Monday, October 31, 2011

Honey, they shrunk The Record!

An image, describing five major steps in ancie...Image via Wikipedia
Ancient Chinese paper-making process.

Readers shocked by all the unexpected damage from Saturday's nor'easter had another shock in store when they finally picked up the Sunday edition of The Record.

The main news section, Local, Sports and Business were noticeably narrower than Saturday's paper -- about 1 inch narrower -- in a move to save newsprint and money. However, pre-printed sections, such as Better Living, came in their usual width.

All the sections of today's paper were in the narrower format.

Notes to readers appeared on the front page Sunday and today, but they discussed weather-related production issues that delayed delivery of the paper, not the new, money-saving format.

The narrower format means six, narrower columns and less space for news.

That shouldn't be a problem for Editor Francis Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and their  minions, who have been desperately trying -- and usually failing -- to fill the paper with New Jersey, North Jersey and municipal news for several years now.

But that is a big problem for readers, who know less and less about what officials who run their towns are doing, and less and less about their neighbors, prominent and otherwise.

The money-saving move by Publisher Stephen A. Borg will probably help keep the Woodland Park daily afloat at the expense of readers, as have most of the editorial changes he imposed after he took over in mid-2006.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christie kowtows to his new bosses

HAMMONTON, NJ  - MARCH 29:  New Jersey Governo...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
"You talking to me?"

You can almost hear the belly laughs from 500 "business leaders" after Governor Christie promised he would never "disrespect" them.

Was this a gathering of the Corleone clan in Woodcliff Lake on Friday or merely the governor's new bosses, all members of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey? 

In the lead story on The Record's Business page today, Christie tells members of his well-off audience they don't have to worry about environmental regulation.

The story doesn't say how many of the companies at the annual meeting have contributed to Christie's war chest.

Rich wage battle

When is Christie going to promise public employees, cops, teachers, seniors, women and low-income families that he won't disrespect them, either? 

Never.  The GOP bully, in league with Republicans in state houses and Congress, is waging open warfare for wealthy business owners like Publisher Stephen A. Borg against the middle and working classes -- a story The Record ignores.

Look at today's front page. Editor Francis Scandale lobs soft news to help readers ease into the weekend. 

A story about new citizens sounds like every other naturalization story the paper has carried in the past two decades. The focus should have been on the soldiers and sailors who put their lives on the line before they became citizens.

In the off-lead position, an update on a $140 million Ponzi scheme is so poorly edited by an assignment editor and the news copy desk it reports three times on the front page alone that James Nicholson was sentenced to prison:

  1. "A federal judge sent James Nicholson away to prison for 40 years."
  2. "A call to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan, who sentenced Nicholson...."
  3. "Sullivan's court, where Nicholson was prosecuted, pleaded guilty and was sentenced."

More stale news

In head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, the byline of Hackensack reporter Stephanie Akin hasn't appeared for about two weeks.

An update on dismissal of ethics charges against a school board member carries the byline of the old Hackensack reporter, Monsy Alvarado (L-1).

The biggest element on the Local front -- about an eagle's nest in Ridgefield Park -- carries the byline of the Teaneck reporter. 

But the focus -- the return of eagles as a sign of a cleaner environment -- is really old news. Ignoring that, Sykes' assignment desk blew up a minor story into a cover story out of its usual sheer desperation.

The lead story on L-1 is another in a series on "the ongoing exploration into dispatch services" in Washington Township -- in other words, no news here.

The fourth story on L-1 is more coverage of an election nobody cares about. 

Another great job by Sykes and her lazy minions.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

More hard-luck seniors on parade

Logo of Alzheimer's Society.Image via Wikipedia
Editor Francis Scandale runs far more on autism than on Alzheimer's disease.

Editor Francis Scandale of The Record is of two minds when it comes to seniors: 

He either ignores them, as in his pathetically poor coverage of Alzheimer's disease and programs to help older drivers.

Or he portrays them as down-on-their-luck old people who line up for a lousy meal at senior centers or live out their last years in grim nursing homes.

Today, Scandale's front page delivers a double senior salvo -- with the elderly breathing a sigh of relief at a tiny increase in Medicare premiums, while others are victims  of a "consistent rise in thefts" and abuse.

Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes love to have their staffers do easy stories taken from the 2010 Census, so why not find out how many seniors have investments, take river cruises in Europe and regard Social Security as a nice supplement to their incomes.

In affluent Bergen County, active, well-off seniors likely outnumber the sad sacks who have been making Page 1 news in the Woodland Park daily lately.

And Scandale continues to ignore a do-nothing Congress while running stories about a presidential election that is more than a year away.

Flood of stones

An A-1 photo of flooding in northwest Italy shows rocks, not water. What about the far-more-serious flooding in Thailand? Did Scandale run the Italy photo because he once visited the region?

The writer of an editorial on A-20 jumps through many hoops to avoid naming Governor Christie, who apparently killed state funding for an after-school program for low-income children.

Shame on Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin for not noticing the omission or editing out the name of the GOP bully.

Toiling on the toilet 

In Sykes' Local section, today's Road Warrior column on traffic deaths is written from press releases and reports, allowing Staff Writer John Cichowski maximum seat time in the bathroom or in front of the TV (L-1).

A Teaneck story on L-2 is about the Police Department, not the township, as was the L-1 story that ran on Wednesday.

News of Hackensack, Englewood and many other towns is missing today.

Room for sweets

Don't look to Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung to help you find healthy eating when you're dining out.

In her appraisal of Al Cavaliere in Clifton, she reports a good-three course meal would include artery-clogging tiramisu for dessert. No salads or greens sauteed with garlic are recommended.

She also doesn't bat an eyelash over the Italian-American restaurant serving fresh Florida grouper in a butter sauce (Better Living centerfold).

The paper's resident food snob doesn't tell readers whether veal, pork and chicken were raised naturally, but goes out of her way to ridicule the restaurant for calling the beurre blanc (hot butter sauce) "pure blank."

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Front-page stories ask, 'What if ...?'

Quel ricco sfondato di Mark Zuckerberg, founde...Image via Wikipedia
One-third of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's
 money is going to pay politically connected consultants.

Life in North Jersey would be hunky dory if:

  1. Public-school teachers add on an extra year before they are granted tenure.
  2. Businesses finally got grants to help them repair damage from Hurricane Irene.
  3. The federal courts or Congress allow the state to legalize sports betting.

At least that's what Editor Francis Scandale of The Record seems to be saying with today's what-if front page.

With the economy tanking and people losing their homes, is sports betting really on the front burner with anyone besides jock-itching Scandale and his clueless reporter, John Brennan?

A correction on A-2 notes a story on Sunday "incorrectly identified Hawthorne's mayor." How embarrassing.

Face the music

On A-4, The Star-Ledger reports about a third of the first $13 million in education grants from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been paid to consultants with ties to Newark Mayor Cory Booker and acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.

Gee, isn't that Page 1 news?

Meanwhile, on A-10, Governor Christie loses another round with the state judiciary, which has blocked his attempt to have judges pay more for pensions and health plans.

Gee, isn't that Page 1 news? It's certainly better than a sports-betting proposal that is going nowhere fast.

Formula writing

An editorial on A-20 opposes Formula One racing in Hudson County, noting incorrectly, "The race is coming to New Jersey, because the cameras can show Manhattan."

No. The race is coming here to tap into one of the world's biggest sports markets, the New York-New Jersey metro area, and fans from all over the world will pack North Jersey hotels, restaurants and malls. 

The race is sure to be sold out, despite ticket prices of up to $360 for a three-day grandstand pass, just as F1 races sell out every year in Belgium, Italy, England, Monte Carlo and many other places.

No news today

On head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local front, Englewood reporter Melissa Hayes reports issues in the 37th Legislative District race -- in an election nobody cares about.

The L-1 story is one in a series that seems to have crowded out any local news. Readers will search in vain today for news from Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and many other towns.

On L-3, Columnist Mike Kelly -- the resident mouse -- also blasts the idea of a Grand Prix race in two of the "most densely populated towns in America."

Of course, most of the circuit will be laid out between the Palisades and the Hudson River -- an area that is relatively uncrowded. 

Also on L-3, why didn't The Record name the stupid man who left his $45,000 Mercedes-Benz unlocked at 2:30 in the morning -- with the keys in the ignition -- outside of his restaurant, Trovato's in Elmwood Park, only to find it gone when he returned?

The story also doesn't say why he went to his restaurant at that hour.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Noise from F1 race will be like no other

Formula One 2011Image by Whiz Kris via Flickr
Red Bull sponsored two Formula One race teams this year and came out
 on top, beating such well-established factory teams as Ferrari and Renault.

If Hudson County residents rely on The Record to learn what it will be like to host a Formula One race, they are in for the biggest shock of their lives.

The powerful, single-seat cars are incredibly loud. In fact, they are so noisy and potentially damaging that fans are urged to use the earplugs that come with each ticket.

This and other information is missing in today's Page 1 story by Staff Writer John Brennan, a former sports reporter who wouldn't know a Formula One car from an NJ Transit bus.

Blood suckers

The Record's Sports section ignores Formula One and most other automobile racing -- until a driver is killed. So, it's no surprise the paper sent a clueless reporter to cover Governor Christie's news conference on Tuesday.

Brennan doesn't tell you the title of the New Jersey race -- the Formula One Grand Prix of America -- won't use the state's name, unlike every other F1 race, which uses the name of a country or city where it takes place.

And it's likely Verizon or another advertiser willing to fork over millions of dollars will get its name in the race title, as in: "Verizon Formula One Grand Prix of America."

F1 drivers can make more than $10 million a year, but in some cases, drivers have paid that much and more to drive for a season.

Brennan reports fans will pay $360 for a "three-day pass," but doesn't say a grandstand seat is included. General admission tickets are $75, and allow you to fight other fans who watch the race from behind the fence around the circuit.

The cars are loud enough to be heard in Manhattan during practice and qualifying sessions Friday and Saturday, and during the 2-hour race on Sunday. The reaction of people who live near the circuit remains to be seen.

Millions upon millions

The New Jersey race will be held in June 2013, the same month of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, and race teams will fly transporters, cars and hundreds of tons of equipment to North America for the two races.

The race will be a good fit for North Jersey, where Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz have their U.S. headquarters. Both automakers sponsor two-car teams, spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year in pursuit of manufacturer's and driver's championships. 

But would you look at the crappy A-1 map purportedly showing the F1 circuit in West New York and Weehawken. What a joke. No streets are labeled. 

Do readers really need a map showing that those communities are on the Hudson River, with Manhattan across the way? Maybe, if you just moved here from Kansas. Otherwise, it's another waste of space.

Front-page follies

Editor Francis Scandale couldn't find any real New Jersey or North Jersey news to fill up the rest of the front page today.

He produced a grab bag of crime news, earthquake-miracle news and a speculative "coulda, woulda, shoulda" story about federal dollars the state might lose in January if .... Boring, boring, boring.

Readers might wonder why The Record is not covering the paralysis in Congress. 

In an editorial on A-12 today, Editor Alfred P. Doblin refers to "recalcitrant Republicans," then, like the Mouse That Squeaks, adds weakly that "people need help now."

More road kill

In head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, you can count on an uninspiring Road Warrior column three times a week, including today (L-1).

Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood news? Take a raincheck. Three Teaneck stories appeared on Oct. 11 and 14, but none in the previous 25 days. What are the assignment editors doing to earn their pay?

The major element on L-1 today reminds readers The Record never reported the cause of death in Teaneck Police Officer John Abraham's crash a year ago or discussed well-known Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor safety problems.

Heartless editor

In Better Living, Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill's weekly recipe serves as an alert to cardiac surgeons across North Jersey.

Besides mystery meat -- an enormous pork loin and breakfast sausage -- the recipe calls for two-thirds cup of heavy cream. It's good to see how in touch she is with healthy eating.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Does 'reform' get any more confusing?

Coat of arms of Jamaica.Image via Wikipedia
Coat of Arms of Jamaica.

The assignment editors at The Record have Staff Writer Juliet Fletcher tackling another Page 1 process story about changes in health-care coverage for public workers, leaving readers more confused than ever.

This is her fourth story this month on changes in health or pension benefits, which Editor Francis Scandale calls "reform," as he's been asked to do by Governor Christie's spin doctors.

Fletcher reports that next year's savings are projected to reach nearly $100 million, thanks to changes in federal law. Until now, she has cited this year's savings from changes in state law, putting them at $10 million.

More on Turkey

For the second day in a row, Scandale devotes most of the front page to the earthquake in Turkey, but today's local reaction story and map are far out of proportion to the death toll (A-1 and A-4).

Coverage of local Turks just reminds readers of how Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes have routinely ignored North Jersey's Jamaican-American community, which is far larger than the newer immigrant group.

The Record and even failed to report an historic change of government on the island, according to an Associated Press story on

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Youthful lawmaker Andrew Holness was sworn in Sunday as Jamaica’s new prime minister, ushering in a government he said would heal political divisions, root out corruption, reduce debt and bureaucracy, and attract foreign investment to reduce poverty. 

Scandale, Sykes and their clueless minions can't get more out of touch with local residents than that. 

Page 1 typo

And Liz Houlton's crack news copy desk can't get any sloppier than missing a typo in the first word of the third front-page story today: "A environmental group...."

Why isn't the Obama administration's latest effort to curb home foreclosures on Page 1 today? Check L-7.

Locals yokels

The contempt for local readers continues in Sykes' Local section, which is missing municipal news from Hackensack, Teaneck and many other towns for yet another day.

For some reason, Teaneck reporter Andrea Alexander covered a Monday night meeting on city finances in Englewood. A house-fire photo was needed as filler on the same page, L-3.

For high rollers

In Better Living, free-lancer Bob Probert showers superlatives on Sear -- a new steakhouse in Closter with dinner entrees costing up to $60 -- but there's not a word on whether this pricey beef  is raised on harmful antibiotics and  growth hormones, and feed containing bits of dead animals (Starters, F-1).

Has Probert been told to confine his coverage to restaurants favored by multimillionaire Publisher Stephen A. "Beefeater" Borg? Where are stories about new restaurants with prices more suited to today's challenging economic climate?

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Page 1 news is boring us to tears

Hackensack, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia
Hackensack in the 1890s.

It doesn't get any duller than Page 1 in The Record today.

I saw all I wanted to see about the earthquake in Turkey on TV last night.

More prostitution arrests in North Jersey? The off-lead A-1 story has no statistics to back that up. And what man is so hard up he'd go with one of the hags pictured on A-6?

The story on witness intimidation at the bottom of the front page is another one of those court stories that sound important, but really don't affect many readers.

Sunday night blues

It's the kind of story that runs on Monday's front pages, because the pitiful editors who get stuck working Sunday nights really have nothing else from Editor Francis Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes.

In Sykes' Local section, there is municipal news from Englewood -- actually, a story about police salaries (L-2) -- but there's no news from Hackensack, Teaneck and many other towns.

A graphics package on L-1 tells readers 2011 may become the wettest year in New Jersey since 1931, when data collection started.

The Woodland Park daily also appears to be on its way to setting a record for publishing the least local news since the paper was founded in 1895 in Hackensack.

In Better Living, a rumpled Bill Ervolino completely misses readers' funny bones with a story on his pedicure (F-1). Too bad, the shop couldn't manage to do something for his odd sense of humor.

Free lunch

On Sunday, Ervolino's Better Living colleague, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung, used her Sunday column to list her "top 10 nicest things that some restaurants do for their customers" (F-8).

How strange. She has to roam as far as San Francisco and recall a service experience "several years ago" in Manhattan to complete the list. 

What does that say about North Jersey restaurants -- where she can indulge her dessert obsession on The Record's expense account -- that she couldn't find her "top 10 nicest things" here?

Of course, the nicest thing a restaurant can do is cut its prices in this difficult economy -- in the form of a multi-course meal that delivers great value. She doesn't list any of those.

'Eye on The Record' 

Sunday marked the 2nd anniversary of Eye on The Record.

I recommend the most popular posts, listed on the right.

Eye on The Record could not have lasted this long without the uninspired newsroom leadership of Scandale, Sykes, Tim Nostrand, Liz Houlton, Dan Sforza and all the other editors who have been there "forever."

The infamous Barbara Jaeger -- who ran the features department so badly and for so long -- is gone. 

She shared a contempt for older workers with Scandale and Sykes, but some of the young staffers she championed simply fall flat on their faces more times than not.

Absentee Publisher Stephen A. Borg's greed seems to have blinded him to how far this once-great daily has fallen.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Official inaction is everywhere you look

MushroomsImage by redspotted via Flickr
The Record today is "mad about mushrooms."

No fix for high property tax bills. Weak government ethics laws. Uncertain funding for education and affordable housing. 

And starting in 2018 -- thanks to Governor Christie's sleight of hand -- yearly payments of $5 billion tax dollars to fund the state pension system.

And those are only the problems listed in stories on the front page and A-3 of The Record today. 

What about the lack of long-term solutions to flooding? Or persistent unemployment. Or Christie's refusal to tax millionaires. Or the sad state of mass transit in one of the most congested regions in the country?

Even the Bergen County sheriff is defying attempts to eliminate duplication in law enforcement (A-1 and L-1).

Senior moments

Editor Francis Scandale is really hanging crepe with Page 1 today. 

If you send reporters only to senior centers and nursing homes, you're going to find nothing but hard-luck seniors, such as those shown eating a free lunch in Mahwah (A-1).

Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes continue to ignore Bergen County's wealthy seniors, the ones with vacation homes and European travel plans -- just as they ignore Alzheimer's disease and the challenges facing older drivers.

They find it so much easier to write stories off Census 2010 data -- as with today's piece on social services for seniors. It's a neat package that requires a minimum of enterprise and legwork, perfect for Sykes' lazy assignment minions.

At the bottom of A-1, The Associated Press -- the news agency that practices body-count journalism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere -- reports the "world is more peaceful than ever," according to the headline.

Local news holiday

By the looks of the Local section today, municipal news took a holiday this weekend.

On L-1, Road Warrior John Cichowski responds sarcastically to readers who say his past reporting has been inaccurate or incomplete.

There is so little local news, minor fires in North Arlington and Paramus are reported on L-3 and L-7, respectively.

Another great job by Sykes and her crack assignment desk or is it cracked? 

Smoking shrooms

Better Living Staff Writer Kara Yorio's cover story on mushrooms sounds like she was smoking something and no one bothered to edit her ("Mad about mushrooms," F-1).

"In the fall, we get mushrooms in the heartier and richer dishes that keep us warm in the cooler weather.

"A quick look at menus at a few local restaurants shows us that mushroom lovers need not search very hard to meet a mushroom craving."

And, "The wide variety of mushrooms lends itself to a wide variety of mushroom dishes."

Truffles are called "expensive little guys."

To cut costs in recent years, editors at The Record have given reporting work to low-paid editorial clerks, who don't have the experience or journalism education of reporters.

Yorio is one of the most productive Better Living staffers, but her work needs polish. 

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bad headlines, lazy editing, more errors

Moammar Gadhafi dictator of Libya dead / woundedImage by audiovisualjunkie via Flickr
The media are gnashing their teeth over how Moammar Ghadafi died.

Risks remain in crossing street

That's not much of headline -- because it states the obvious -- just like the lead headline on Page 1 of The Record today:

Risks remain in Iraq

Readers never know what to expect from the news copy desk since Editor Liz Houlton took over as its supervisor -- ending the high standards of Co-Slot Nancy Cherry, one of the older workers who got the heave-ho in 2008.

Dull, wrong, clunky

But they do know to expect dull or inaccurate headlines, lousy photo captions and almost no editing. 

Below that obvious Iraq headline, the desk did come up with:

'You are a murderer'

Of course, in addition to drawing readers in, that headline raises a question for Editor Francis Scandale of why the sentencing of a cold-case murderer is the biggest North Jersey or New Jersey news he could find today.

Maybe he spent Friday on the golf course.

The third front-page story today reports that the government of India has given up trying to end poverty or dissolve a rigid class system in favor of opening 50,000 colleges -- and that Rutgers University is on board with the plan.

Just a few days ago, another Page 1 headline left readers wondering just how out of touch Houlton is.

The drop headline on the prisoner-swap story on Wednesday said:

Jews, Muslims worried what future will bring

North Jersey Jews and Muslims are always worried about the future.

On A-2, three embarrassing corrections appear, including one from Sports.

Ghadafi photo is DOA

After using much of Friday's front page for reaction to Moammar Ghadafi's death, pussy Scandale didn't even run a photo of the dead dictator lying on a mattress in cold storage -- the one readers saw on every TV news broadcast at dinner time Friday night.

And does anyone but reporters really care how he died (A-10)?

As the world financial system faces collapse, the big business news today is a story reporting Bayer AG plans to move workers from Wayne to Hanover Township "beginning in 2013"  (A-12).

Lazy assignment desk

Editor Deirdre Sykes' assignment editors should be ashamed of themselves after reading a letter to the editor from Pedra Del Vecchio, a Hackensack resident who details the abysmal lack of safety around NJ Transit stations and tracks in the city (A-13).

While the clueless editors repeatedly spout the agency line that pedestrians killed by trains are "trespassers," Del Vecchio notes: 

"Why are there no [warning] signs? Why are there so few safe, legal pedestrian crossings in a residential area with a high rate of foot traffic?"

Local news is a crime

The biggest local news Sykes could find leads the Local section today: four-day-old arrests in an undercover drug operation. It's a mess.

The drop headline says, "One suspect pointed gun at detective," but the copy editor missed a major error in the lead paragraph, which says one suspect "pointed a loaded pistol to a detective's head."

A second police story helps fill out the Local front with a minor incident involving an unattended case near the tracks in Ridgewood. The desperate assignment desk blew up the photo to fill as much space as possible.

Why didn't any editor see the value for L-1 or even A-1 of a heartwarming story about a 102-year-old man who lives independently in Paterson and found a way to honor his Clifton health-care providers, a doctor and his physician  assistant (L-2)?

Unfortunately, the kitchen-sink lead paragraph of a sidebar profiling patient Ralph Golzio is a confusing jumble: 

"Delivered by a midwife, Ralph Golzio was born on Oct. 20, 1909, in his family's home in Paterson on Beech and Oak streets to his Italian immigrant parents, John and Caroline."

Backing and filling

More desperate filling of space can be seen on L-3, with a large photo of a minor traffic accident. 

Police and court news are on L-1, L-3, L-6 and L-8 today, but there is no municipal news from Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood or many other towns.

Also on L-6 today is yet another story about a six-town proposal to share a dispatch center. The Woodland Park daily recently has reported every grant, every meeting, every burp and every bowel movement in connection with the plan.

Today's paper shows once again why Local is Sykes' pride and joy.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Another attack on public schools

Teaneck High SchoolImage via Wikipedia
State and local tax dollars -- a total of $15.4 million -- would help pay for a proposed online charter school for 1,000 based in Teaneck. Above, Teaneck High School.

The Record has blamed the generous salaries of police officers and public school teachers for budget woes and high property taxes in many North Jersey towns.

So, it's not surprising Editor Francis Scandale thinks every charter school proposal deserves Page 1 play -- as in today's report about an online school that expects to have a $4.7 million surplus after its first year.

That's after the school grabs $15.4 million in state and local funding -- some of which would come out of the public-school budget in Teaneck. Let's hope state officials put the kabosh on this ridiculous plan. 

Beating a dead horse

Of course, Scandale pushed the charter-school story to the bottom of the front page to give as much space as he could to the stale news of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's death.

Today, as in the past, Scandale grasps desperately at an international story that has been repeated endlessly on TV, because he doesn't have any North Jersey or New Jersey news to fill Page 1. 

There are other, potential A-1 stories in the paper, if the assignment desk under Editor Deirdre Sykes only developed them.

For example, readers learn on A-3 today that a new executive director of the Port Authority will be paid an obscene $300,000 a year -- this after the bi-state agency raised Hudson River tolls and fares, but made no promises about improving mass transit.

Greece seems to be self-destructing (A-6), but I have yet to see any reaction stories from the many wealthy Greeks who live in North Jersey.

Local news drought

In Local, four-plus pages of higher education news mean there is no  municipal news from Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck and other towns.

Road Warrior John Cichowski again strays from his mission to report on commuting problems by reprising a fatal accident involving a teenage driver "last August" in far-off Atlantic County (L-1).

Cichowski blesses his few remaining readers with one of the most awkward phrases in today's paper: "nanny-state social engineering" -- hyphenated, no less. What could he possibly mean?

Stuffed blouse

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung tells readers in just her second paragraph the best-selling item at Park West Tavern is a grass-fed beef hamburger ($14), but then completely loses her train of thought and fails to say whether bacon, veal, steak and other items she sampled also were naturally raised (Better Living centerfold).

After describing a noisy family tavern with high prices, Ung says it wouldn't be appropriate for anyone "expecting fine dining." Thanks for stating the obvious.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Editors trot out pathetic seniors

Roosevelt Signs The Social Security Act: Presi...Image via Wikipedia
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act in 1935.

Where do you send a reporter to interview seniors about the first raise in Social Security benefits in three years?

If you are Editors Francis Scandale and Deirdre Sykes or one of their clueless minions -- who have shown only contempt for the elderly -- you assign your reporter to go to two senior centers and gather tales of "woe is me."

On Page 1 of The Record today, Staff Writer Colleen Diskin reports seniors fear much of the increase could be swallowed up by an expected hike in Medicare premiums.

Fair enough. Is that valid for all 55 million Social Security recipients?

Why didn't the reporter go to a couple of gyms, where many seniors work out every day? 

Why not interview a few seniors who regard Social Security as a nice supplement to their investment and other income when they're not off enjoying luxury river cruises in Europe and other travel?

Chasing 20-year-olds

When circulation began to fall a few years after Scandale took over as editor, his strategy was to try and attract readers in their 20s. 

That coverage was a slap in the face to readers 55 and over, the ones who have all the money to buy cars and other goods and services from the paper's advertisers.

Of course, the strategy failed, but Scandale was promoted to vice president, anyway.

In recent years, Scandale and Sykes have continued to ignore seniors, running far more stories on autism than Alzheimer's disease, and filling Local with numerous accident photos that portray the elderly as menaces behind the wheel.  

Today's A-1 story fortifies that image of a pathetic group living out their last years while scraping together enough money to feed and clothe themselves.

But Scandale didn't think Social Security is that big of a deal, certainly not as important as the battle over the re-opening of Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood, a story that belongs on the front of Local, not taking up much of today's front page.

Hospitals that oppose the plan claim there are already 400 vacant beds in Bergen County -- a seeming impossibility given all the recipes the paper runs for baked goods made with sticks of butter and cups of heavy cream, and all the fatty prime beef recommended by its pudgy restaurant reviewer, Elisa Ung, or is it Ugh?

Animal farm

Any why waste space on the front page for a national story everyone saw on the TV news last night -- the deadly police safari in Zanesville, Ohio? Gee whiz, readers must be saying, as they strain to see the carcasses in the small photo on A-8.

When is the last time Scandale ran anything on the paralysis in Congress, rather than jumping on the media bandwagon of covering the 2012 presidential election, still more than a year away?

Look at all the space wasted on those moronic Republican Party candidates on A-11 today. Why not start coverage with the first primary, rather than report all the ridiculous jawboning in the debates?

In New Jersey, Governor Christie's attack on the judiciary over pension and health benefits doesn't seem to be going anywhere (A-3 and L-1). Why isn't that on Page 1?

On A-2, two more sports corrections -- following several others in recent weeks  -- suggest that department's copy desk has just started to make a lot of mistakes or just started acknowledging them. 

Earth-shaking news

Sykes' assignment desk came up with big news for L-1 today -- a minor fire in Teaneck and yet another story about six towns continuing to study "a proposed shared dispatching center."

When is someone going to "dispatch" Sykes and the rest of her incompetent assistant assignment editors, and replace them with people who can inspire reporters to cover their towns?

Today, readers won't find any municipal news from Englewood, Teaneck or many other communities, but more than 20 inches are devoted to an air show in West Milford (L-6).

In Hackensack news, a Syrian Orthodox church has dropped plans to expand in the Fairmount neighborhood -- the first municipal news from the city since Oct. 14, when a story about another church appeared.

In filler on L-3 today, an apparent production error resulted in an incomprehensible weather photo -- with a gray bar running along the bottom of the image.

Upsetting stomachs

The highly promotional Better Living cover story on upscale food at sports arenas doesn't say whether Madison Square Garden is aware MSG is the abbreviation for a flavor enhancer that causes headaches and other adverse reactions?

Will its MSG Signature Collection menu become associated with monosodium glutamate, whose widespread use caused "Chinese restaurant syndrome"?

A lot is missing from Staff Writer Kara Yorio's poorly reported story -- especially prices, and whether the hamburgers and chicken hot dogs with kimchi are naturally raised. 

Maybe her assignment editor wanted to downplay how sports arenas are just as intent on ripping off fans now as they were in the old days of preservative-filled hot dogs and pricey cups of beer.

And is Yorio serious in her gimmicky lead paragraph? "Not that long ago, sushi at a sports arena was the food choice of someone who finds food poisoning fun...."

What arena was serving spoiled raw fish to fans? Food poisoning is "fun"? Does anybody edit Better Living stories to ensure they don't sound like they were written by novices? 

Finally, is it just a coincidence that another promotional -- though poorly written -- story on the renovation of Madison Square Garden appears on A-4 today?

Why do almost all of Staff Writer John Brennan's stories sound like he's been bribed with season tickets?

Four years, no raise

An Anonymous comment from a reader of Eye on The Record has been added to the post, How much does Stephen Borg make?

The comment comes from someone who works in advertising. After a salary cut, this employee says he/she hasn't had a raise in nearly four years -- while Borg lives high on the hog in his $3.65 million Tenafly mansion.

The employee also asks whether one of the vice presidents quit.

Here is a link to the Stephen Borg post:

How much does Stephen Borg make?

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