Monday, February 28, 2011

The elephant in the newsroom

White House Kitchen Garden 2Image by afagen via Flickr
The White House vegetable garden.

Editors of The Record probably will tell you they strive to remain objective, but readers aren't the fools the paper thinks they are. 

The editors can't hide how much they like Governor Christie and his divisive budget and tax policies. And they can't hide how much they go out of their way to avoid tackling the obesity epidemic or discussing the governor's weight problem.

But now, more than a year after he took office, Christie himself is talking about his size, first in a Star-Ledger story that appeared in The Record on Feb. 20, reporting the governor is trying to lose weight, and again today in a report on his appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" (A-2).

On the Sunday TV broadcast, Christie defended first lady Michelle Obama's efforts to encourage children to be more active and eat healthy food, an initiative some other conservatives have criticized. He said:

"I think it's a really good goal to encourage kids to eat better. I've struggled with my weight for 30 years. And it's a struggle."

Only half the story

Of course, I didn't see any mention in the story by Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson that Christie cut school breakfast programs for low-income children or that his wife, Mary Pat, is working with food pantries, not addressing the childhood obesity problem.

Some Record editors also have struggled with their weight for years or decades, but they are not about to acknowledge it or launch a project on the obesity epidemic -- the elephant in the Woodland Park newsroom, as it was for many years in the abandoned Hackensack newsroom.

At one time, three editors were obese or verging on obese -- head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, Project Editor Tim Nostrand and Food Editor Bill Pitcher -- but the paper kept on printing stories or restaurant reviews promoting desserts, chocolate and other sweets.

Pitcher began free lancing for the Food section when he was a layout editor on the news desk, then left the paper for a year or so before returning as food editor in mid-2006. 

His daughter was a 2-year-old of normal weight when I met her, but a few years later, in 2006 or 2007, she appeared in the newsroom as a grossly overweight little girl.

Pitcher has left the paper, but the restaurant reviewer he hired in 2007, Elisa Ung, continues to indulge her mindless obsession with dessert in her weekly columns.

Well-reported burg

Sykes' Local section doesn't have any Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood news today, but don't miss the story on the ambulance corps in Harrington Park, the editor's hometown (L-2).

Unscripted, unhinged

In Better Living, the Associated Press coverage of the Academy Awards broadcast mentions Best Supporting Actress Melissa Leo's use of the F-word, but not what a blithering idiot she was during her acceptance speech -- one in a long lime of such speeches from actors who seem to fall apart when they don't have a script to work from.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

More Christie pros than Christie foes

Richard Codey speaking at The College of New J...Image via Wikipedia
Sen. Richard J. Codey attacks Governor Christie's "sound-bite budget."

The Record continues to do Governor Christie's dirty work today by publishing three columns that favor his divisive budget and tax policies and only one that opposes them.  

Meanwhile, Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin continues his silence on the middle-class war Christie is trying to ignite.

The Republican Raging Bull's attempt to divide the state's middle class cries out for man-on-the-street interviews, but Editor Francis Scandale and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes don't give a shit about what you and other readers think. 

Isn't that what letters to the editor are for? Sykes shouts, before her shrieks of laughter echo across the Woodland Park newsroom.

In a column that starts on the front of Opinion, Sen. Richard J. Codey, a Democrat who served as governor in 2004-06, writes:
"Reforms are needed, but to try and achieve them by pitting New Jerseyans against New Jerseyans and trying to provide scapegoats and create smokescreens is not the way to obtain them.
"Your property taxes are up because this administration has drastically cut your education dollars.
"Your property taxes are up because this administration has drastically cut your municipal aid.
"Your property taxes are up because this administration continues a commitment to placing the burden of our state’s recovery on the shoulders of the middle class while giving a pass to the state’s wealthiest and providing more and more business tax breaks to corporations.
"So while the governor would like to tell you it is because of a union, just remember, the average public employee makes $56,000 – certainly not living the life of luxury."
'On the money: A sound-bite budget'

Columnist Mike Kelly's anti-union piece on the front of Opinion comes from a reporter who never found himself screwed by Scandale or his other supervisors -- unlike his black and Hispanic counterparts.

Eye on The Record bestows its first Black Hole Awards to Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski, Kelly and Doblin, in that order. Their gimmick-filled column writing is exceeded only by their poor reporting skills.

Flights of fancy

"Your Money's Worth" Columnist Kevin DeMarrais devotes an entire column to the tale of a wealthy businesswoman's attempt to repair her reputation. 

Unfortunately, his report is insensitive to residents of Hackensack and other towns near Teterboro Airport whose quality of life is ruined by relentless noise from the $10 million to $50 million business jets she sells.

Blind tasting

Go to Better Living for a good laugh over Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung's report on meals that will be eaten in the dark at an Emerson restaurant.

She has been reviewing restaurants for the paper since 2007 -- and has turned a blind eye to harmful additives in meat and poultry, artificially colored farmed fish and artery clogging ingredients in the desserts she obsesses over.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pitting reader against reader

Black History Month ProgramImage by New Jersey State Library via Flickr
A Black History Month program. Does The Record treat blacks differently than whites?

Three days after Governor Christie claimed public employee unions are "trying to break the middle class," The Record finally put his comments into perspective at the top of the front page.

But lest readers think Editor Francis Scandale and the other so-called journalists running the Woodland Park daily are criticizing Christie's anti-union policies, the newsroom lords were careful to make sure union protesters are the ones who define the story as a battle of middle-class residents.

The editors have kept their prime mission in focus: Helping the Republican bully distract readers from his slavish service to wealthy supporters at the expense of New Jersey's middle- and working-class families.

Cries of middle-class 'war'

It's the perfect headline, but it should have appeared Thursday on the initial report of the governor's comments.

Two embarrassing corrections appear on A-2 today, one from Political Stile Columnist Charles Stile.

Lifestyles of the rich

A wealthy Alpine woman somehow convinced head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes that her midlife crisis was worthy of lavish coverage on the front of Local today. Amy Lerner and her sister will be competing next month in an off-road rally in Morocco.

Apparently, Sykes had no other legitimate local news for her section front today. Maybe her staff took a three-day weekend. 

A far better choice for the front is the controversy over an anti-black, antiabortion ad that used the photo of a 6-year-old African-American girl from Paterson. That story is buried on L-6 today. 

Is Sykes herself showing bias during Black History Month? Is she favoring the rich, as Christie does?

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Exposing Christie's union busting

A photograph of the Little White Schoolhouse o...Image via Wikipedia
The Little White Schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisc., claims to be the birthplace of the Republican Party at a meeting in 1854. Some Democrats want to rename the town Rip-off.

It's not on the front page, as it should be, but Columnist Charles Stile today exposes Governor Christie's anti-union agenda for what it is -- an end run around collective bargaining -- not much different than what is going on in Wisconsin, where another rabidly conservative Republican governor rules.

But Stile argues New Jersey's bully is just following the union's lead on bypassing the bargaining table to thwart past efforts at squeezing savings out of public employees. Still, the columnist doesn't make much of a fuss over Christie unfairly seeking a 30% worker contribution to health benefits -- compared to 1.5% now.

Stile's column couldn't appear on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park because it was frozen out by two stories on mass transit -- a subject the paper routinely ignores so as not to inflame car dealers, who continue to buy page after page of advertising to move their tin.

In a rare foray out of the office, Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski reported one of those stories: Rail, bus and private minibus operators face new penalties for talking on cell phones while driving. 

No beef with steaks

In her review of The Capitol Grille, a chain steakhouse that opened at Garden State Plaza, Staff Writer Elisa Ung gushes over dry-aged beef that apparently includes harmful antibiotics, growth hormones and animal byproducts.

I say apparently, because Ung tells you absolutely nothing about whether the $41 and $43 steaks she sampled are from domestic or foreign cattle, or how they were raised. She also overlooks the misspelling of "grill."

Read it in a weekly

It's Black History Month, but the former Hackensack daily hasn't published any black history news since Feb. 20.

However, the Hackensack Chronicle's Feb. 25 edition has a fascinating story about John Lathen, the first African-American intern at what was then called Hackensack Hospital. This was in 1950, more than a decade before major civil rights law were enacted.

To overcome expectant white mothers' possible objections to a black doctor delivering their babies, they were given anesthesia right before childbirth. "When the woman was unconscious, my father would come out and deliver the baby," Lathen's daughter told the paper.

See previous post, 'Bergen Beat' or beating Bergen?

'Bergen Beat' or beating Bergen?

Seal of Bergen County, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia

The Web site of The Record and other publications of North Jersey Media Group now has a blog about Bergen County. 

I don't know how much of the information reporters post at appears in the Woodland Park daily. Here is an editor's note on the blog:

Bergen Beat

Welcome to Bergen Beat, a place where reporters from The Record will post information from the towns they cover and insights from the streets of Bergen County. We hope that you will take some time and interact with the reporters who cover your world.
Daniel Sforza
Assistant Director of Assignment/Bergen
Posted by Dan Sforza on 01/04 at 06:44 PM
(0) CommentsPermalink

You would think "insights from the streets" would show up in the paper. And I take exception to Sforza saying "reporters who cover your world," because that is so far from the truth.

Sforza is a former reporter who covered transportation and Englewood before that, but he was no great shakes.

On the Englewood beat, he apparently wasn't aware that an open-air police firing range awakened residents with gunshots and shotgun blasts as early as 8 a.m. more than 100 days each year. 

When he covered transportation, he ignored defective NJ Transit cruiser buses on commuter routes to Manhattan, and wrote stories about the "highway of the future."

Sforza works under head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, a former weekly newspaper reporter who has been at the paper forever in one guise or another.

Local news coverage has diminished in direct proportion to their inability -- and the inability of other assistant assignment editors -- to send reporters out to cover stories that have meaning to readers in Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck and other communities.

The assignment editors are supposed to keep abreast of the news. Instead, at least one of them, Rich Whitby, merely stares at breasts in the newsroom.

Bergen Beat
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where's the banner headline?

Bergen County, New JerseyImage by dougtone via Flickr
Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan should stick to her guns.


Did you read that preposterous statement from Governor Christie about public employee unions "trying to break the middle class"? Who does he think he's kidding -- besides Editor Francis Scandale?

Public employees are the middle class. Why is this nonsense only a brief on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park, and not under a banner headline to show what a fool Christie is?

"In New Jersey, we're not trying to break the unions; in New Jersey, the unions are trying to break the middle class," Christie said on a morning television show, where he was promoting his budget proposal to cut public employee benefits in return for higher property tax rebates (A-3).

The governor -- apparently with a straight face and unchallenged by his interviewers -- is trying to pit one segment of the middle class against another, so neither group notices how he kowtows to rich and powerful people like himself.

In another piece of fiction, he claimed "the main driver of property taxes in New Jersey are [public] employee costs," when he and every other public official knows those taxes are high because of the ruinously expensive home-rule system, including $200,000-a-year salaries for police chiefs.

Another ass slapper

Scandale felt a big part of A-1 today should be devoted, not to the governor's ridiculous statements, but to a large photo of an overpaid athlete who plays in New York. 

The editor who loves to put sports stories on the front page apparently is happy paying property taxes of about $18,000 a year on his Glen Rock home.

How else to explain the upbeat story leading A-1, emphasizing Christie's proposal for a tiny 1% increase in education aid? So Hackensack, which lost about $5 million in aid, would be getting chump change in 2012 -- $852,000 more.

Make college accountable

I disagree with the A-12 editorial opposing Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan's desire for veto power over decisions at Bergen Community College. 

She can start by getting college officials to come up with a calendar that has the same breaks as public schools. 

This week, public schools are closed for vacation, but the college is oblivious and holding classes, making family activities difficult, if not impossible.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making readers work for the news

Republican Party (United States)Image via Wikipedia

The Record of Woodland Park today devotes not that much more of the front page to Governor Christie's momentous budget proposals than it did to the inconsequential landing of a small plane on Route 80. 

And like that gee-whiz report on Feb. 1, there's something major missing in today's package of stories.

You'll have to plow through lots of densely packed text on Page 1 and A-6 and A-7, the continuation pages, to make any sense of Christie's plan. 

Where is the graphic comparing the proposed 2012 budget to the current one? (The story on the plane that used Route 80 as a landing strip didn't name the town where it set down.) 

Such an easy-to-read budget chart belongs on A-1, but Editor Francis Scandale filled that space with a silly sports story instead. Readers have to work hard to determine whether this is more of the Republican governor's financial sleight-of-hand.

And why does Scandale and the other editors seize on Christie's phrase "new normal" as the main headline, unless they want to resemble his public relations journal. A far better head would have been:

More cuts ahead

The paper also seems to accept the governor's proposal for $200 million in tax cuts for wealthy business owners -- without citing any evidence such incentives create jobs or seeking such data from the Christie administration.

An upbeat editorial on the budget plan is on A-10.

Out of mothballs

The major story on the front of Local is about the historic Anderson Street railroad station in Hackensack that was destroyed in a fire. This is the first story about the station's possible replacement since it burned down more than two years ago.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'It's downhill from here'

SkislopeImage via Wikipedia
Compare reading The Record with the exhiliration of skiing.

It's downhill from here

That headline on the weather-skiing package on Page L-1 today could easily describe the state of local news in The Record of Woodland Park. 

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes gives readers quite a ride around North Jersey, but Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and other major communities are deemed not worth the municipal-news detour.

The arrest of a Clifton councilwoman on an assault charge is the off-lead on Page 1 today, but  Editor Francis Scandale still hasn't provided readers with a preview of cuts Governor Christie will reveal in his budget address today.

That pre-budget address story has been a mainstay in past years. Sunday's piece was long on conflict between Christie and the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and short on specifics. 

A Star-Ledger story on A-3 today reports the governor's staff refused to release details -- yet another sign of Christie's success in managing the news since he took office 13 months ago.

Three embarrassing corrections appear on A-2 today.

Travelogue of local news

On Sykes' Local front, you'll find stories from several towns, including West Milford, and inside, you can take your pick of police news on almost every page.

The section specializes in long stories previewing future events, such as an April referendum on how to fund a regional school district (L-1) and possible expansion of a school to accommodate preschool classes (L-3).

Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano and Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado manage to come up with a single story each -- the former reports a drug arrest from Saturday, the latter car break-ins in Maywood (L-2).

Alvarado hasn't had a single story on the budget process in Hackensack, a subject she completely ignored last year, although Fabiano and other municipal reporters have written about it in their towns in recent weeks.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Doblin's highly partisan commentary

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 24:  In this photo ill...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
An OpEd article by President Obama that appeared in The Los Angeles Times.

Even if you don't read Alfred P. Doblin's columns on the OpEd page -- such as the one that appears today on Page A-13  -- you're probably reading one of his unsigned editorials or other editorials he has reviewed, edited and approved in his role as editor of The Record's Editorial Page.

Doblin is the former Hackensack daily's first Editorial Page editor who both expresses the newspaper's official position in editorials and writes highly partisan columns. 

And there's the rub. His columns' clear bias in favor of almost everything Governor Christie has done since the Republican took office a year ago is damaging the credibility of the paper's editorials.

Doblin came to The Record from its sister paper, the Herald News. Editorial writers at the flagship paper were passed over when he was appointed to replace Dick Benfield, who retired. He is a fastidious little man with an apparently small brain.

He loves movies and Broadway shows, and often compares events to them. His often juvenile prose employs a lot of gimmicks and plays on words. Take a look at the headline over his column, which runs on the Editorial Page in a small Monday paper:

Fear-mongering makes for bipartisan blend of tea

I have no idea what that means, a problem even if he didn't write it himself.

In today's column, Doblin attacks Democratic State Committee Chairman John Wisniewski, also an assemblyman, for saying Christie launched an "assault" on seniors in his call last week for raising the retirement age and cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

Well, isn't it an assault on older Americans? Doblin prefers to call the speech to a conservative think tank in Washington "a large dose of leadership," because Christie supposedly has the political courage no other Republican or Democrat has to push for cuts in these programs. 

Of course, Doblin never mentions that Christie has no political courage when it comes to finding new sources of revenue the state needs to climb out of its deep financial hole -- such as the millionaires tax and a few pennies added to the low gasoline tax.

And is there any real validity to Doblin's comparison of Wisniewski's statement to Sarah Palin's "fear-mongering"? Don't insult my intelligence with a stupid gimmick.

Don't you love how Doblin and his ilk invariably use the word "reform" to mask big cuts in government programs that are working and helping middle- and working-class retirees? And as a recent letter to the editor noted, all of us contribute to Social Security during our working lives, so hands off, please. 

Just above Doblin's column today, he speaks in his "other voice" -- an editorial opposing Christie's use of toll hikes to rescue the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund.

More ass slapping

The jock itching, ass slapping, jock-strap waving and male bonding roared back at the news meeting where Editor Francis Scandale ordered a large photo of spring baseball training on Page 1 today.

The front page usually carries a preview of Christie's budget speech, which is set for Tuesday, but why should Scandale care whether the governor is going to continue his assault on middle- and working-class programs, as he did to balance the current budget?

Scandale continues to fiddle while New Jersey burns -- residents watch in disbelief as the rich and powerful attack their public employee unions, end their property tax rebates, cut programs for low-income women and children, and shake their way of life the core.

See previous post, Comment of the day
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Comment of the day

United States Senate candidate Al Franken spea...Image via Wikipedia
Al Franken as a U.S. Senate candidate.

A Q&A in the Business section of The Record of Woodland Park on Sunday -- with the lead partner of Pashman Stein, the Hackensack law firm that represents the newspaper's parent company -- drew this comment from a reader of Eye on The Record:
Anonymous said...
Did Joan Verdon mention that when Al Franken leaves the Senate he's been invited to join the law firm of Pashman Stein? They're even going to make him a partner and rename it Franken Stein.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Only eight days left for black news

African American HistoryImage via Wikipedia
The Record is filled with African-American news this month.

Get it while it's hot off the presses. 

News of African-Americans dominates the front page, and a few of them even make an appearance today in The Record on the Road -- the usually lily white photo feature in Travel. 

Hey, Editors Francis Scandale and Deirdre Sykes, will all this attention to black news end when Black History Month concludes in eight days?

Two weeks after reporting census data showing significant drops in North Jersey's black population, Staff Writer Dave Sheingold of The Record of Woodland Park is back today with a story explaining the trend. 

He discusses Hackensack and Teaneck, Passaic city and Paterson, but his major focus is on Englewood, where the African-American population dropped 15.3% from 2000-10. He even interviews a Jamaican restaurant owner in Teaneck, but errs in listing one of his dishes, ackee and salt fish, which he calls "ackee fish."

Sheingold reports financial reasons are prompting blacks to move to the South. He doesn't mention other factors, such as Englewood's segregated elementary and middle schools.

The lead A-1 story today is about the coming free-for-all over a new state budget between Governor Christie and the Legislature. A Cliffview editorial portrays the Republican governor as another in a long line of union haters: Christie is a wanna-be union buster

Size matters

A story on A-3 is a first -- the first full discussion of Christie's weight I've seen since he took office more than a year ago.  A second piece on Page O-2, an Opinion column by a Washington Post staffer, says the governor makes fat jokes at his own expense.

The news story reports Christie has been working out with a trainer and losing weight. Neither his overall weight or how much he has lost is listed. The AP story says the governor is losing weight so he can "be around" for his children, not that he's about to launch a campaign against the obesity epidemic.

I don't know how Business section Staff Writer Joan Verdon chose attorney Louis Pashman of Pashman Stein in Hackensack for one of her promotional Q&As (B-6), but his firm has represented and profited handsomely from fees paid by North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record, in an age-discrimination suit and other legal matters. 

Isn't this a major conflict? Did the paper get a preferential rate for legal representation or is it paying part of its fees with this lavish spread on Pashman, the son of a New Jersey Supreme Court justice?

Get rid of minorities

An editorial on O-2 today calls for the ouster of Associate Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto -- not surprising from a newsroom that has gotten rid of black and Hispanic staffers. 

The editorial doesn't even mention that John Wallace was the only African-American member of the state's high court when Christie booted him. Or that Rivera-Soto is the only Hispanic on the court.

Best comes in last

In Better Living, Cheeburger, Cheeburger is the only one of the fancy new burger joints to use antibiotic- and hormone-free beef, so why does Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung list it last in her column, The Corner Table (F-1)?

It's likely because of the owner's policy of posting photos of customers who finish large burgers:
"Now it's one thing to reward adults for stuffing their face, but I winced when I saw that children get their pictures on the wall if they finish a half-pound burger. Talk about crossing the line."
How rich. This comes from an adult journalist who is rewarded with a big salary and repayment for all the food she stuffs into her face, and whose mindless obsession for dessert sets a poor example for her own child.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Editors desperately fill holes

A bank painting of Tenafly.

Today's front page has four stories about New Jersey and North Jersey for a change, but a closer look reveals how desperate Editor Francis Scandale is to fill holes his lazy subeditors left open.

The lead story across the top of A-1 reports that Governor Christie vetoed a dozen job-creation bills, claiming Democrats offered no means to pay for $600 million in business tax credits and incentives.

Curiously, an estimated $600 million would be raised by a millionaires tax the governor vehemently opposes. That's not reported in the story, however.

Old news on Page 1

If a lawsuit over Power Balance bracelets is Page 1 news, how did a reporter covering  the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack full time miss it when it was filed "last month"?

The story also repeats a common error. A suit is not a class action until a judge approves that designation.

And does another in the seemingly endless stream of stories on Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood really belong on A-1? Today's breathless news? The state again is inviting applications for a new general hospital "to serve Bergen County."

Better stories inside

Two stories on A-3 would have been better on Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park.

Legislative leaders appear to have caved in to the newspaper industry by shelving a bill that would have allowed the posting of legal notices online. 

Newspaper executives claimed they would lose revenue of $20 million a year.

A second A-3 story reports Governor Christie is threatening to withhold aid after the Parsippany-Troy Hills school board voted to boost the pay of its superintendent to $216,000 a year -- far above the cap of $175,000, the same salary as the governor.

Police chiefs thrive

Why isn't The Record asking Christie about a cap on the salaries of police chiefs, many of whom make more than $200,000 a year?

Two letters to the editor on A-13 praise The Record for wrapping the front page and A-section in a four-page bank ad last Sunday. Both sound like they were written by pals of Publisher Stephen A. Borg.

Mark R. Gregorek of Ramsey calls the ad "creative thinking" to find the money needed to keep the presses rolling. But what would he say about the $3.65 million in company revenue Borg used to buy a huge new home in Tenafly?

Gregorek is a big fan of advertising, it seems. In 1994, The New York Times reported two officers of a company known as Quantum Systems Inc. of Ramsey, Mark R. Gregorek and Jeffrey C. Dillow, "this month patented a system for replacing telephone ringing sounds and busy signals with 15-second advertisements."

Parents scam minorities

An L-1 story reports the Englewood school district may have to add $704,000 to its budget next year to cover the tuition of students who attend a new Hebrew-language charter school in the city this fall. 

It's likely most of those students now attend private schools at a cost to their parents of $15,000 to $20,000 a year. The parents refuse to send their children to public schools filled almost completely with blacks and Hispanics, but pay school taxes anyway.

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He's talking about Christie, too

The state capitol of Madison, WisconsinImage via Wikipedia
The State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here is some straight talk from filmmaker and activist Michael Moore:

Join My High School Newspaper ...a note to students from Michael Moore
Friday, February 18th, 2011

Dear High School Students:

How inspired are you by the thousands of students from Wisconsin high schools who began walking out of class four days ago and have now occupied the State Capitol building and its grounds in Madison, demanding that the governor stop his assault on teachers and other government workers? I have to say it's one of the most exciting things I've seen in years.

We are, right now, living in an amazing moment of history. And this moment has happened because the youth around the world have decided they've had enough. Young people are in revolt -- and it's about time.

You, the students and young adults, from Cairo, Egypt to Madison, Wisconsin, are now rising up, taking to the streets, organizing, protesting and refusing to move until your voices are heard. Effing amazing!! It has scared the pants off those in power, the adults who were so convinced they had done a heckuva job trying to dumb you down and distract you with useless nonsense so that you'd end up feeling powerless, just another cog in the wheel, another brick in the wall. You've been fed a lot of propaganda about "how the system works" and so many lies about what took place in history that I'm amazed you've been able to sort through all the bs and see the truth for what it is. This was all done in the hopes you would just keep your mouths shut, get in line and follow orders. And don't rock the boat. Because if you do, you could end up without a good job! You could end up looking like a freak! You've been told politics isn't cool and that one person really can't make a difference.

And for some beautiful, unknown reason, you've refused to listen. Maybe it's because you've figured out that we adults are about to hand you a very empty and increasingly miserable world, with its melting polar ice caps, its low-paying jobs, its incessant war machine, and its plan to put you in permanent debt at age 18 with the racket known as college loans.

On top of that, you've had to listen to adults tell you that you may not be able to legally marry the person you love, that your uterus isn't really yours to control, and that if a black guy somehow makes it into the White House, he must've entered illegally from Kenya.

Yet, from what I've seen, the vast majority of you have rejected all of this crap. Never forget that it was you, the young people, who made Barack Obama president. First you formed his army of election volunteers to get him the nomination. Then you came out in record numbers in November of 2008. Did you know that the only age group where Obama won the white vote was with 18-29-year-olds? The majority of every white age group over 29 years old voted for McCain -- and yet Obama still won! How'd that happen? Because there were so many youth voters of all races -- a record turnout that overcame the vast numbers of fearful white adults who simply couldn't see someone whose middle name was Hussein in the Oval Office. Thank you young voters for making that happen!

Young people elsewhere in the world, most notably in the Middle East, have taken to the streets and overthrown dictatorial governments without firing a shot. Their courage has inspired others to take a stand. There's a huge momentum right now, a youth-backed mojo that can't and won't be stopped.

Although I've long since left your age group, I've been so inspired by recent events that I'd like to do my bit and lend a hand. I've decided to turn over a part of my website to high school students so they -- you -- can have the opportunity to get the word out to millions more people. For a long time I've wondered, how come we don't hear the true voices of teenagers in our mainstream media? Why is your voice any less valid than an adult's?

In high schools all across America, students have great ideas to make things better or to question what is going on -- and often these thoughts and opinions are ignored or silenced. How often in school is the will of the student body ignored? How many students today will try to speak out, to stand up for something important, to simply try to right a wrong -- and will be swiftly shut down by those in authority, or by other students themselves?

I've seen students over the years attempt to participate in the democratic process only to be told that high schools aren't democracies and that they have no rights (even though the Supreme Court has said that a student doesn't give up his or her rights "when they enter the schoolhouse door").

It's always amazed me how adults preach to young people about what a great "democracy" we have, but when students seek to be part of it, they are reminded that they are not full citizens yet and must behave somehow as indentured servants. Is it any wonder then why some students, when they become adults, don't feel like participating in our political system -- because they've been taught by example for the past 12 years that they have no say in the decisions that affect them?

We like to say that we have this great "free press," and yet how free are high school newspapers? How free are you to write or blog about what you want? I've been sent stories from teenagers that they couldn't get published at school. Why not? Why must we silence or keep out of sight the voice of our teenagers?
It's not that way in other countries. The voting age in places like Austria, Brazil or Nicaragua is 16. In France, students can shut down the country by simply walking out of school and taking to the streets.
But here in the U.S. you're told to obey and to basically butt out and let the adults run the show.

Let's change that! I'm starting something on my site called, "HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER." Here you will be able to write what you want and I will publish it. I will also post those articles that you've tried to get published at your school but were turned down. On my site you will have freedom and an open forum and a chance to have your voice heard by millions.

I've asked my 17-year-old niece, Molly, to kick things off by editing this page for the first six months. She will ask you to send her your stories and ideas and the best ones will be posted on I'll give you the platform you deserve. It will be my honor to have you on my site and I encourage you to take advantage of it.

You are often called "our future." That future is today, right here, right now. You've already proven you can change the world. Keep doing it. And I'd be honored to help you.

Michael Moore
P.S. When can you get started? Right now! Just go here and register. (You can use a made-up name if you want and you don’t have to name your school.) Then once you’re done, start submitting blogs, music, video and more!

P.P.S. If you’re reading this and not in high school, please take a second and forward it to all the students you know.

Join Mike's Mailing List | Follow Mike on Twitter | Join Mike's Facebook Group | Become Mike's MySpace Friend

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Christie aide scolds second-graders

The Tonnelle Ave station of the Hudson-Bergen ...Image via Wikipedia
The Record is helping Tenafly officials portray light-rail service as negatively as possible.

The lead Page 1 story today reports how Governor Christie's acting education czar "warned" minority second-graders at a "troubled" school in Trenton: "When I come back, I want everyone to be able to spell 'amphibian,' tell me what it means and think of an example other than a frog."

Staff Writer Leslie Brody commands the front page for the second day in a row to tell readers how acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf plans to bridge the learning gap. 

The generally upbeat article notes students at the school he visited Thursday are mostly poor black and Hispanic children, "who can't read or do math on grade level."

Read this to the end, as I did, and you'll find no mention by Cerf or this education reporter of whether minority students do far better in an integrated setting, as numerous studies have shown.

That's no surprise, because The Record of Woodland Park has never examined the impact of segregated classrooms -- such as those in Englewood elementary and middle schools -- on learning.

"Cerf calls the achievement gap 'morally reprehensible' and says his proposals will help close it," the reporter notes on A-10, then goes on to say the education czar believes teachers are "the single most important influence on student success."

Reporter as mouthpiece

Where is it written that reporters must quote anything an officials says, even if it contradicts reality? Where is it written that reporters should avoid challenging a news source at all costs? Where is it written that reporters must endeavor to push readers' buttons?

If you work for Editor Francis Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and their minions, that seems to be your mission. 

Take Staff Writer Karen Sudol, who has done a number of stories on opposition to the extension of light-rail service to Tenafly -- a proposal that is the fruit of decades of effort to improve mass transit and ease traffic congestion in densely populated North Jersey.

Sudol has merely parroted statements from Tenafly Councilman Barry Honig and others, apparently wealthy people who are defending their right to drive into Manhattan, adding to already unbearable pollution. 

Today, she quotes Honig as saying light-rail service would "serve practically no one in our town," even though she reports three paragraphs earlier that 1,183 people supported the proposal in a November referendum (L-2).

She quotes Honig as saying light rail "will significantly harm the quality of life in our community," even though light-rail cars are propelled by electric motors that don't pollute and are far quieter than diesel locomotives that were proposed initially.

Maybe Honig and others in Tenafly were influenced by two long, slanted, anti-light rail stories reported and written by Tom Davis, a so-called transportation reporter who thankfully has left the paper.

Bahama BreezeImage via Wikipedia

Queasy stomachs

I've been driving past The Green Olive in a drab strip mall on Passaic Street in Hackensack for more than three years and have never had the least bit of interest in eating there, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw its "local neighborhood cooking" reviewed in Better Living today. 

The place looks like a tavern that serves food, and I don't want to try one of its mystery meat hamburgers or its pizzas. Even the usually deceptive food photos with the review can't hide the mediocrity of this pizza crust.

Restaurant Revewer Elisa Ung begins this review as she does all others, telling "The Story" of how it got started. Today, she devotes five long paragraphs to this introduction. Who cares? 

Tell me about the origin of the food, how the meat in the burger was raised, the service -- anything but the chef's work history, words of praise from his stepson and all the other rigmarole.

I know times are tight at the paper, but why does Ung have to review every restaurant she eats in? Last week, she reviewed Rumba Cubana in North Bergen, where she found "two pieces of gristle in the complimentary dip and a hair in two different dishes, both on the same weeknight visit."

Just the thought of finding that in my food makes me queasy, and I would never visit that place.

She gives two stars to The Green Olive (Good), as she did to Rumba Cubana, but that's the same rating she gave to a faux-Caribbean chain restaurant, Bahama Breeze in Wayne, where she was served raw or undercooked scallops three times.

Ung also seems to be straying from reviewing more expensive, fine-dining restaurants. The motive must be to save the troubled newspaper money, but it's a disservice to readers.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

More good P.R. for Christie

A complete set of the Babylonian TalmudImage via Wikipedia
Like the Talmud, The Record's coverage of Englewood has hidden meaning.

The Record continues to use its front page to promote Governor Christie's conservative agenda, without characterizing his policies for what they are: an unprecedented attack on the middle and working classes in New Jersey.

Editor Francis Scandale leads Page 1 of the Woodland Park daily with the Christie administration's proposal to revise teacher-tenure rules.

We love you, Big Guy

Below the fold on A-1, Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson continues his unabashed love affair with Christie.

He reports the governor "mixed trademark bravado and self-professed humility in a speech to a conservative think tank ... that further burnished his rising star-status in national politics," but denied he has any interest in running for president. 

On the continuation page, the reporter says, "The speech, full of self-deprecating jokes, played among the crowd of conservatives, many of them young people, and journalists, including some top Washington columnists."
You can't buy better public relations. I wonder if Jackson is pulling out all the verbal stops for Christie because he hopes to become part of any national campaign the Republican might launch in the future.

Christie says he isn't afraid politically to call for cuts in entitlement programs -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- a stance that reveals growing ageism in society.

It's a trend familiar to Publisher Stephen A. Borg, Scandale and other editors, who laid off mostly older workers in 2007-08.

Christie wants to cut New Jersey's Medicaid program. He's already cut property tax rebates, school lunches for low-income children and health care for low-income women, among other programs.

Stories such as this divert attention from Christie's refusal to generate more tax revenue from millionaires, including his wealthy supporters, or raise the low gasoline tax on their gas-guzzling limos and SUVs to repair roads and bridges and improve mass transit.

Narrow focus

Letters to the editor today scold The Record for its narrow focus on Orthodox Jews in stories about young athletes who can't compete on the Sabbath (A-12). Protestants and Catholics have similar conflicts, readers say.  

Divided city

In head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, you see a similar bias in coverage by Englewood reporter Giovanna Fabiano, who breaks a long silence today with two municipal stories from her beat -- the first since Jan. 22. 

Fabiano has written  about the efforts of Orthodox Jewish residents to cut taxes, but not about the positions of other groups.

Today, she reports the City Council voted to name a park after an Orthodox Jewish doctor who lived in Englewood, but worked in New York City (L-3). He was killed by a hit-run driver as he returned home from a prayer service.  

At the same meeting, the longtime pastor of a black church who extended his ministry to the city's "poorest neighborhoods, as well as hospitals and prisons" before his death at 81 late last month, was honored in "a special resolution Tuesday night."

I guess city officials ran out of parks to rename.

Fabiano has a second story on budget deliberations in Englewood (L-3), but I have seen nothing similar from Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado, who also seems intent on ignoring the current re-assessment of homes throughout the city as real estate values fall. 
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