Thursday, March 31, 2011

NJMG fires reporter over story on bullying

Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first c...Image via Wikipedia
The Record of Woodland Park on Wednesday started a three-part series on bullying even though some believe there is at least one bully on the North Jersey Media Group payroll.

North Jersey Media Group fired a freelance reporter after she wrote about cyberbullying for one of its weekly newspapers, AIM Vernon in Sussex County.

On Wednesday, The Record of Woodland Park started a three-part series on bullying, and the focus of Thursday's Page 1 piece is cyberbullying. The first part drew this comment on, the publishing company's Web site:
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 3:19 PM - RosieLee says:
"North Jersey Media Group fired a reporter two weeks ago after they published her article on bullying and the bullies called and threatened to sue the newspaper. Now they are doing a series on bullying? Seems ironic and hypocritical in my opinion."

A source familiar with the firing told Eye on The Record
"Jessica Zummo, a wonderful reporter for one of their weekly publications, did an article on cyberbullying by adults. She named two people in her article and had a significant amount of documentation to back up her article. The people she named in the article called [NJMG Corporate Attorney] Dina Sforza repeatedly and threatened to sue the paper, if they [NJMG] didn’t fire the reporter. Even though the editor approved the article and even helped the reporter with it, Sforza berated the reporter terribly. NJMG then fired the reporter. This happened about two weeks ago."
Zummo worked as a freelance reporter for AIM Vernon for about four years, and was paid $50 a story. I was told she was the weekly paper's only reporter.

Here are links to a Facebook page and a Web site:

Inside Vernon

Today's paper 

The move of The Record's newsroom to Woodland Park from Hackensack -- along with all the employees who spurn a healthy lifestyle -- hurt Passaic County in a survey of the healthiest counties in New Jersey (A-1).

Deirdre, Tim, Liz, Elisa -- you know who you are. Key factors in the rankings include obesity, binge drinking and access to healthy foods.

Even though she ignores virtually all other news about Hackensack, reporter Monsy Alvarado is a day late on a ruling by a federal judge who dismissed claims in a lawsuit filed by two police officers (A-11).

Resident kvetch

In a letter to the editor on A-12, Mickey Applebaum of Cliffside Park complains about the increasing number of Korean signs in neighboring Fort Lee on "establishments ... that exclude most of the public."

Hey, Mickey, many of those "private, money making operations" are restaurants and catering stores that would welcome you with open arms.


You can just guess at the sad state of local news by the daily coverage of a woman's lawsuit against her plastic surgeon, and the huge photo of the plaintiff on the front of Local, the section that is head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' pride and joy.

The well-groomed woman, who lives in Bloomingdale and apparently shops at Bloomingdale's, could serve as an example to Sykes, Liz Houlton and other fashion-challenged editors who have bad-hair days every day.

Unfortunately, Staff Writer John Petrick reports the $115,000 jury award without telling readers the plaintiff will be lucky if she sees half of that -- once her lawyer deducts his 33% contingent fee, plus expenses for any investigation, expert witnesses, exhibits and so forth.


  1. The following comment was posted on

    Your website says, “We want to hear from you about bullying ,” so I am writing to you.

    There is so much focus on bullying among youths. What about adults that bully other adults on online forums?

    I find it extremely hypocritical and ironic of The Record doing a series on bullying just two weeks after a North jersey Media Group reporter for Aim Vernon did a very well-documented piece on adult bullying -— which was approved be her editor before publication and the editor commended her for the story after he printed it -- but the bullies then bullied the newspaper publisher and attorney that they would sue if the reporter was not fired. And North Jersey Media Group fired the reporter!

    North Jersey Media Group attorney Dina Sforza kept telling the reporter, “We don’t do this. We don’t do this,” referring to writing about bullies. Yet North Jersey Media Group now does a series on bullying?

    How credible do you think your series on bullying is when a young reporter, mother of two small children, was fired because she wrote an article on adults in Vernon who bully other adults -- two of the adults who run the bully forum being TEACHERS!

    North Jersey Media Group’s newspaper Aim Vernon has lost so much credibility and readership in Vernon after residents learned the bullies were able to get the reporter fired by lying about and defaming the victims of the bullying, demanding they fire the reporter, and threatening to sue the newspaper! Shame on you, North Jersey Media Group!

  2. I am an adult. I have been the victim of bullying for nearly two years now. When the bullies’ zeal and malice to bully me through e-mail and public slander was insatiable, they actually started an Internet forum where they could bully me daily in a much larger venue. They have been bullying me for two years now on two disgusting Internet forums. The bullies lie about me mercilessly. I have an illness that has caused me weight gain and disfiguration, and they make fun of my appearance on a regular basis. They ridicule, taunt, and harass me and my family about every aspect of my life. They have lied about me incessantly, defamed me without ceasing, destroyed my quality of life, robbed me of my peace, and plastered their garbage about me all over the Internet for anyone to read in perpetuity. Bullies forged my name on Internet forums and falsified statements as though I were writing them. They have destroyed my reputation.

    This is all well documented. I have gone to the police and filed complaints. I have gone to the county prosecutor’s office. An investigation is pending, but basically there is nothing they can do for me. With young people, it is called bullying. With adults, it is called Freedom of Speech.

    About two weeks ago, when North Jersey Media Group put out the call on their Web site, “We want to hear from you about bullying,” a young reporter from North Jersey Media Group’s Aim Vernon newspaper was working on an article about the bullying that goes on in Internet forums in Vernon, N.J. Her editor at Aim Vernon published her article, posted it on the newspaper’s Web site, and then wrote her several e-mail messages commending her for the job well done.

    Then, the bullies made false accusations and defamatory statements to the publisher about the reporter and about the victims of the bullying. The bullies posted their demands all over the Internet that they would sue the newspaper if the article was not retracted and the reporter was not fired. The reporter was fired.

    I too worked for North Jersey Media Group at one time, but I stopped writing my column thinking I could help my community through civic involvement on a board instead. My column in Aim Vernon made that newspaper rise from the ashes and turn into a household name, becoming the most credible and respected newspaper in Vernon Township. Hundreds and even thousands of township residents stopped me on a regular basis, e-mailed me, called me, saying they couldn’t wait until the paper arrived each week to see what I had to say. Many also e-mailed the editor to compliment my column. The editor always forwarded all of those e-mails to me, which I have kept. I doubt Vernon residents are telling Aim Vernon anymore what a good job they do, and especially not after what they did to the brave young reporter who exposed the bully forums. I have been reading The Record since I was eight years old and living in Bergen County, following such writers as Mike Kelly through the decades. I won’t be doing that anymore either because for me North Jersey Media Group is no longer credible. I would never have expected Aim Vernon to do what in my opinion they did-- succumb and fold to political liars and bullies.

  3. I am a weekly reader of the AIM publication, a Vernon resident and a mother of three boys. I, nor any of my family member has ever had an issue with cyberbullying, yet I know it runs wild throughout our community. I do not know nor have I ever been acquainted with any of the people mentioned in the article and nor do I have pity for them. Apparently this is a public forum and these are all adults. People need to take responsibility for their actions and set good examples for our children. Shame on the adults who take part in this harmful behavior. Also I noticed the following week in a letter to the editor, one of the accused went on to mention that all of the comments posted on the forum were directed at two people in particular. That sounds like a public admission of bullying to me. Despicable!
    I was shocked to hear the news about Mrs. Zummo who honestly feel she did nothing illegal or wrong. Shame on North Jersey Media group for allowing themselves to be bullied as well.


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