Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The newsroom's big-butt sisterhood

Hackensack University Medical Center North at ...
Image via Wikipedia
Did The Record limit coverage of Hackensack University Medical Center's past expansions because North Jersey Media Group Vice President/General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg sat on the hospital's board of directors?
 




You don't have to be a woman or have a big butt to be part of the sisterhood nurtured by head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, but it helps.


Staff Writer Jean Rimbach of The Record is an original member, getting away with as little work as possible year after year in a newsroom with many productive staffers. 


Today, her rare byline appears on Page 1 -- in a preview of an eBook on the murders of two women committed by Tenafly contractor Robert Reldan in 1975. Why is this on A-1?


Projects Editor Tim Nostrand is another charter member of the sisterhood. Having failed miserably in Sykes' job of bringing in local news, he somehow survived firing, and went on to smaller and worse things.


Four other members of the sisterhood, reporters Lindy Washburn, Pat Alex, Mary Jo Layton and Leslie Brody, are far more productive than Rimbach. 


Of course, a big butt doesn't guarantee admission into the society run by the fickle Sykes -- to the chagrin of many marginalized workers in the Woodland Park newsroom.


Hospital trauma


The big business of hospitals dominates the front-page today -- as interim Editor Doug Clancy continues a tradition of reporting every hiccup, burp and fart in the battles over the reopening of Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood and the expansion of The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.


The hospitals fighting Hackensack University Medical Center claim that in the first year Pascack Valley is reopened, there will be layoffs and $15 million in losses at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and $24 million in losses at The Valley Hospital.


Vice President/General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg was a member of the board at HUMC while The Record and NorthJersey.com reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue from the growing hospital campus.


Coverage of The Valley Hospital controversy has far exceeded any of the stories about HUMC's expansion over the years, even though homes were demolished in Hackensack and no demolitions were proposed in Ridgewood.


In fact, Layton, one of the medical reporters, has been careful in several recent stories about The Valley Hospital proposal -- including today's piece -- to omit or obscure the nature of the expansion: It would stay within the borders of the existing hospital campus. 


Port Atrocity


Clancy gives Page 1 play to what amounts to the Port Authority's legal arguments in an AAA lawsuit against the outrageous toll and fare hikes. 


How can The Record pass this off as agency policy, when it's merely a legal gambit to deflect criticism over the improper use of toll money to pay for the new World Trade Center?


Then, Clancy relegates to A-3 a story on the agency hiring outside auditors for $2.2 million.


Doesn't New Jersey and New York have auditors who could perform the agency-wide review of spending ordered by Governors Christie and Cuomo? 


Sykes' assignment desk appears to have asked Staff Writer Shawn Boburg to rewrite the agency's press release, so there's nothing in the story on whether the two firms -- Navigant Consulting Inc. and Rothschild Inc. -- are politically connected.


Has the paper become a mouthpiece for the powerful bi-state agency?


Chewing the fat


With Christie seeming to gain weight every day -- and Sykes and other editors trying to keep up with him -- who knew the state has an "Eat Right, Move More" contest sponsored in part by the Department of Agriculture (L-1).


Winner of the sixth-annual contest and $5,000 is Bogota's Lillian M. Steen School. 


Sykes and Nostrand have conspired with other editors against launching a newsroom project on the obesity epidemic -- to the detriment of readers.


Drives, but can't write


And Road Warrior John Cichowski has conspired with his assignment editor to avoid writing any columns about commuting in a region that cries out for better mass transit to ease traffic congestion.


In his lead paragraph on the Local front today, he writes: "Parents will have to work a little harder" under a legislative proposal on teen drivers. But his third paragraph says, "Too bad committee members chickened out by failing to make parents work a bit harder."


A story at the bottom of L-1 alerts new arrivals to "immigration services fraud" against those who come to the U.S. legally. 


The story is a testament to how little the paper has written about the legal immigration system in the past 15 years -- preferring hot-button stories on illegal aliens.


Scales of journalism


Sykes leads her section today with a $10 million jury award that apparently was missed on Monday by Staff Writer Kibret Markos, who is assigned full time to the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack.


Markos was reporting and writing a story on $2.1 million in damages awarded in the shooting death of a Ramapough Mountain Indian for Tuesday's front page when the bigger verdict was returned.


Today's L-1 story says the $10 million verdict came in "Monday evening" and "late Monday." Without knowing the time, it's difficult to say with certainty that Markos' assignment editor should have gotten this jury award in Tuesday's paper, too.


But it's clear the assignment desk has no intention of asking Markos to tell readers that attorneys for the plaintiffs may receive up to one-third of the damages. 


Or, explain why the life of a visiting 13-year-old Korean boy is worth nearly five times more than a Ramapough Mountain Indian.  


With Hackensack reporter Stephanie Akin assigned to Tuesday's unexpected power outages in Bergen and Passaic counties (L-3), there is no municipal news from The Record's former home in Local today.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Relentless focus on the young

Dr. Öz at ServiceNation 2008
Image via Wikipedia
Multimillionaire Dr. Mehmet Oz of Cliffside Park using his fingers to indicate the size of a typical senior citizen's brain when it comes to exercising and living a healthy lifestyle.

 


Is it really front-page news that a bill proposes to add more hours of practice for teen drivers with learner's permits?


As interim Editor Doug Clancy surely knows, inexperienced drivers are more dangerous than the inexperienced reporters in The Record's Better Living section. But isn't the goal safer roads for everyone?


Now, readers can expect a half-dozen columns from the Road Warrior, giving parents a platform to bitch and moan about this proposal, as they did about the red license-plate decals for teens under 18.


F.U. to seniors


The teen-driving story on Page 1 today only highlights how little attention head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes pays to older drivers, another accident-prone group.


She loves the photo ops they provide as they plow into storefronts, other cars or pedestrians -- often with fatal consequences -- but she doesn't bother publishing a guide to programs that could help them become better drivers.


You'd think Egypt was part of North Jersey by the frequency of photos from there that land on the front page (A-1).


Staff Writer Kibret Markos reports a $2.1 million award to the estate of a Ramapough Indian who was fatally shot by a park ranger in 2006, but ignores the potential one-third payout to the family's lawyer (A-1).


I could not find the age of the victim, Emil Mann, in the story. 


And Markos apparently missed a bigger jury award Monday in state Superior Court in Hackensack -- $10 million to the family of a visiting 13-year-old Korean boy who drowned in Ridgewood's municipal pool (NorthJersey.com).


Christie payback


The third and final part of the series on the developmentally disabled highlights Governor Christie's plan to shift work from unionized state employees to low-paid workers in the private sector -- likely at the behest of his many corporate donors (A-1).


The big news from Hackensack in Sykes' Local section today is the carbon-dioxide poisoning of a family of three from a faulty furnace flue (L-1).


Senior handouts


Below that, a story reports seniors lined up for free smoothies and cups of fruit during a visit by that horse's ass, Dr. Mehmet Oz, to the Northwest Bergen Senior Activities Center in Midland Park (L-1).


The story reinforces the paper's theme that most seniors need to be spoon-fed a message of "healthy aging" -- just as Sykes' assignment desk insists on being spoon-fed press releases.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

More strikes against Governor Christie

The Bergen County courthouse in Bergen County,...

Image via Wikipedia
How relevant to the experience of most seniors is the lawsuit reported on Page 1 by Staff Writer Kibret Markos?




In a three-part series, The Record's Harvy Lipman is exposing how shabbily the state treats 40,000 developmentally disabled adults, but I'm not sure whose side he's on.


In the first and second parts Sunday and today, he refers to "expensive state institutions" -- code for programs staffed by the unionized public workers who are in Governor Christie's cross hairs.


Christie already has gutted the state Division of Parks and Forestry in a move to privatize the state park system and potentially limit public access, according to the Sierra Club's New Jersey Chapter (Page O-1 on Sunday).


Taking stock


Maybe it's time for interim Editor Doug Clancy and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes to sum up what Christie has accomplished, now that his first two years in office are nearly up.


Property taxes aren't any lower than when he took office. He's done nothing to improve the environment or mass transit. Local police chiefs are still making ridiculous salaries, many topping Christie's. The list goes on.


Today's paper is another yawner.


The editors virtually ignore issues involving older people, but today, the bottom of Page 1 has a story about a 78-year-old attorney who says he was cheated by a convicted scammer.


However, it's unclear just how many other older people are at risk of falling prey to the same insurance scheme.


Copping out


Sykes leads her Local section with a story about the Englewood schools superintendent, who apparently has run afoul of Christie's limit on salaries, but the editor continues to ignore why police chiefs' pay hasn't been capped (L-1).


Sykes' lazy assignment desk has so much trouble getting routine information on accidents and crime now, she may not want to antagonize police chiefs by exposing their astronomical salaries, sick-day payouts and so forth. 


Today, there really is a big development in Hackensack, Teaneck and other towns that don't make the news that often: All the branches and trees that fell during recent storms will be turned into free mulch for residents (L-1).


I call that mulch ado about nothing.


Dissing old people


Typical of the paper's attitude toward seniors is Staff Writer Mike Kerwick's apparent discomfort with the notion that older people exercise (F-1).


His story is so stiffly written, so phony that you know he's never stepped foot in a gym and seen the many people in their 60s, 70s and 80s exercising their asses off. 


On Sunday, in a story about computer tablets, Kerwick listed "sitcom characters who would buy this."


Where are the Better Living editors when he does such a lousy job on story after story? 


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shoving the jocks down our throats

Main entrance of Old Main, at Penn State Unive...
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Since the arrest of a Penn State coach and dismissal of Joe Paterno, perverted football coaches have been coming out of the woodwork.  Was the media ignoring the problem?


In the simple mind of interim Editor Doug Clancy, all football stories are the same -- from the perversions of Penn State to the thuggish players at Wayne Hills High School.


Clancy, like his predecessor, seems to think sports sells the paper, so he is running the Wayne story in the lead position on the front page today -- the fifth time it's been on Page 1 in recent weeks.


Why is this jock-strap itching editor shoving the Wayne farce down Bergen readers' throats when he has a much more suitable place for it, the Passaic-Morris edition?


Clancy boosted the hype of Black Friday sales by running the story on Page 1 on Saturday, so why does he bury the dark side of this naked commercialism on A-15 today?


Road kill


Road Warrior John Cichowski still doesn't get it. Testing the vision and physical coordination of older drivers periodically is far more important than testing their knowledge of driving rules (L-1).


At the bottom of the Local front, a story about a driver who ran into two bicyclists in Saddle River is woefully incomplete.


On L-3, a story about Englewood merchants is the first about that city's downtown in at least five years.


Living dead


The lazy assignment editors do so few profiles of interesting local residents you'd think an obituary about one of them would become a fixture on L-3, where they once ran regularly.


Richard "Ricky Rockit" Torraca, 45, was a drummer and freelance stagehand with hundreds of friends (L-6).


Juvenile journalism


For more than a year now, Better Living staffers have been using their unseasoned palates to test bottled pasta sauces and other food, and  recommending the "best" to readers.


Today, the Consumer Reports of daily newspapers publishes an evaluation of computer tablets on F-1 and F-3.


But what's this juvenile nonsense? Each evaluation lists "sitcom characters who would buy this."


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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Editors pay back big advertisers

Black Friday line
Image by tsImhein via Flickr
Black Friday shoppers. In recent years, The Record of Woodland Park has completely ignored downtowns in Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and other towns.


After being beaten senseless by the repetition of Black Friday advertising and news on TV, readers awaken to a front page dominated by a shopping story as The Record pays homage to the many big retailers that keep it in business.

I do have to congratulate Staff Writers Kathleen Lynn and Joan Verdon -- two Business section veterans -- for finding Marisol Vasquez, a pregnant, 33-year-old teacher from Bergenfield, who actually needed to shop on Thursday night to save money.

The headlines and photo with the Page 1 story are uninspiring, however.  

The shoppers look confused and not very happy. And, of course, all this emphasis on sales at big stores obscures the struggles of Main Street merchants throughout North Jersey.

Thuggish athletes

It's good to see the nine thugs on the Wayne Hills High School football team won't be playing in a championship game, but why does interim Editor Doug Clancy think the story should lead the paper today (A-1)?

And the third story on A-1 -- an upbeat account about North Jersey doctors dedicated to helping Haiti -- deserves far better play.

Local yokels

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section is a complete loss.

Can the photo over line on L-1 be any more unimaginative, especially when a heavy duty truck appears to be headed for the skies in a freak accident involving a crane boom?


CRANE TOPPLES IN WYCKOFF
DURING JOB AT HOUSE


Poor Tariq Zehawi, the staff photographer who raced out of the office to get this spectacular shot.

I can't imagine what Production Editor Liz Houlton is telling the news copy editors she is supervising to get such dull writing. 



COPY EDITOR MOVES BOWELS
DURING SHIFT AT PAPER


The entire Local front today is police and fire news or news about cops and firefighters. There is nothing from Hackensack in the section.



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Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey gives way to stomach-turning BBQ

Public domain photograph of various meats. (Be...
The Record today promotes meat that is deliberately
burned, a sure-fire way to make it even less healthy.


You'll find photos of Thanksgiving meals on A-1, A-6, A-7 and A-8; as well as L-1 and L-3, but for a real stomach turner, check out the charred meat on the cover of Better Living today.


Barbecue pit masters have perpetuated the mythical benefits of "char," and gullible food writers like Elisa Ung have swallowed their arguments whole.


Unfortunately, meat cooked at high temperatures until it burns or chars has been linked to cancer, and the Woodland Park daily has no business glorifying carcinogens in a restaurant review (Better Living centerfold).


But it's what readers have come to expect from the dessert-obsessed Ung, whose review of The Blind Boar in Norwood presumably was edited by her boss, Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill.


Ung and Sherrill are blind, too, rarely bothering with the details of how the food they sample and promote is raised or grown. 


Today, Ung tells readers the barbecue restaurant uses naturally raised chicken, but the pork and beef she sampled remain mysterious.


Bones to pick


Either Ung is ignorant or helping the restaurant owner hide the real quality of the meat. She spends more than half of the review describing everything but the food, and wastes space saying the theme restaurant is "less appropriate for anyone looking for a formal dining experience."


Can't readers figure that out for themselves?


What can readers conclude from the Eating Out on $50 review of Baste in Ridgewood, a Greek-inspired chicken restaurant, where free-lancer Jeff Page went over his budget, even though he fed only himself and one other person (Page 21 in Better Living)?


Either Page overeats or the restaurant is too expensive for a budget review.

On Pages 22 and 23, the weekly inspections appear, but where are the restaurants and other food places that are fined for violations of the state sanitation code?


More dead meat


Dead meat or poultry seems to be the edition's theme -- a story on the number of deer killed on state roads appears on Page 1.


In head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, readers are served a rare treat: a Road Warrior column that begins and ends on L-1. 


The commuting columnist actually ran out of topics that have nothing to do with commuting.


Two stories from Englewood appear on L-1 and L-6, though the first duplicates a story that ran just four days ago. However, there is no Hackensack news today.


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

They give thanks for all the advertising

A Turkey.
The Record is setting records for the number of "turkeys" on staff, including interim
 Editor Doug Clancy, Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, Projects Editor Tim
Nostrand, Production Editor Liz Houlton, Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin,
 and Columnists Mike Kelly, John Cichowski and Bill Ervolino.












Multimillionaire Publisher Stephen A. Borg must be patting himself on the back for today's advertising-rich, Thanksgiving edition of The Record.


Four A-sections, two Better Living sections and a 2-inch-thick sheaf of glossy Black Friday sales fliers must set some sort of recession record.


I felt good just recycling all that paper.


But interim Editor Doug Clancy couldn't avoid filling Page 1 with the have-nots --  who Borg never gives any thought to.


Thanksgiving parade


Cancerous Garfield residents, legal immigrants forced to wait years for visas and low-income people who can't afford a lawyer -- that's quite a parade of unfortunates.


The major element on the front page notes, "Getting a visa to legally reside in the United States can take years."


But the lazy assignment desk under Editor Deirdre Sykes prefers hot-button stories about illegals, and has no intention of exposing the bureaucratic, expensive legal system that is the chief cause of illegal immigration.


The heart-warming, legal immigration story is rare in another way, featuring gorgeous photographs on A-1 and A-8 from the talented staff that Clancy and the other editors often reject in favor of wire-service photos from around the world.


Local losers


The sappy Thanksgiving editorial on A-22 just rubs salt in the wounds of readers upset at how the ascendancy of the younger Borg has coincided with an erosion of local news coverage, especially in Hackensack.


In Sykes' Local section, a story on the Hackensack school board naming a second interim superintendent is missing background on what happened to the original superintendent or who that was (L-2).


Curse of the Irish


Readers can count themselves lucky if they looked at Mike Kelly's nausea-inducing "turkeys" column before they ate their big holiday dinner (L-3).


As usual, Kelly thanks his family for being his "anchor" -- when he should be thanking his assignment editor for not spiking most of his columns or his readers for tolerating his endless pushing around of words.


I didn't see any advice in Better Living this year about where to find a naturally raised turkey, but today, Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill passes along recipes for additive-filled leftovers (F-1 and F-4).


One bright spot in the paper today, especially if you care about the environment, is former Editorial Page staffer Jim Wright's column on the "incredible comeback" of the bald eagle and the rebound of other birds (F-7).


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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Insulting readers' intelligence

Thanksgiving turkey
Image by antonellomusina via Flickr
This turkey and all the trimmings were safely transported in a car
by following advice in today's Road Warrior column in The Record.




Publisher Stephen A. Borg appears to have seized upon "news you can use" in a bid to keep readers, but three pieces in the The Record today go a long way toward insulting their intelligence.


The story on A-6 and the Road Warrior column are especially bad, because they merely pass along a lot of common sense, such as getting enough sleep and eating before a car trip. 


You almost get the feeling the assignment desk believes most readers are completely out of it or have just been released from decades-long prison sentences.


The first supposedly reader-friendly story appears on Page 1 under a really stupid headline, "Think before going to the airport," thanks to Editor Liz Houlton's clueless news copy desk.


The routine photo with the story is by Staff Photographer Kevin Wexler, but interim Editor Doug Clancy continues a tradition of the editors turning their backs on their talented photographers by running an AP photo from Egypt as the central element on A-1.


Hospital follies


At the top of A-1, the headline "Big win for hospital plan" is not about the proposed expansion of The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood -- previewed in a story Tuesday -- but about the reopening of Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood.


The off-lead on the front page -- a story about businesses chasing public contracts at the League of Municipalities Convention -- is eye-glazingly dull and goes on forever.


Look at the silly lead paragraph of the A-6 story on holiday driving: "If you're traveling by car for the Thanksgiving holiday, expect lots of company on the road."


Tie down that pot


In his statistics-packed column on the front of Local, Road Warrior John Cichowski's advice on holiday driving seems superfluous. (I just managed to skim it before throwing up.)


Do the editors really think the commuting columnist should spend time telling readers to tie down pots, trays and plates to keep them from shifting in the car and to bring towels in case of spills?


Instead of doing three pieces on holiday travel, why not wrap it all up in a single story, and eliminate the idiocy?


The only Hackensack news in head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section today concerns the homeless (L-2).


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Editors remove heads from assholes

The dome of the US Capitol building.
Image via Wikipedia
"The Republicans were protecting fat cats from higher taxes,"a Rutgers University political scientist comments today in The Record.





To Editors of The Record:


Tell us something we don't know, for crying out loud.


"Politics" doomed deficit-reduction talks? Really? Where has Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson been? Living in a cave?


Politics have paralyzed Congress for more than a year. Why does interim Editor Doug Clancy even think it's necessary to label Jackson's Page 1 story today as an "Analysis"?


Clancy had his head buried in newsroom budget books for far too long, trying to figure out new ways to screw the news copy editors and pamper the digital news group, which puts out the clunky NorthJersey.com.


And is it news to anyone who lives in North Jersey that the region is pockmarked with failed chemical cleanups or that the system is broken (A-1)?


What about the "broken" flood-control system, the "broken" home-rule system of local government and the "broken" property tax system?


Failure of government is evident all around us, on the national, state and local levels, but the editors can't stop defending the status quo -- inside and outside the Woodland Park daily.


Even a third front-page story -- on the dangerous chemical BPA in can liners, drink bottles and other metal containers -- is at least a year late.


Of heads and holes


Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes continues to cover court motions relating to suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa more than she does the city's municipal affairs (L-3).


Although there is no Hackensack municipal news in the paper today, Sykes found room for two stories from Ridgewood (L-2 and L-6), plus stories from Northvale (L-1) and North Arlington (L-3).


An editorial on A-18 today blasts Republicans in Congress for blocking new, healthier school lunch guidelines, despite an obesity epidemic that seems to have escaped the attention of Sykes and the other editors at the paper.


Chewing the fat


In a talk on Monday to a class of seniors at Bergen Community College, Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill noted she also is in charge of health and fitness coverage, but didn't explain why that doesn't extend to healthy food.


Sherrill didn't mention that many of the recipes in her weekly column call for inordinate amounts of artery clogging heavy cream and butter.


Or, that the restaurant reviews she edits rarely mention that most of the poultry and meat served contains harmful antibiotics, growth hormones and animal by-products.


She spoke about consumers' fondness for swordfish, tuna and other large fish, but not that they contain the most mercury or that wildly popular farmed salmon is artificially colored.
  
Isn't it the responsibility of Sherrill, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung and other food writers to supply this information to readers, so they don't have to rely solely on menus, supermarket ads and TV food shows?
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Food editor 'breaks bread' with seniors

Logo of Bergen Community College
Image via Wikipedia






Publisher Stephen A. Borg's pet project, (201) magazine, is "designed to make wealthy people feel good about being wealthy," Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill told a class of senior citizens this afternoon.


Sherrill said she once wrote restaurant reviews for (201), and recalled she was "not really allowed to be critical," even though she visited anonymously and the magazine paid for her meals.


The former restaurant owner and weekly newspaper editor took over as food editor of The Record in September 2010.


Sherrill, 50, spoke to the final class of "In The Record" at Bergen Community College, standing in for Francis "Frank" Scandale, who was scheduled to appear before he was fired on Halloween.


The course is given as part of BCC's Institute for Learning in Retirement.


Sherrill said her father is an Episcopal clergyman, but "I promise not to get preachy."


She discussed Elisa Ung, the paper's restaurant reviewer; restaurant inspections, what she called the "liquor-license problem" in New Jersey, and her focus on the home cook.


Sherrill called Ung a "great voice" and noted she edited the restaurant reviewer's work, finding that she has to change only a word or two. 


She noted that before she started working as a food writer and editor, she owned the Village Green Restaurant in Ridgewood from 1989-99 with a former husband, a chef.


"You want to make a small fortune in the restaurant business? Start with a large fortune," she told the class, recalling a standard joke.


Noting the limited number of liquor licenses in New Jersey, she said it is "really hard" for a mom-and-pop or single-proprietor restaurant to make money without selling beer and wine.


And restaurants without a liquor license can't afford to buy "high quality food" for customers or if they do, must charge high prices. 


The biggest weakness of North Jersey restaurants are staffs that aren't "trained to serve," unlike in Manhattan, she said. 


Referring to the weekly restaurant inspections in Better Living, Sherrill said many towns are listed as "no activity reported." 


But in answer to a question from a class member, she said she didn't know whether that means no inspections were made that week or the local health department is withholding the results.


Sherrill said she met her current husband, Photographer Ted Axelrod, at (201). She noted Axelrod said the magazine makes the wealthy feel good.


When she applied for the food editor job at The Record, she wasn't sure she would get it, because of "the wall" between the Woodland Park daily and (201) and the weeklies at North Jersey Media Group.


"I was told to ramp up coverage for the home cook," Sherrill said, referring to her weekly recipe column from a new cookbook.


Better Living has started to emphasize "news you can use" and its "utility" to readers, she said.


Today's paper


I guess I can't expect my local daily newspaper to answer all the questions I have about my town.


Why is my street still in need of paving more than four years after I moved here?


Why is my town so slow to embrace alternative energy, including solar panels, and when will the Police Department's gas-guzzlers be replaced with more efficient vehicles?


Are officials weighing whether to join with similar, nearby communities to save money on purchases or studying the larger possibility of merging their public safety departments to eliminate police and fire chiefs' huge salaries?


What do my neighbors think of the schools, property taxes and the officials who are running things? Where does my recycling go and does it actually get recycled?


How has the recession affected my downtown and what does the future hold?


I won't find any of the answers in The Record, so I guess I'll have to start attending meetings and calling the city manager on my own.


I live in Hackensack now, but I was pretty much in the dark during the 30 years or so I lived in Englewood, with its segregated schools and its ruling class, including Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, who lives on the East Hill.


The assignment desk and none of the reporters who covered the town even knew an open-air police firing range awoke Englewood residents hundreds of days a year, and may still be doing so.


In fact, the assignment desk doesn't cover most City Council or Board of Education meetings in Hackensack.


As usual, there isn't any Hackensack municipal news for me in today's paper. 


In head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, Columnist Mike Kelly is still writing about the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 (L-1).


On L-6, a local obituary fails to note that Gregory Papalexis, "king of the pushcart frank," apparently didn't care much about his customers' health, and never bothered to develop a hot dog that was free of preservatives, antibiotics, growth hormones and animal by-products.




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Sunday, November 20, 2011

News is really thin and so is the paper

Protestors
 Image by Aaron Landry via Flickr
A Record columnist tries to compare Occupy Wall Street protesters, above and below, with the Kardashian sisters, whose book signing was played all over Page 1 last week.
100111 open streets on state street-13
Image by Kymberly Janisch via Flickr


Is the major element on Page 1 today supposed to be the paper's first expose of official inaction relating to a highly toxic chemical spreading under a Garfield neighborhood "for almost three decades"?


Hey, interim Editor Doug Clancy, why haven't we read about all the official inaction on flooding, decrepit local buses, segregated schools in Englewood and the wasteful home-rule system of government, among a long list of perennial problems in North Jersey?


The off-lead story on a seasonal spike in break-ins cites "top police brass." How ridiculous. What makes them "brass," the inflated salaries that no one, even Governor Christie, seems able to cap?


With gasoline prices hovering between $3 and $4 a gallon, would anyone really notice raising the gasoline tax a few cents to fix roads and bridges?


Fudging numbers


Christie fears he'd be voted out of office if he did so, hence his proposal to borrow $8 billion over the next five years -- without voter approval (A-1). The lead paragraph says "several" billion dollars; "several" usually refers to four or five, not eight.


Also, how are readers going to decide if a long-delayed hike in the low gas tax is better than borrowing the money, if the story doesn't ever say how much the tax would have to go up and whether it would also fund mass-transit improvements?


The awkward A-3 headline -- "Making a N.J. beach safer" -- could have been avoided by simply writing, "Making a beach safer," since it appears under a "STATE NEWS" banner.


Dashing editor


The Local section, the pride and joy of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, contains little municipal news today, and nothing from Hackensack.


But there was room for a photo of a "Kiddie Dash" in Harrington Park, where Sykes lives, but the caption doesn't say whether she took part.


The most readable story is the local obituary on Mary-Alice W. Kattwinkel of Clifton (L-3). The section is so thin, a wire-service obit was needed to fill space (L-6).


It seems to be an "issues" edition -- red-light cameras, black college enrollment, older drivers, Korean War veterans and holiday food drives. 


Why did the assignment desk cover a health fair (L-3)? Out of desperation?


Out of touch


Road Warrior John Cichowski has a rare column on older drivers, but why ignore the tens of thousands over 64 (L-1)?


And someone should tell the moron the biggest problems facing older drivers have nothing to do with passing a driving test; many mistake the gas pedal for the brake pedal, and their vision, hearing and reaction times are impaired.


Maybe Cichowski can get off his ass and find out if there are programs to help them become better drivers, instead of taking pot shots at them for not knowing the driving "rules" he constantly obsesses over.


Copy desk follies


The caption on the big L-1 photo today clearly shows a teen carrying a donated turkey toward a large, open cardboard box filled with other shrink-wrapped birds, so why did the news copy editor write, "Jonathan Lombardi, 14, bringing a contribution to a box ..."?


On the Business front, Your Money's Worth Columnist Kevin DeMarrais writes about seniors citizens like himself who are financially secure and enjoy life, including travel (B-1) -- in contrast to recent stories that portrayed all older people as scrambling to make ends meet on Social Security.


Brain fart


The phrase "His brain is in his penis" was invented for Columnist Mike Kelly, who today compares Occupy Wall Street protesters to the Kardashian bimbos (O-1).


I'll bet Publisher Stephen A. Borg is eating his heart out over the photo and caption on the front of Real Estate today (R-1).


If he just stayed in his $2 million home and didn't take out a $3.65 million company mortgage to buy a Tenafly McMansion at the top of the market, he could have gotten a $6.88 million home in tony Saddle River for only $3.35 million.


What a deal.

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