Thursday, March 31, 2011

NJMG fires reporter over story on bullying

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

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

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

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

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

Inside Vernon

Today's paper 

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

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

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

Resident kvetch

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Slanting the news to please a wealthy publisher

The Supreme Court of the United States. Washin...Image via Wikipedia
The Record's story on the Wal-Mart sex-bias case reads the minds of U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Did State House Bureau staffer John Reitmeyer cover the same legislative hearing on Governor Christie's new budget as other reporters?

One news outlet quoted state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff as saying Christie won't sign a budget that contains a tax surcharge on millionaires.

But you have to plow through Reitmeyer's Page 1 piece in The Record today and turn to the jump page (A-8) before he even mentions such a tax, and he does so only in paraphrasing one of the Democrat lawmakers who have been battling the governor.

Selling out to Wal-Mart

I watched two major TV news reports Tuesday night on the sex-bias suit against Wal-Mart, a Record advertiser -- CBS and PBS -- and neither predicted how the Supreme Court will rule on the plaintiffs' request for class-action status.

But in an A-1 brief , L-1 refer and the major piece on the first Business page (L-7), Editor Francis Scandale chose a slanted Associated Press story sure to please Wal-Mart, other wealthy business owners and his multimillionaire boss, Publisher Stephen A. Borg.

The AP reports the high court "appears ready to block" the lawsuit. Compare that to The New York Times, which reports the court "appeared closely divided" during legal arguments Tuesday.

As if The Record's slant isn't bad enough, the sub-headline is totally inaccurate, saying the justices are expected to "block claim of sex discrimination," even though that issue is not before the court.

Newsroom sex-bias

The spin on the Wal-Mart suit is no surprise coming from Scandale, who, with Features Director Barbara Jaeger, paid $70,000 a year to a new, 30-something male food editor in 2006, thousands of dollars more than the woman he replaced -- a respected food journalist who had 10 times his experience. 

Shouldn't the Port Authority spend $1.8 billion no longer needed for a new rail tunnel on improving mass transit -- not on the road and bridge repairs demanded by Christie (A-3)?


Can reporter Karen Rouse, who covers transportation meetings and surveys, balance her checkbook? On A-8 today, she reports turnpike toll collectors "average about $65,000 a year ... but that could be cut to $10 to $12 an hour if the agency goes private." 

An editorial dismissing some residents' aesthetic objections to solar panels on utility poles doesn't mention these are the same people who have buried relatives with cancer and other diseases linked to North Jersey's notorious air pollution (A-20).

On L-6, in head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, Staff Writer Nick Clunn reports on a debate over building apartments next to "a 10,000-mile-long [gas] pipeline" between New York City and the Gulf Coast.

Surrounded by wolves

Don't miss the touching tribute to readers, editors, even his wife at the end of the Your Money's Worth column, which Staff Writer Kevin DeMarrais started 17 years ago March 27 (L-8).

I'll give him a pass -- in view of how he's a lone voice for the consumer among too many reporters and editors at the Borgs' Woodland Park daily who have long ago sold out to Christie, wealthy advertisers and other special interests.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Selfish editor makes front page his own

Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, seat of the...Image via Wikipedia
The Supreme Court convenes in the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, Trenton. Did Governor Christie dump the only black justice because he anticipated a battle over his deep education cuts?

Is it just a coincidence the so-called New Jersey stories on the front page today involve Glen Rock, where Editor Francis Scandale lives, and Colorado, where he lived before coming to The Record of Woodland Park?

Is the sixth story about Glen Rock's sister-city relationship with Onomachi, Japan, really Page 1 news? Readers still haven't seen any photos of the Japanese city.

Dissing Japan

Staff Writer Evonne Coutros looks down her Grecian nose at the Japanese, quoting their e-mails and making sure to include all their broken English.

The jailhouse interview with a Colorado man acquitted of murdering his father shows how easily the inmate O.J.'d both Scandale and veteran courthouse reporter Kibret Markos, making them look like fools for wasting A-1 space on his claim the killer is still out there.

Legal strategy

With a battle brewing before the Supreme Court on Governor Christie's unconstitutional cuts in state education aid, Columnist Charles Stile should be investigating whether the Republic bully got rid of the high court's only black justice to better his chances of prevailing.

Staff Writer Giovanna Fabiano's byline appears on an Englewood story for the first time in 12 days. 

Although she has ignored vacant downtown storefronts, the Jamaican community and the city's segregated schools, she made sure to cover a two-year battle over a private-school athletic field in Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg's East Hill neighborhood (L-3).

Publisher Stephen A. Borg attended the school, Dwight-Englewood, at a time when most of the students at the public Dwight Morrow High School were black and Hispanic.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Is it a bird, a plane, a new bridge to Manhattan?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 18:  Recording ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Rapper Jay-Z is said to be a partial owner of the Nets.

Check out the riveting photo of steel girders above the fold on the front page of The Record today.

Could this be a story about the new tunnel to the city eagerly awaited by thousands of NJ Transit rail commuters who have to stand during the morning rush?

No. It's a puff piece masquerading as a construction update for a small minority of the paper's readership who may actually go to see the Nets play in a new arena in Brooklyn, where Editor Francis Scandale was born. 

The piece ends this way: "The days of the New Jersey Nets are numbered."  Too bad the same can't be said for Scandale and Staff Writer John Brennan, who act as if they've been bribed with season tickets.

Crisis of confidence

The most important story on A-1 today is squeezed under a one-column headline: The Christie administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth on the health of state finances, hoping to avert a court ruling that would force it to spend millions more on public schools.

With all of our current problems, is anyone really worried about Sen . Bob Menendez's chances in the 2012 election -- except Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson, who can't hide his desperation for a story (A-1)?

Get off your tushes

On the front of Local, Columnist Michael Kelly complains about the trash piling up at the Great Falls in Paterson almost two years after it was designated as a National Historic Park.

If Kelly is so concerned, why doesn't he and some of the out-of-shape editors in the Woodland Park newsroom volunteer to clean the place up?

White Castle CheeseburgerImage by Laughing Squid via Flickr

Thirty years after the founding of Whole Foods Market and a surging organic movement, readers are at the mercy of the 20- and 30-year-old bottom feeders who handle most of the paper's food coverage.

How else to explain the celebration of crappy burgers and white bread all over the Better Living front today?
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

What the Road Warrior doesn't want you to know

emissions testingImage by ario_ via Flickr
Twice this month, the Road Warrior columnist gave the wrong advice on emissions tests.

Should Staff Writer John Cichowski seek guidance from readers as he researches and writes his Road Warrior columns? 

Or should he instead check with his news sources on the accuracy of the advice he gives, especially when he cites state laws and motor vehicle rules and regulations?

Judging from errors he's made recently, he should start checking the accuracy of his advice, and stop consulting readers before his columns are published.  

How Cichowski works

Eye on The Record recently received an e-mail from a reader:
"As you may know, John [Cichowski] keeps a network of his readers, whom he calls Road Warriors, on an e-mail distribution list so that he can solicit feedback from them for stories he is working on."
Even though I edited Cichowski's columns for many years when I worked at The Record, I had no idea he "solicited feedback ... for stories he is working on" from outside the newsroom, and I doubt his supervisors know this.

In fact, that's not how most reporters work, and it wasn't how I worked during 15 years as a reporter at three daily newspapers, including The Record. 

It sounds as if Cichowski is substituting readers' eyes and ears for his own -- a real no-no in journalism -- so he doesn't actually have to leave the office and do legwork.

Under great pressure

You know Cichowski is under a lot of pressure to fill space, because he's required to write three columns a week, in addition to coming up with enterprise stories, such as the front-page piece he did recently on motor coach safety. 

He simply isn't up to the task, in view of all the repetition readers see -- he'll write a half-dozen or more columns on roof snow and other subjects close to his heart each year until readers are beaten into senselessness.

He often writes floridly to mask such mindless repetition, but as a fellow news copy editor used to say, "You can't polish a turd."

He's also shoots himself in the foot by virtually ignoring a large number of columns he could write about commuting problems and the sad state of mass transit in one of the most congested regions in the nation.

Q&A with readers

Apparently, he also relies on readers for more than guidance while working on stories. 

He created a column he writes every month or so, it seems, in which he answers drivers' questions about Motor Vehicle Commission rules and regulations, and state laws.

This is sort of a motorized version of advice to the lovelorn, but the questions can get ridiculous, such as a driver who complained the other day that he had to move over for a police cruiser with its lights on, only to see them go off after the cop passed him.

Who cares? Why is this in a newspaper column? Why didn't the man complain to the police department instead of Cichowski?

Could this reader possibly be one of those Cichowski consults all the time? Could the reporter be rewarding the reader by including his name, complaint and question in the column?

When Cichowski answers readers' questions about rules and regulations, he sometimes gets it wrong -- as he did twice this month on emissions testing. He was wrong twice, and never ran a correction -- a sure sign he is running scared. 

No oversight

A Road Warrior reader says he got no satisfaction recently when he contacted Cichowski and Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza, who edits the column:
"John [Cichowski] never responded to my original e-mail below ....  I doubt he will ever respond to me about anything else that I may observe in his articles that needs corrections or updates.  I have had several interesting back and forth e-mail debates with him about his articles in the past.  John frequently indicated that he was always right and I was always wrong, no matter the facts and circumstances.
"Dan [Sforza] never believed any of my explanations in the e-mails below or the 2 times I called him. He held fast in his beliefs and always indicated that the ... article was totally correct, even though I presented facts that contradicted some of his beliefs.  However, last week he finally said in frustration that if I stopped calling him, he would have John update his ... statement in an upcoming article.  I'm assuming I have no credibility with Dan to ever question any other misleading or false statement that John might make in the future.
"Clearly, Dan is not providing any proper oversight, even though he said to me he would pay more attention to reviewing John's articles."
Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes named Cichowski to the job after the departure of the original Road Warrior columnist, and then simply forgot about him.

Chick, I knew the original Road Warrior, Jeff Page, and you're no Jeff Page. 

Let them eat hay

Now, let's get to the Sunday paper.

Giving precious space on Page 1 to a process story on the takeover of The Meadowlands Racetrack shows readers what horse's asses they have in Editor Francis Scandale and Staff Writer John Brennan.

One way to get readers to turn to the continuation or jump page is to mention at least four times on  A-1 that a food pantry has been ordered to close or is closing, but not provide the reason or even say who gave the order.

Get off the road

On the front of Local, two 77-year-old women escape death after one of them drives her car into a train in River Edge.

Sykes, the head assignment editor (or is it assignment editor in the head?), is asking them to be more careful next time, because she doesn't have enough staff to do a story on challenges facing older drivers and the help that is available to them.

Staff Writer Jean Rimbach is being treated for exhaustion after working on two stories that appear on L-1 and L-2 today. 

Really deep doo-doo

Some of the editors are slowly coming around to what a jam Governor Christie has put the state in with unconstitutional cuts in school aid.

Page O-1 has an Opinion column by Carl Golden, a former aide to Republican governors who revisits the millionaires tax Christie vetoed last year.

And an editorial sums up all the governor's cuts in programs for low-income families, women and children so he can offer tax cuts to wealthy business owners (O-2).

"The state must advocate in the interest of all citizens," is all the outrage the editorial writer can muster.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pulling the rug from under readers

White MannaImage by roboppy via Flickr
The Record recommends you ask for "lean ground beef" next time to you have a burger.

There is what, 20 to 30 inches of text packed with places, dates, names and quotes, plus a photo and map, so why is the lead story on Page 1 about a boxer that ran away headlined "a mystery"?

It's no mystery: Editor Francis Scandale was desperate to sell this dog of a story, in another sign news judgment is far from his strong suit

Another non-story

Governor Christie creates yet another task force, this one on nuclear safety in New Jersey, and the non-story is on A-1 -- while the real nuclear drama in Japan is shoved back to A-8.

Scandale plastered Page 1 with one doomsday scenario after another in the wake of the March 11 quake and tsunami, losing all credibility with readers.

Garden variety pol

Convicted felon and former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio and his rug command the front page for a third day in a row, but his release from a federal prison camp plays second fiddle to college basketball fans.

There's more pet news all over the front of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, but this time the dog didn't make it.

Details stolen

For yet another day, Hackensack residents will search for municipal news, only to find Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado seems to have traded in her assignment for a police reporter's hat, turning out two stories on L-3.

In the story about an arrest in Englewood, none of the burglarized stores are identified for local readers, as if Alvarado is writing about a far off place like Denver or Iraq.

Holier than thou

I wonder where a Weight Watchers leader requests "lean ground beef" when she eats a burger out -- the advice she gives readers in an F-1 story today on healthy portions?

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Christie calls the kettle black

Straining to make Greek-style yogurtImage by ahemler via Flickr
Strained yogurt goes into a Greek dip called tzatziki. Elisa Ung, The Record's restaurant reviewer since 2007, reports today she enjoyed such a dip "mixed with ... drained English cucumbers."

Governor Christie says he's cut down on pizza and beer -- and lost weight -- but a photo on the front page of The Record today clearly shows he's still a formidable presence.

So where does he get off calling the unfinished Xanadu retail project an "offense to the eyes" or saying, "They have to change the god-awful ugly outside"? Couldn't the same things be said about him?

You know the Woodland Park daily is firmly in his corner when the words on his town hall meeting banner, visible in the A-1 photo -- "reform agenda" -- also appear in the lead paragraph of the A-3 story, without attribution.

What the Republican bully calls "reform" could be seen by others as visiting misery on the middle and working classes to balance the state budget while preserving the wealth of such multimillionaires as the jet-setting Borgs.

Budget blind

But you wouldn't think we're weathering an unprecedented fiscal crisis by the decidedly tabloid front page thrown together in desperation by Editor Francis Scandale -- with three court stories out of four elements on A-1.

Why is a scheme by a couple of Essex County morons worthy of leading the front page of the former Hackensack-based daily? The sub-headline, "get ex to pay up," suggests the main suspect's former girlfriend owed him money, but that's totally untrue.

Former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio was to be freed from prison today, another A-1 story reports, when Thursday's A-1 story said a judge's ruling cleared the way for his early release in a "matter of weeks."

Still, today's story doesn't belong on the front page.

In head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, two inside pages are given over to higher education news -- a sure sign her sub-editors can't fill that space with municipal news -- and other pages, L-1 and L-5, are dominated by law-and-order and court news.

Food puzzle

On Page 17 of Better Living, what could Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung possibly mean today by describing a Greek yogurt dip "mixed ... with drained English cucumbers"?

Maybe the fluid pressing on her brain needs to be drained, too.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Road Warrior again puts driving foot in mouth

New Jersey license plate from 2007Image via Wikipedia
When reading the Road Warrior column, drivers often exclaim, Whaaaaat?

Can drivers rely on Staff Writer John Cichowski when he answers questions about New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission rules and regulations?

Not always. Just how often The Record's Road Warrior columnist gets it wrong isn't known, because he is the kind of journalist who doesn't think it's always necessary to publish a correction on Page A-2 when he screws up.

Instead, he will try to repair the damage in a subsequent column, in answer to another question on the same subject. This week, however, he compounded the problem. 

Flawed advice

On Wednesday, Chick, as he's known around the office, told the owner of a 16-year-old diesel-powered sedan, "As for inspection, all non-commercial passenger vehicles from model years 1997 and newer" must be tested for emissions [my italics].

But that may have led owners of gasoline-powered vehicles -- the vast majority -- from thinking they are exempt as well, if their cars are older than the 1997 model year.

That's not the case, according to the Motor Vehicle Commission Web site. There is a different standard for gasoline-powered cars, which must be taken for emissions testing if they are 5 years old "and older."

So, even if you drive a gasoline-powered car older than the 1997 model year, it must be tested. The Road Warrior apparently doesn't know there are different rules for diesel and gasoline engines. 

Previous error

Wednesday's answer to the driver of a diesel-powered sedan apparently was an attempt to repair an error Cichowski made in a March 2, 2011, column that discussed which cars are subject to mechanical and emissions testing:
"...There has been confusion, mostly among owners of vehicles with diesel engines, which — unlike gas-powered cars — are exempt even from emissions inspection."
You can't get any wronger than that, in light of what he said Wednesday.

So he messed up twice on the question of emissions testing. How many other times has he been unreliable? Can readers believe any advice he gives?

Another big question: Who is Cichowski's assignment editor -- the editor who reviews his column before it is sent over to the news copy desk? Is he or she asleep at the computer?  

Of course, you have to wonder just how much Cichowski knows about cars and their impact on the environment.

Sixteen-year-old diesel cars are prized by their frugal owners, but they are among the dirtiest vehicles on the road in terms of air pollution.

Another columnist for the Woodland Park daily, Bill Ervolino, neglected to tell readers on Tuesday the whole wheat spaghetti from Trader Joe's he described as "luscious" also is organic.

Today's paper

After the March 11 quake and tsunami, Editor Francis Scandale focused every day on a possible nuclear meltdown and virtually ignored the human drama in Japan and among Japanese residents of North Jersey, but he certainly hasn't neglected coverage of Glen Rock, where he lives.

Page 1 today carries the fourth or fifth story about the borough's sister-city relationship with Onomachi, Japan. 

The lead A-1 story today contains nothing on disgraced former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio, D-Paramus, making an appointment for a new hair piece now that his sentence has been shortened by a federal judge.

Scram, Mac

Below the fold, a story on the "Grandparent Scam" doesn't refer to the paper and how Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and other editors abhor stories on Alzheimer's disease, help for older drivers and other subjects of interest to seniors.

Nor is there any suggestion "Grandparent Scam" is a reference to how Publisher Stephen A. Borg treated his father and grandfather to his four sons, Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, after Stephen took over and pushed him aside.

On A-3 today, a story on Governor Christie and the state constitution's guarantee of a "thorough and efficient" education (T&E) would have been front-page news for any other editor but Scandale, whose focus is on T&A.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Judge to Christie: Drop dead!

Ja RuleCover of Ja Rule
North Jersey rapper Ja Rule owes $1.1 million to the IRS.

Let's hope the state Supreme Court backs Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne in Hackensack on the inequity of Governor Christie's cutting $1.6 billion in state aid to schools in the last two years, and orders him to find new sources of revenue, such as a millionaires tax (A-1).

Turn to Page L-2 to read about the guilty plea by one of the millionaires Christie is protecting -- rapper Ja Rule of Saddle River -- who failed to file tax returns on gross income of $4.38 million, and to L-3 to read about another man who obtained his millions through mortgage fraud.

Waiting for spin

You won't find an editorial today on Doyne's ruling, because Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin needs more time to consult Christie's spin doctors on how they are going to squirm out of this one.

Did head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, Projects Editor Tim Nostrand or other out-of-shape editors have something to do with the preposterous A-1 brief, "Sex, exercise could trigger heart attack"?

Someone should tell them sex also has been known to trigger an orgasm.

A front-page caption tells readers the photo of the former Freedom Tower in Manhattan was taken "from New Jersey," but not how many stories it will be when completed (104 stories).

Road to ruin

Why are the Borgs paying Road Warrior John Cichowski $70,000, $80,000 or whatever he makes a year for throwing together yet another column based on e-mails from readers (L-1)?

For that matter, why pay Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill anything, if she doesn't contribute much more than a single recipe a week to the paper's woefully inadequate food coverage (F-1)?

The dramatic story and photo in the center of L-1 demonstrates that enterprising Staff Writer Denisa R. Superville is everything the office-loving Cichowski isn't.

Health alert

You'll find two stories about River Edge in Sykes' Local section today (L-1 and L-2), but none about Hackensack from Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado, who is scooped consistently by Mark J. Bonamo of the weekly Hackensack Chronicle. 

Alvarado must be under the mistaken belief that covering Hackensack can trigger a heart attack.

Hackensack readers continue to get the shaft -- years after the spoiled Borg siblings moved the newsroom and headquarters of North Jersey Media Group to Woodland Park. 

Witness two long stories about the borough today (L-6 and L-8), and recall all the photos taken near the Garret Mountain building the paper now calls home.

Let's hope actor James Gandolfini's contract doesn't require him to actually eat at Cubby's barbecue restaurant in Hackensack, if he decides to portray owner and freelance diplomat Bobby Egan in a new HBO movie (L-1).

Otherwise, Tony Soprano and actor Robert De Niro, who supposedly would produce the film, are in for mega-doses of agita.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Insulting readers' intelligence -- every day

ISHINOMAKI, JAPAN - MARCH 18: A man walks past...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Another boat that "drifted" into Ishinomaki, Japan.

A dramatic photo on Page 1 of The Record today is ruined by a caption that wastes space by stating the obvious. 

A large boat with a red hull ended up in the middle of Ishinomaki, Japan, and unless you have been on the moon, you know why. But the news copy editor felt a need to explain, then blew it by writing, "a boat that drifted into town during the tsunami." 

Drifed? That's absolutely the wrong word -- something readers are accustomed to with the Woodland Park daily. How many sets of eyes saw this?

On Monday, a copy editor tried to explain what President Obama was doing with a soccer ball in Brazil. The A-4 photo caption said "dribbling," I thought he was "kicking" it, but does it matter? There's no need to tell readers what they can plainly see for themselves -- Obama playing soccer with kids.

This point was hammered home every night by News Copy Desk Co-Slot Nancy Cherry, but she left the paper more than two years ago and nobody has taken up the slack.

Publisher Stephen A. Borg and his editors folded sections, but they have failed miserably on their pledge to give readers education, food and other news "every day."

What readers are getting "every day" is a mediocre paper. It's no surprise, with Editor Frank Scandale, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and their minions just collecting a pay check every week.

Double editorial standard

An editorial on A-10 today slams Governor Christie for a double standard on pay for public school superintendents and charter school administrators, but says nothing about the hundreds of police chiefs whose salaries exceed the governor's $175,000 a year.

Year after year, reporters cover fires in Paterson and the paper prints dramatic photos of flames and tenants driven into the cold (L-6), but the editors never ask, Who owns all these fire traps?

Gobble, gobble

"I had no trouble gobbling it down," Staff Writer Bill Ervolino says of the free plate of whole wheat linguine with the house marinara he enjoyed at Park and Orchard in East Rutherford (F-1).  

He's a real sport, never turning down a freebie, and he has plenty of company on the staff, including Travel Editor Jill Schensul, Graphics Editor Jerry Luciani and Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill.

He loves Teterboro

There is no truth to a rumor that Malcom A. "Mac" Borg is planning to sell his shares of North Jersey Media Group and move to England. Borg just learned that country's chancellor is pushing a tax on private-jet travel.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Editor's bowel movements make the news

Perigree MoonImage by A. Blight via Flickr
The perigree moon on March 19, 2011, didn't look anything like a big pizza pie.

The Record's news copy desk -- once the last line of defense against carelessness and inexperience -- continues to befuddle, amuse and just fall flat on its face with headlines and captions that have readers shaking their heads in disbelief.

Being regular is a victory

This is the photo over line on the front of Local today, but doesn't it sound suspiciously like what head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes says about her bowel movements?

Military pounds Libya

This is the lead headline on Page 1 today, but which "military" does the Woodland Park daily mean? Libya's military? A far better word is "coalition" or "allies."

An Eye on The Record reader noted the copy desk sent people searching for their dictionaries by using "perigree" in an L-1 photo caption on Sunday (it's "the point nearest the earth's center in the orbit of the moon or a satellite"). 

But, then, the copy editor uses perigree improperly by writing "closest perigree." 

On A-4, a photo shows President Obama kicking a soccer ball in Brazil, but the caption inexplicably says "dribbling a soccer ball."

A boring front page

Except for the attack on Libya, Editor Francis Scandale's front page today returns to celebrating the mundane after failing miserably to explore the human drama of the disaster in Japan.

The vast majority of New Jersey residents live in fear of proving their identities just to get their driver's license renewed, so why assign a reporter to spend several months on the dry subject of document fraud (A-1)? 

Why profile a congressman from South Jersey (A-1)? Aren't any of the North Jersey representatives worthy of such attention?

Don't miss the Margulies cartoon on home rule today (A-13).

Readers won't find much in Local today.

But Hackensack residents finally learn about the progress of the city's proposed budget in a story on L-5, and Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado also throws in the reassessment of properties she previously ignored.

A second look

A recent review and one published several months ago call into question Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung's credibility and accuracy.

In a Nov. 5, 2010, review of Chef Ji's Moon Jar in Fort Lee, Ung said it would be good "for nighttime drinks and small bites [of food]." 

But this past Friday, a poorly composed sentence in her review of Raku Izakaya in Fort Lee said the owners saw a void: "a place to go and linger, that offered food and drinks ... but also the flexibility to linger over cocktails and a few small bites."

Sounds like Moon Jar was and is that place, even though Chef Ji Cha is no longer associated with it. Ung is one of those restaurant reviewers who can't resist declaring, I found someplace unique, even when it's not the case.

And in the older review, it turns out, Ung was incorrect in writing Moonjar as one word; the sign and business card has it as "Moon Jar."
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

ADD knocks disaster in Japan off front page

The Rock, Glen Rock, NJImage by birdphone via Flickr
Rock Road in Glen Rock. This is the size of the rock in Editor Francis Scandale's head. 

It took only about eight days for Editor Francis Scandale and all the other editors at The Record with attention-deficit disorder to find an excuse to knock the disaster in Japan off Page 1 today. It's buried on A-14.

Reporters and photographers presumably had complained about how exhausted they were leaving the Woodland Park newsroom in search of the Japanese who live in North Jersey -- as the clueless assignment desk under Editor Deirdre Sykes tried desperately to localize the story. 

King-size and then some

We know Governor Cristie is in bed with all the police chiefs whose salaries aren't capped, but now we find out the mattress must be the size of Hackensack to accommodate all of those snobby charter school officials (A-1).

Food prices have been rising for several weeks now, so the news copy desk is from hunger with that outdated head on A-1 today: "Higher food prices coming your way."

Office-loving columnist

You know by today's L-1 Road Warrior column that Staff Writer John Cichowski has never spoken to NJ Transit bus drivers who compete with all of those privately owned commuter vans. 

They're grateful for the help, because the bigger buses are standing-room-only during the rush hour and simply can't accommodate more passengers.

Sour-grapes journalism

In the years after Scandale left The Denver Post for The Record (2001), the former Hackensack daily always seemed to carry an inordinate number of stories about the Mile High City.

Glen Rock Honor Roll, Glen Rock, NJImage by birdphone via Flickr

Scandale moved to Glen Rock then, because he couldn't afford Ridgewood on his six-figure salary. 

The other day, he discovered Glen Rock has a sister city in Japan, and milked that for three days. Today, Glen Rock's talented youth are all over the Better Living front. So is Ridgewood talent-less?

What's next? Glen Rock as the ideal American town? 

Fractured writing

Reporter Jean Rimbach writes infrequently, but she really breaks news when she does, as in today's L-2 story, which reports that Gore Vidal, Barbie, King George III and the Rolling Stones -- all go to high school in New Jersey.

Here's her lede:

"From Gore Vidal to Barbie, King George III to the Rolling Stones, teenagers from around the Garden State tested their knowledge on an eclectic array of history questions Saturday in an academic competition at Ridgewood High School."
I guess the news copy editors -- who are treated like shit by Scandale, Sykes and the other dayside editors -- deliberately overlook such obvious errors so that Rimbach and other bad writers look like fools.

Either that or they're asleep.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Road Warrior screws up in Page 1 column

Greyhound coach built by Motor Coach Industrie...Image via Wikipedia
A correction on an A-1 Road Warrior column highlights an ongoing problem with accuracy.

Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski's biggest failure as a journalist is ignoring the plight of tens of thousands of North Jersey commuters who use crowded buses and trains -- while churning out a mind-numbing series of stories on the problems of drivers.

You'd think he is in the pocket of all of the automobile dealers who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising in The Record of Woodland Park, including the many pages that made today's paper so fat.

A correction on A-2 today throws a spotlight on his accuracy:


The Road Warrior column on Page A-1 on Friday about motor coach safety incorrectly identified a Haledon company that had an alert placed on its record by the federal government. The name of the company is Charter Coach & Travel LLC.

I can't stand reading most of Cichowski's tortured prose, so had to go looking for how the company name was rendered in the paper on Friday. I finally found it, on the continuation page (A-10): "Carter's Coach."

Carter's Coach isn't even close to the correct name. How many other errors has Cichowski made over the years that were never corrected?

Judging from what I hear from readers and from my own experience in editing his columns for many years, Cichowski makes quite a few errors that are either caught on the news copy desk or get into the paper and are never corrected.

Even today's correction is flawed. The word "alert" should have been written "ALERT," as it was in Friday's story, signifying "warning evaluations" for "unsatisfactory performance" from the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration.

Disaster in Japan

Editor Francis Scandale keeps on squeezing as much as possible out of the sister-city relationship between Glen Rock, where he lives, and Onomachi, Japan (A-1). 

Today, free-lance Columnist Pat Kinney was taken out of mothballs for the second time since the quake hit a week ago Friday (L-3). 

Among the many angles Scandale has overlooked is publishing a profile of the Japanese community in North Jersey. 

Right now, all readers might know from reading Kinney is her oft-repeated statement that most Japanese families live here temporarily during the husband's job posting.

An enduring mystery is why head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes hasn't asked the only  Japanese staffer in the newsroom, feature writer Sachi Fujimori -- who can do it all -- to help out  or even why Fujimori wasn't sent to Japan to cover the big story.

The assignment wouldn't be that expensive for the paper, especially if she can hitch a ride on Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg's private jet.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

They're tired of the story already

den-ewr091.JPGImage by dsearls via Flickr
Continued coverage of harness racing in The Record's Local section may hide more than two fans.

No end in sight

The Page 1 headline in The Record of Woodland Park today shows Editor Francis Scandale isn't even trying to hide how bored he is already with the disaster in Japan. 

Even if a damaged nuclear plant wasn't dangerously overheated, would there be an "end in sight" just one week after the main island was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami ? (It's now Saturday in Japan).

What doesn't seem to end are the stupid headlines.

Scandale must be temporarily out of insensitivity after printing e-mails from Onomachi, Japan, to sister city Glen Rock- -- including typos and broken English -- on A-1 and A-12 of Thursday's paper.

Today, two more e-mails appear on A-6, but they were translated from Japanese.


On A-22, the headline over an editorial on Northvale cutting all funds to its library works well with the Margulies cartoon next to it.

The headline, "Civic butchery," is next to a cartoon showing a cleaver and scissor hanging over a crib labeled, "NJ  low-income kids," who are facing state cuts in pre-school programs.

Now, all we need is an editorial blasting Governor Christie for cutting funds from defenseless kids while preserving the wealth of millionaires. Don't hold your breath.

Feed bag is on

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section leads with a story on the Meadowlands Racetrack and the state's harness racing industry.

I know Local's layout editor, Jim "Corny" Cornelius, and News Copy Desk Chief Vinny Byrne love the horses, but had no idea Sykes was a fan, too.

Also on L-1 today, Hackensack reporter Monsy Alvarado has her 102nd story on the Police Department, allowing her to continue ignoring city budget deliberations and the tax rate.

Paper for sale

On the Business page, a big photo shows the multimillionaire president of Benzel-Busch Motor Car Corp. overlooking the site of a $20 million expansion -- as the luxury car dealership threatens to swallow Englewood whole.

I'd feel a lot better about this story being news, if Benzel-Busch didn't buy an expensive ad that ran above the fold every day on the front of Local for nearly all of January.

Oh, by the way, the photo caption and story text drop the word "Car" from the name of the company. Can you get any sloppier?

Doesn't translate

In the Better Living centerfold, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung quotes the Korean owners of a Japanese-style pub as saying they are filling "a void" in Fort Lee. 

Both she and they ignore the Japanese-owned Izakaya Don in neighboring Cliffside Park. A Japanese izakaya has operated there for at least a decade.

Ung also seems to just be discovering Fort Lee as a restaurant town on par with Ridgewood, Englewood and others. Where has she been?

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