moved out of Hackensack," she went on, "where employees did such a shitty job of clearing the parking lot, you remember, I fell and injured myself trying to cross a snowbank."

Well-padded editor

Several sets of eyes focused on her face, framed by another one of her incredibly ugly hair styles. These layout editors were the lowest on the totem pole, and they detested this woman who seemed to hold onto power in the newsroom year after year despite her legendary laziness and her "pets," who did nothing. 

They thought to themselves, "Yeah, we remember how you flopped on your ass, but you were probably saved from serious injury by all that padding. Yet, you still took how many weeks off?"

Sykes continued, "OK. Let's talk about education, gas prices, airport delays on the front page tomorrow [Wednesday] -- anything but residents bitching about a tickets blitz to get them to dig their cars out or uncleared sidewalks and streets. What do you think, Frank?"

Editor Francis Scandale: "Sure, Deirdre. Can we get a sports photo on the front again?"

Burying minority news

Way back on A-17 today, a wire-service story from Miami reported the deaths of five teenagers, who were overcome by fumes from the running engine of a car they parked in a garage under their motel room. 

Given better play, the story could have been instructive to new drivers unaware of the dangers of a running engine in a confined space. Oh, the teens lived in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood, and Scandale probably thought they weren't worth mention near the front.

A day late -- again

Many other newspapers gave voice to residents' frustration and anger Tuesday over the slow pace of snow removal, but The Record comes to the party a day late -- with two stories on the front of Sykes' Local section today.

Impassable side streets and limited mass transit were evident Monday and Tuesday, too, but Sykes and her minions (D. Sforza, R. Whitby, C. Joseph, et. al) were too lazy to notice. Why were trains keeping a holiday schedule Tuesday? "Due to continued weather conditions," the L-1 story reported on the jump page, L-3.

From Englewood, Staff Writer Giovanna Fabiano reports private contractors were brought in by the city to supplement city cleanup crews. She probably got that by phone, so you won't read anything from her about the hundreds of boot prints left by nannies, maids and other workers on the unshoveled sidewalks in front of multimillion dollar mansions on North Woodland Street.

And no reporter seems to have ventured out to Routes 4 and 17, where mounds of snow at the exits of retail parking lots block drivers' view of oncoming traffic and make entering roadways a white-knuckle leap of faith.

Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski -- long clueless on what makes a readable column -- today writes about rock salt (L-1).
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Record gets an 'F'

The park side under record snowfall in the Bli...Image via Wikipedia

All we can handle

Besides being as dull as dishwater, the banger headline on the front page of The Record today is simply wrong. This blizzard -- like most major snowstorms in the last few decades -- was way too much to handle for state, county and municipal snow-clearing crews.

It's hard to understand how dozens of editors and reporters can work on a story and almost totally ignore the frustration and anger of drivers, mass-transit users and pedestrians over their inability to get around. 

Nothing has changed in a decade. When Editor Francis Scandale came here from the Denver Post in January 2001, he was outraged by inadequate coverage of the poor response to the first major snowstorm of the year.

Today, pedestrians really get the back of the newspaper's hand, despite being forced by unshoveled sidewalks to endanger themselves by walking  in the street. 

Most bus stops go uncleared, forcing riders to wait in the street or balance themselves on top of snowbanks.

This morning, on a two-mile drive, it was easy to see how Hackensack residents weren't well-served, with many sidewalks still covered by snow and corners of major intersections uncleared, challenging drivers and pedestrians. Even Hackensack Avenue, a major street, didn't have two clear lanes in each direction.

Other newspapers didn't hesitate to go to bat for residents.

Staten Island Advance: 

City gets an 'F'

New York Post: 

Fury as city is paralyzed by blizzard
Ice scream!

Daily News: 

Blizzard stops city cold, and transit officials 
warn today's no picnic either

Despite all their so-called experience, Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, Production Editor Liz Houlton and all their clueless minions don't seem to get it and don't seem to care one bit about readers. 

In a region that weathers several major snowstorms each year, towns should be able to clear streets, intersections and bus stops quickly, and enforce shoveling of sidewalks. If you're going to send out dozens of reporters, it would be simple to rate towns on snow clearing, but it's something the Woodland Park daily has never done.

The front-page map of snowfall omits Hackensack, where the paper was founded in 1895 and prospered for more than 110 years. 

The reporter sent to Hackensack on Monday made just two stops: Dunkin' Donuts and Target. She must have been driving with blinders on not to see how poorly some streets had been cleared.

Even Features Editor Barbara Jaeger dropped the ball in Better Living, publishing a story on snow-clearing gear only today -- after the storm passed.

A final note: My paper was never delivered on Monday.


On A-1 today, the paper reports NJ Transit service was to resume at 12:01 a.m. On A-6, the continuation of the blizzard roundup, the same bus service "was expected to resume after midnight this morning." Huh?

Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski made a rare trip out of the office to see how well roads had been cleared. 

He found two pedestrians, calling them "compulsive about marching on foot through snow." 

They turned out to be compulsive drinkers, as well, maybe even alcoholics. He quoted both as saying they needed a drink. He apparently saw no one walking in the street -- inches away from passing cars -- because of the miles and miles of uncleared sidewalks.

This man loves cars so much he hardly ever writes about mass transit. He even calls his car "Mr. Honda" and refers to it as a "family member." I wonder what his wife and children think about that. 

He reports that "every footbridge over Route 4, as well as the steps to them, appeared to be swept clean." Of course, he missed the snowed-under Hackensack Avenue sidewalk over Route 4, near The Shops at Riverside. 

It is never shoveled, because the city and county argue over who has responsibility for it.

Readers are the ones who need a drink after plowing through Chick's irrelevant drivel.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Today's front page

Newseum building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washi...Image via Wikipedia
The museum of news in Washington, D.C.

Here is today's front page from the Newseum Web site:

Page 1 of The Record

The front page of the Woodland Park daily is a mix of breaking news and an expose of how some public official spent tax dollars to live high on the hog.

With the story on the blizzard, a photo showing cars moving over a snow-covered street says, "Cars navigating snow-covered streets in Englewood," using the plural "streets" even though only one street is shown.

What's shown in the photo is so obvious, the news copy editor breaks a cardinal rule: You don't tell readers what they can see for themselves. Production Editor Liz Houlton, who supervises the news copy desk, must have been napping at her computer again.

'Unforeseen problem' delays delivery

Ground blizzard conditions in Ontario. HWY 26 ...Image via Wikipedia

"Due to an unforeseen problem, the delivery of today's paper will be late."

That's the message I heard this morning around 8 when I called the 201 number I usually dial if my paper is missing, wet or late (201-646-4444).

Does "unforeseen problem" refer to the depth of the snow that fell  most of Sunday and overnight? A front-page story in The Record of Woodland Park on Sunday predicted a blizzard.

Were there problems with the presses in far-off Rockaway Township? The Mercedes-Benz  trucks that haul the papers back to Bergen County? 

What about the rag-tag crew of independent home deliverers, whose cars and trucks test the limits of the vehicle-inspection regulations?

I remember when my hometown daily newspaper was put together by reporters and editors in a Hackensack newsroom and printed in the same building. Then, the first legible copies -- the so-called good copies -- were rushed upstairs and pored over for typos, bad headlines and other problems, and fixes were made as soon as possible.
What a concept.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

We've lost confidence in all of you

Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Looking west.Image via Wikipedia
St. Paul remains the capitol of Minnesota, despite a map published today in The Record.

How sloppy can The Record of Woodland Park get? In seemingly every section of today's paper, readers find lazy journalism, laughable reporting, writing and copy editing; errors, and omissions. Columnists just push around words, masking their subjects, afraid readers will protest, "Again!"

What are Editor Francis Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, Production Editor Liz Houlton and their minions doing to earn their inflated salaries? They're certainly not concerned with the rapid decline in the quality of the paper.

On Page 1, the otherwise interesting story on the personal wealth of North Jersey's congressional delegation by Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson gives the age of only one of the five members, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. Great copy editing.

On the front of Local, Columnist John Cichowski continues in his self-appointed roles of the region's driving instructor and the paper's chief space filler with, what, his 20th column on tips for traveling by car in bad weather.

Sykes had no "LOCAL ISSUE" for today's L-1, so we get a story on the first year of the New Meadowlands Stadium, which was used by a fraction of readers. What about real issues -- such as aircraft noise, decrepit local buses and lots of other stuff the lazy editors ignore?  

Staff Writer John Brennan's lead paragraph sounds like he is summing up the weather in the last year. He then quotes the stadium CEO: "I can certainly say we've been battle-tested, but the problem is you have to go through the battles to get there." Huh? Get where?

The driver-centric newspaper does, however, have some mass-transit reporting today -- a hilarious filler story on an issue of huge importance in Cresskill: The location of a new bus stop (L-3). It's only five paragraphs, but they are so imprecise, unanswered questions abound.

Another John Brennan?

The reporter says: "Because it's new, government officials are expecting little traffic." Is that a reference to the bus route being new? What does that have to do with the amount of traffic? "Government officials" usually is used to refer to the federal government. Is this bus stop a federal case?

Cresskill Councilman John Brennan seems to be as dim-witted as his namesake, the John Brennan who wrote the stadium piece: "We don't think it [the bus stop] will be a big deal. It won't be highly used. If there is nobody [bus rider] there, nobody [the bus driver] will be stopping there." Oh, is that how it works?

Pie in our faces

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung surprises me today by not mentioning her chief obsession -- dessert -- once in "The Corner Table" column on the "best of 2010 in dining," but she also ignores restaurants that serve organic produce and naturally raised meat (F-1).

She did a column on food professionals' "holiday wishes," but not one on the wishes of readers, whom she is supposed to serve. Today, she expresses her own wish -- that restaurants would make her job easier by identifying their specialties, apparently so she can confine herself to reviewing their best dishes and not waste time eating anything else on the menu.

Where would that leave readers who don't order specialties? And isn't she motivated by the paper's budgetary cutbacks? 

Though Ung hasn't told readers, penny-pincher Features Director Barbara Jaeger apparently is limiting her to one guest -- instead of three -- on each of two visits to restaurants, meaning she can sample only about half the dishes she did before. So most reviews discuss a limited number of appetizers and entrees, but Ung insists on sampling four desserts at each place.

Jaeger long has denied Ung reimbursement for wine or other alcoholic beverages, though that doesn't stop the editor from running a three-year-old photo of the reviewer's chin and pudgy cheeks poised above a glass of wine.

Numbers challenged

Columnist Mike Kelly's lead paragraph on the front of Opinion today is almost word for word what appeared in the lead paragraph of the paper 22 years ago, when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown apart above Scotland. 

Twenty-two years is closer to 20 years than to 25, so why does he begin, "Almost a quarter century ago...."? He's one of the paper's chief word pushers, that's why. Just say 22 years ago and be done with it.

Thank God for Margulies

The best page in the paper today is O-4, with a review of Margulies cartoons in 2010 (and another on O-1). 

They dramatize how honest the cartoonist is in assessing Governor Christie, compared to all the apologists on the reporting and Editorial Page staffs who have done such a good public relations job for the Republican bully. Remember, he balanced the state budget on the backs of the middle and working classes in New Jersey.

Unreal estate

Since it was created by Publisher Stephen A. Borg three or four years ago, the Real Estate section has polished the image of the real estate industry, while publishing distorted "Moving Up" profiles of such communities as Paterson and Englewood, and running a feature on second homes in far off places that is of interest to only the wealthiest readers.

An exception is today's R-1 story by Staff Writer Kathleen Lynn on how a bank is trying to screw a family that has fallen on hard times.

But also on R-1, a map of Minnesota with the "Getting Away" feature substitutes St. Louis for St. Paul as the capitol.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Expect lawsuits galore

a common VMS sign displaying a warning in East...Image via Wikipedia

The chain-reaction crash that killed two and injured five on the New Jersey Turnpike in Ridgefield will generate lawsuits galore that we'll be reading about for a couple of years. 

But the story on the front page of The Record today left a couple of important questions unanswered, despite the effort of at least four reporters for the Woodland Park daily and The Star-Ledger, and an unknown number of editors.

Reading the story, the time line begins around 6:45 in the morning Friday -- when a tractor-trailer's rear wheels fell off -- and ends at 7:19 a.m., when two victims were pronounced dead. I'm sure lawyers are already drawing up suits against the owner of that apparently poorly maintained truck.

The story is silent on whether it was dark or light. Why couldn't drivers see vehicles and people in the travel lanes before they struck them? 

A state trooper is quoted: "It's just one of those things that unfolded so rapidly, nobody had time to stop and get out of the way." 

What is the chance the paper will do a follow and report on whether any of the drivers were speeding, speaking on cellphones and so forth?

Accident of the day

To supplement the gore on the turnpike, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes runs a non-fatal "accident-of-the-day" photo on L-2 today. 

A fatal SUV hit-and-run involving a worshiper on his way to a synagogue in Englewood is relegated to L-3. 

Cliffview has far more information on the hit-run, including the victim's name and profession. Here's the link:

Doctor killed in Englewood

A few years ago, another Orthodox Jew was killed by an SUV as he was crossing Grand Avenue. 

The Englewood reporter quoted police as saying the man wasn't in a crosswalk when he was stuck, but there were no crosswalks at that point on Grand. Maybe the reporter did the story by phone, and never went to the scene to check out the cops' statement.

I'll bet there was a big lawsuit filed over that Grand Avenue fatality, though I never saw anything about it in the paper.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Houlton, we have a problem

A Honda Accord which crashed into a small guar...Image via Wikipedia

The "accident-of-the-day photo" relied on so heavily by head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes to fill all that yawning space in Local has been grabbed today by Editor Francis Scandale, desperate in his own way to find something compelling for Page 1 every day.

But is it legitimate for The Record of Woodland Park to include crashes that result from police chases in classifying December as the most dangerous month on state roads? Maybe the real, untold story is a spike in crime during the holidays. 

Houlton's hooligans

The news copy desk continues to wreak havoc. This has gone on so long you'd think Production Director Liz Houlton, who supervises the desk, would realize how all the errors in the last few years reflect on the paper's credibility. 

Of course, the frumpy Houlton was the "Queen of Errors" in her previous role as supervisor of the dysfunctional features copy desk, but she is a pal of Features Director Barbara Jaeger and went on to a big promotion and, presumably, a big raise.

The photo-graphic-text package on A-1 refers readers to A-6, but -- oops -- you won't find anything about traffic accidents there. You'll have to turn to Page A-8, if you haven't had enough already. But there are other problems with the package, which seems slapped together.

Above the A-1 graphic, it says, "The seven days ending Dec. 23" are the most dangerous week in the most dangerous month. Yet, below the photo, big type says there were "1,059 wrecks per day" statewide in the week of Dec. 18 through Dec. 24. Dec 23? Dec. 24? Confused yet? The graphic is for Bergen and Passaic counties, not all of New Jersey. 

Below that package, the main headline is written in the present tense, the drop headline in the past tense -- a no-no. The heads echo: "reduce air pollution" in the main, "drop in emissions" in the subsidiary head.

Another plane crash

The big news in Local is the death of a doctor in the crash of his antiquated, single-engine plane, which went down in "freezing rain and sleet" (L-1). Is anyone surprised, given the weather?

This is one of hundreds of single-engine plane fatalities the newspaper has reported in the past few decades, but I have yet to see a story on why these noisy aircraft seem to be virtually unregulated and why their technology has never been updated.

Hackensack Chronicle, a weekly paper delivered with The Record on Fridays, has its second story on morale and leadership in the city Police Department -- stories I have yet to see in the former Hackensack daily, which covers the department as if it's the only agency in the entire city.

Hitting the sauce 

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung gives two and a half stars (Good to Excellent) to the food and service at Griffin's, a pub in Cresskill. In the data box on Page 14 of Better Living, she reports the pub is "less appropriate for [a] formal dinner." 

"Formal dinner" is a phrase she has used many times without ever defining it, and I can't imagine what she's talking about. But when you see the word "pub," wouldn't you know not to go there for a "formal dinner"?

Maybe the space in the data box could be used to tell readers if the restaurant being reviewed serves naturally raised food.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Burying the lede

200Image via Wikipedia

Readers thought Wednesday's Page 1 takeout told them everything about so-called reforms at Hackensack University Medical Center after a federal trial exposed payments to a corrupt politician. 

So what's the explanation for today's A-1 story disclosing a $7.7 million salary and severance package for John P. Ferguson -- who was forced out as president of HUMC -- and millions more for other executives and employees?  

Why was this held until today?

Ferguson is the same man who, on July 25, enlisted The Record of Woodland Park to publicize his new venture with a Page 1 story that had negligible impact on North Jersey residents.

The July story reported -- apropos of nothing -- that Ferguson was president and CEO of a company that plans to open up to 20 upscale hospitals outside the U.S. to cater to affluent travelers and residents, the first in wealthy Dubai.

Why are federal tax filings containing Ferguson's 2009 pay package coming out just now? Did Jennifer A. Borg, a former HUMC board member, have anything to do with the splashy July story or with delaying today's story about the hospital, one of the paper's big advertisers?  

Borg is vice president and general counsel of North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record, and big sister of Publisher Stephen A. Borg.

Praying for a good headline

The main element on A-1 has an overline and a headline that seemed designed to turn readers off, not engage them. You'd think the news copy editor would have been inspired by a terrific photo showing a woman in court praying for a favorable ruling, and then written a photo overline and headline that drew readers in.

Instead, the photo overline uses the phrase "conflict resolution," which is about as dull as you can get:

Conflict resolution is their specialty

Who is "their"? The main headline below the photo says, "Court handles cases towns can't." Exciting, isn't it?

There are more problems with this A-1 package. The photo caption shows Mark Oprihory and Mary Foley, her hands clasped in prayer, on a court bench and, nearby, George Lahood, and says the first two await a ruling "in a case against" Lahood.

But the story doesn't even mention Mark Oprihory and Mary Foley.  

Police and court news

In head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, all the stories on the front are court and police news, and there is a lot more Law & Order coverage inside.

The entire section contains municipal or education stories from four towns, but no Hackensack, Englewood or Teaneck news, or anything else from other major towns in North Jersey.

Campania, Governor Christie, female athletes

George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson ...Image via Wikipedia
A chef's suicide made his restaurant "famous," the food editor says.

In The Record of Woodland Park on Wednesday, a short L-2 story reported the closing of Campania -- the Italian restaurant in Fair Lawn that was remade on Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares" TV reality show -- under the headline, "Campania to reopen under a new name."

Headlines that predict the future are among the worst, especially when they aren't attributed. This one is based on a statement by Philip Neuman, managing director of a company that bought the restaurant from Chef Joseph Cerniglia eight days before the chef's Sept. 24 suicide leap from the George Washington Bridge.

On the Second Helpings blog (, an item on the closing of Campania by Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill says the restaurant was "made famous" by the suicide. 

Polishing Christie's  image

On Tuesday, Page 1 had an upbeat story about a new, reform-minded education commissioner appointed by Governor Christie, but Editor Francis Scandale buried the real news about the Republican bully on A-6.

A two-paragraph story reported findings of a Rutgers-Eagleton poll: Christie is the most polarizing New Jersey governor in at least 36 years. Twenty-nine percent of the state's voters say his performance in his first 11 months in office has been "poor," while only 21 percent rate it as "excellent."

If such a poll was conducted on Scandale's performance in his nearly 10 years at The Record, a majority of employees and readers would rate it as "terrible."

Athletes on Page 1

Scandale loves to order layout editors to use sports photos of male athletes on A-1, but for some reason, a photo of the jubilant University of Connecticut women's basketball team that won 89 straight games and broke a college record held by a men's team was nowhere to be seen on A-1 on Wednesday.

Instead, the male chauvinist ran a photo of flooding in far-off California. 

Scandale likes to slap male editors' asses in a locker-room-like bonding ritual in the afternoon news meeting when sports gets played on Page 1, but I guess he was repelled by the prospect of whacking the flabby rumps of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and Production Editor Liz Houlton.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Comment on recent Jennifer Borg post

Jennifer A. Borg and Garth Wakeford (2011 photo from


Most of the comments received by Eye on The Record are anonymous and signed "Anonymous."

There is no way the author of this blog can judge the reliability or veracity of any comment, but all of them are valuable and contribute to a dialogue.

On Dec. 20, I received a comment on the post, Jennifer Borg's husband withdraws suit.

I held it, but will publish it now. To read it, click on the following link:

Comments on "Jennifer Borg's husband withdraws suit"

See previous post, Cranking up the P.R. machine

Cranking up the P.R. machine

Nissan Leaf at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show (LHD).Image via Wikipedia
The all-electric Nissan Leaf uses no gas, but The Record prefers to publicize a new Chevrolet plug-in hybrd. The Leaf can travel much farther on electricity than the more-expensive Volt.

The Record of Woodland Park really cranks up the public relations machine today for Hackensack University Medical Center -- one of its big advertisers -- only to tell readers who slog through all that type it is being run by many of the same people whose actions led to a "damaging" federal corruption trial.

I couldn't identify the trial mentioned in the lead paragraph on Page 1, because convicted former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio was sentenced more than 15 months ago, and his name doesn't appear on A-1. 

So the rest of the story by Staff Writers Mary Jo Layton and Lindy Washburn basically sums up how little has really changed in more than a year at the huge hospital campus, which dominates a once-quiet North Hackensack neighbrhood. 

Ridgewood v. Hackensack

It's curious how Layton -- at the behest of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her clueless minions -- has written far more about neighbors protesting expansion plans of The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, compared to how little The Record has reported about similar protests over the expansion of HUMC. 

What's so irresponsible about that is the Ridgewood hospital wants to expand within existing borders, while an unknown number of houses have been torn down to make room for a parking garage and more buildings at this behemoth of a medical center in Hackensack. 

There's not a word about the neighborhood in today's takeout.

And it's only on the full continuation page (A-8) we learn that Jennifer A. Borg, vice president and general counsel of The Record's parent company, North Jersey Media Group, has been moved to an advisory board to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Still, NJMG is allowed to profit from her hospital relationship by selling hundreds of thousands of dollars of print and online advertising to HUMC.

Wasting space on a crackpot

For the second day in a row, Editor Francis Scandale wastes precious front-page space on a right-wing radio talk-show host convicted of threatening three federal judges. Let's hope they throw away the key.

150 mpg is no joke for Volt

I'm not sure what this headline means on L-1 -- over John Cichowski's Road Warrior column -- but it's increasingly clear Chick is the joke. 

He is the latest staffer to err in calling the new Chevrolet sedan an "electric" vehicle, when the plug-in hybrid needs gas for the conventional engine that backs up its batteries and electric motor.

And in keeping with his poor reputation for accuracy and completeness, he also doesn't answer an obvious question: 

Why has The Record published at least three photos of the Volt -- two of them showing customers picking up the new car -- but none of the all-electric, no-gas Nissan Leaf, which has a battery range of 62 miles to 138 miles, compared to the Volt's 35 miles?

Another screw-up 

If you turn to L-6, the continuation of Chick's column, you might have trouble finding it: The word "Stile" (Staff Writer Charles Stile) appears instead of "Road." I guess the Road Worrier is not well-liked by the layout or news copy editor who put the wrong word there.

Page L-3 carries the fourth story in six days on tenants returning to the Prospect Avenue high-rise in Hackensack where the parking garage collapsed five months ago. There is a lot more going on in the city that is never reported by the former Hackensack daily.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting it all wrong on Page 1

Governor Whitman frisking Sherron Rolax (1996)Image via Wikipedia
Then-Gov. Christie Whitman frisking a suspect in 2004. The Record's "Political Stile" columnist today actually calls her one of  "Jersey's groundbreaking heroines," right up there with Molly Pitcher, Clara Barton and Althea Gibson.

Parting leader pays up

"Pays up." Doesn't that sound as if Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney owed a debt or faced a fine, and paid it? 

But that's not the case, as you learn in the drop headline and story on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park today -- he gave big raises to non-union employees as one of his parting shots before he leaves office. And what's with the awkward "parting leader"? Do you really need the word "parting"? Just call him what he is: "Dem pol spends big."

Also, if McNerney has the power to give the 3.5 percent raises to about 200 employees, doesn't incoming Republican County Executive Kathleen Donovan have the power to rescind them? Staff Writer Michael Gartland, who has been reporting on all the political cronies being hired by the defeated Democrats, doesn't even ask Donovan that question.

As if the lead head isn't bad enough, the headline on the second A-1 story -- on DWI arrests -- is about as inaccurate as they get. Although the graphic and text show drunken-driving arrests were down 3 percent in 2009, the headline declares:

Penalties aren't reducing DWIs

Well, something is reducing DWI arrests, and the headline should have said that. The story says "drunken-driving arrests last year were the fewest recorded in the past decade."

Breaking ranks?

Columnist Charles Stile appears to be breaking ranks with all the Governor Christie apologists at The Record, but his L-1 "Political Stile" column is so poorly written and so poorly organized today, it's hard to tell just what he is getting at.

His lead paragraph says the woman Christie nominated to replace John E. Wallace on the New Jersey Supreme Court could be a heroine "for the next generation of New Jersey girls if she ever joins" the court, becoming its fourth female member.

What he doesn't do is mention Wallace or criticize Christie for not naming a black man or woman to replace the court's only African-American justice, who was denied lifetime tenure by the governor, in defiance of decades of precedent. Then, Stile lists Christie Whitman, one of the worst governors ever, as among "groundbreaking Jersey heroines."

At this point, Stile veers  off and starts attacking two  female Republican senators -- who back the nomination of Anne Patterson to the court -- for refusing to help overturn Christie's veto of $7.4 million for family planning clinics, which serve poor, uninsured women.

He blasts Christie as "the party's brook-no-dissent leader." C'mon, Charlie, you can do better than that.

Another bad head

On L-3, a story on Hackensack residents finally returning to their Prospect Avenue apartments more than five months after they were evacuated carries a real puzzling headline:

Residents return to scene of garage collapse

It's probably time to acknowledge the news copy desk's sharp decline in quality and accuracy since copy editors from the Herald News replaced veteran Record copy editors, who left when Publisher Stephen A. Borg merged the two news staffs. 
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