Monday, February 14, 2011

Full-page A-1 ad shocks readers

This is a photo I took myself of the Church On...Image via Wikipedia
Church on The Green, Hackensack, where the dead turned over in their graves when The Record's Sunday edition was wrapped in a four-page advertisement for a bank that carried the usual A-1 masthead, date, price and weather forecast. Publisher John Borg (1922-48) and Editor Donald G. Borg (1932-75) also turned over in their graves. Publisher Stephen A. Borg, an investor with his sister in an Englewood wine bar, broke out the champagne.

Readers were shocked and dismayed by the full-page bank ad that was wrapped around the front page and the entire A-section of The Record on Sunday.

I called the number for display ads listed on A-2 in today's paper and the woman who answered the phone said she wasn't at liberty to disclose how much Wells Fargo Bank paid for the unprecedented sellout of the paper's journalistic mission. She also wouldn't give me "a ballpark figure."

When I asked to speak to a supervisor, she put me on hold, then said she would switch me to the account executive who handled the advertisement, Kimberly Cummings. Then, she put me on hold again. 

When she came back, she said the Circulation Department handled the ad, but couldn't explain why. She then switched me to circulation, where I got the recording readers hear when they want to report a problem with delivery.

So, I wasn't able to find out whether the ad brought in enough revenue to start a new wing on Publisher and Marketing Wizard Stephen A. Borg's 8,500-square-foot home in Tenafly, the one on Churchill Road he bought in 2007 with a $3.65 million company mortgage. 

Several months later, Editor Francis Scandale announced layoffs in the Hackensack newsroom.

New role for Mac

Now that Borg has shattered a huge barrier between advertising and journalism, I full expect him to try to sell an ad on the back of his father, Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, the chairman of North Jersey Media Group who was pushed aside by him and big sister Jennifer.

Mac can wear one of those sandwich boards over his cashmere overcoat and walk up and down Main Streets -- in Fort Lee, Hackensack, South Paterson and elsewhere -- and advertise Mercedes-Benz cars and delivery trucks, Tofutti, Verizon's iPhone, Fresh Direct grocery delivery and other businesses that have appeared in highly promotional business news stories or ads.

Paper as ad agency

At the gym this morning, one reader commented: "It's not a newspaper. It's an advertising agency."

A woman who subscribes to the paper said about the ad, "I was shocked." Both said they had never seen anything like it in The Record or any other newspaper.

We don't know Scandale's reaction to the ad, but the editor with the flawed news judgment long ago rolled over and played dead for the business side. 

Witness how he didn't peep when money for ergonomic furniture for the news copy desk in Hackensack was cut from the budget. What did he care? Most of the copy editors were among the older newsroom employees he held in disdain.

Today's front page

Reporters continue to slant stories to make Governor Christie look good. Today, two front-page stories report on  1) a battle over toll money from the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, and 2) Christie's $8 million in savings from cracking down on public boards, authorities and commissions.

In the main element on Page 1, the Legislature wants to "roll back part of a toll hike" scheduled for 2012, and pass the savings on to drivers. But Christie wants to use all $1.25 billion to prop up the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund. (The main headline uses the word "rescind" or cancel, contradicting the lead paragraph.)

Staff Writer Karen Rouse, who has now assumed the mantle of worst transportation reporter from Tom Davis, who left the paper, pads the story with an eye-glazing discussion of bond covenants, but completely omits mention that for more than a year, Christie has refused to raise the low gasoline tax -- the traditional funding source for road, bridge and mass-transit improvements.

Of course, any such hike in the gasoline tax would fall disproportionately on Christie's rich buddies and supporters in their gas-guzzling limos and SUVs.

And what's the big deal over an $8 million savings? Why doesn't the paper publish a story on how many tens of millions would be raised by a millionaire's tax Christie refuses to impose, and how many of those millionaires support the governor financially?

Reviving black news

There have been a lot of stories about African-Americans during Black History Month, but few during the other 11 months of the year. The large black community in Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood, for example, is virtually ignored during the year, unless members are charged with crimes.

The story about strong growth in black businesses on A-1 today contrasts starkly with all the stories in the Business section on wealthy white business owners discussing how they plan to get richer.

Screw the Arabs

This is local news? A filler story on the Meadowlands Racetrack appears on the front of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section today, as does a big photo and story about two Orthodox Jews who got married at Citi Field, but a rally by more than 150 Arab-Americans in Paterson is shoved back to L-6. 

Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado even quotes the same Egyptian-born Franklin Lakes man who was quoted by other Record reporters in an A-1 story on Saturday about the changes in Egypt.

Did you read the story about the Mets fans who got married at the ballpark? Don't you love how Orthodox Jewish men still treat women like pariahs? 

According to the overlong story by Zach Patberg, one of the so-called challenges they faced was "rigging up separate dance floors" for men and women, which I take to mean men and women were not allowed to dance with each other, similar to their strict separation in synagogue.

Why is Sykes celebrating this kind of mistreatment of women?

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