Friday, July 8, 2011

Obesity got worse in the newsroom, too

Hawaiian womanImage via Wikipedia
The Record's editors should be journalists first, despite their obsessions.

Obesity is a subject the editors of The Record have tried to avoid for decades, but it won't go away, just like all the extra pounds they haul around the newsroom.

Even after Governor Christie took office in January 2010, there appeared to be no greater awareness of the obesity epidemic -- the editors of the Woodland Park daily just continued throwing their weight around.

On Page 1 today, a story reporting nearly 62% of state residents are overweight appears at the bottom of the page, even though it belongs at the top, in place of new air-pollution rules. The headline:

Obesity problem
gets worse in N.J.
and across nation

The reporter, Mary Jo Layton, who was always in great shape, is sort of flip in her lead paragraph: "More bad news on the fat front."

Of course, the "fat front" has been as close as her supervisor, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, and Projects Editor Tim Nostrand, among other severely overweight newsroom workers.

Apparently, Sykes and Nostrand have kept a stranglehold on newsroom investigations for a decade or more -- and their uncontrolled eating hits too close to home for them to launch a project on the obesity epidemic.

At least when it comes to reporting on obesity, Editor Francis Scandale seems to be under Sykes' thumb. 

That's despite him being an athletic man who came to The Record in 2001 from Colorado, listed in today's story as among the five "thinnest states."

New food editor

In 2006, then-Features Editor Barbara Jaeger hired Bill Pitcher as food editor, despite his obesity and his well-known appetite for meat and sweets.

Pitcher, in turn, hired a new restaurant reviewer, Elisa Ung, a pudgy woman who didn't hide her overriding obsession with dessert.

Although Pitcher wasn't named in the article, he undoubtedly was one of the "Fat Pack" discussed by The New York Times Dining Section -- food writers or bloggers who can't control their eating.

It never occurred to Pitcher in his four or so years as food editor to use his own attempts to lose weight as a launching pad for a series on the obesity epidemic and advice that goes beyond the latest diet or exercise fad.

In fact, he turned his daughter, once a normal 2-year-old, into a grossly overweight little girl, whom he paraded through the newsroom. 

Other A-1 news

The big, front-page photo of the arena in Pamplona is another gee-whiz image that has little to do with life in North Jersey. It's just more of Scandale's newsroom bull.

Staff Writer Stephanie Akin again demonstrates the legwork and hustle that makes her such an outstanding reporter with both an interview of Secaucus ex-Mayor Denis Elwell (A-1) and a town reaction story to his bribery conviction (L-1).

The one question she doesn't address is why do New Jersey politicians such as Elwell, who also heads a trucking company, sell their offices and their souls for such little money? 


On A-2, another embarrassing correction notes a quote from a prepared statement, also called a handout, was attributed to the wrong Democrat in an A-3 story Thursday on Christie's budget cuts. 

Boy, that's sloppy.

A story on A-9 today doesn't mention the staff of the News of the World tabloid hacked into e-mail accounts, as well as voice-mail messages. 

How is that any different from Vice President/General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg having IT staff hack into newsroom employees' e-mail accounts, and then disciplining workers? 

Another screw-up

On the front of Sykes' Local section, a caption refers to a sign on Route 20 in Paterson, but the photo above it shows only cars, a truck and a tire retread.

The Road Warrior column with them is another editorial eyesore -- and continues John Cichowski's boycott on the commuting problems of bus and rail riders.

In recent weeks, there seems to have been an uptick in municipal news, but the Hackensack, Englewood and Teaneck reports continue to rely too heavily on police and fire news.

Bar fire

In Better Living, Ung offers readers a lukewarm review of Vesta Wood Fired Pizza and Bar in East Rutherford. Is the bar on fire, too?

That 12-inch pizza for $12; is it the most expensive in North Jersey? She doesn't say, but she did sample four desserts.

On Page 18 of Better Living, free-lancer Jeffrey Page finds one of the tens of thousands of restaurants where two people can eat dinner for $50. How is this of any service to readers?

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  1. Woudnt not hiring somebody because of their wright e discrimination?

  2. Yes, that would be discrimination. But Barbara Jaeger discriminated against older workers, so why stop there?

    There were several other qualified candidates who were not overweight and who may have actually written articles about healthy eating.

    Bill Pitcher had no food editing experience, so he could have been turned down for food editor on that basis alone, and he got a mediocre rating four years in a row as an editor when he was laying out pages in his first incarnation at The Record.

  3. A mediocre rating for what?

  4. For editing.

    The reviews by Bob Cunningham said Pitcher had to improve his editing. He was faulted for not finding holes in stories and other weaknesses.

  5. Wow that will teach you to leave things lying around. What else did it say?

  6. That is the most relevant to his application for food editor roughly a year after he got the last review.

  7. Wait who is Bob Cunningham? His name keeps coming up here.

  8. He was the assistant managing editor for production, and a newsroom enforcer, before Liz Houlton got the job.

    He supervised the news layout and copy desks.

    Cunningham retired or left or whatever.

  9. Could his eminence, Stephen A. Borg, be reading this blog and sending in acidic comments?

    Or is it his big sister, Jennifer A. Borg, who is sniping at me from her palatial apartment in the city?

  10. I would pay no attention as to whom your caustic anomalous commentators might be. It could be any of a number of people who have been humiliated by your blog. The whole point of anonymity is to protect the identity of the commenter. Obviously this blog has gotten under their skin. By guessing who they might be, you're showing that they're getting under your skin. Just remind them that this is your blog, and if they don't like it, they can start their own Eye on the Eye on the Record blog.

  11. Mr Sasson, Could you post more from the reviews you have? They may help explain why he was fired. People like you bringing his poor work to light.

  12. I agree. Thanks for your words of support.

    The editors and reporters of The Record reserve the exclusive right to criticize, attack and otherwise hold people up to public scrutiny, while denying that right to others, especially to outside observers.

    Newspapers such as The Record have jealously guarded the way they do things from public inspection.

    Few readers have ever been allowed into the newsroom or taken part in news meetings, as sanitized as they were. That is by design.

  13. Bill Pitcher was never fired. He worked at The Record twice, and left of his own accord twice.

    The point I was trying to make is that his experience wasn't scrutinized when he was hired as food editor.

    He also was paid a $70,000 salary to start --more than the woman who had the job, a veteran food editor with more than 20 years of experience.

    Bill was hired because he is a nice guy. He schmoozed with everyone, and was up on all the gossip in the newsroom. He was the consummate brown-noser, and it paid off big time for him.

  14. Nice guy? Not buying it. It has to be an act. He sounds like a fat, lazy, do nothing oaf who got lucky.

  15. More from the Anonymous peanut gallery:

    "Do you really think that anyone cares about your insider views of the newsroom? Do you think that you make people mad because you expose weaknesses in the paper as a journalistic product? You make people mad because of your gratuitous insults and name calling. You try to damage people. You want them to feel bad about themselves and that's rotten, whether or not you achieve your objective in any particular case. Sometimes I am tempted to believe that you don't know what you're doing, like you are an Aspergers case or something, but then you react so strongly to an insult directed to you that I know you know exactly how it feels. You have a pathological need to cause pain."

  16. Still more from the peanut gallery:

    "You edited out some portions of the post without saying so, which violates journalistic standards that you purport to care about."

    Journalistic standards? Are you kidding? What publication, blog or whatever runs everything someone says?

    Everyone is edited, including you. Get used to it or start your own blog.

  17. Ung only sampled 4 desserts? She must be cutting down.


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