Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Oh, shit' and more bullshit on Page 1

Meadowlands Arena officials placed a large sig...
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Why is a story on Bruce Springsteen and the Izod Center on the front page of The Record of Woodland Park today?

Oh, shit, another overwritten column on the Giants from sports writer Tara Sullivan -- on Page 1, no less.

It's hard to believe the head coach's strongest language is, "Oh, God." I'm sure a family newspaper such as The Record can't print what he really says.

Above that non-story, Governor Christie spins more bullshit about his unprecedented referrals for lucrative Port Authority jobs, claiming his cronies "understand what the view of this administration is and execute [it] ... in a way that's consistent with my policies" (A-1).

So, the new $12 toll on the agency's Hudson River crossings ($9.50 with E-ZPass) must be "consistent" with Christie's policies.

What's the point of the A-1 story on how much revenue Bruce Springsteen brings to the Izod Center in the Meadowlands, compared to other acts?

On the front of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, two stories explore the upcoming primary and election in the redrawn 5th and 9th Congressional Districts (L-1).

Rich kid from Englewood

Rep. Steve Rothman of Fair Lawn is sounding increasingly lame on why he has chosen to battle a fellow Democrat in the 9th, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of Paterson, rather than take on conservative Republican Rep. Scott Garrett of Wantage in the 5th, which now includes Hackensack and most of Teaneck.

Turn to L-3 to hear Pascrell say in no uncertain terms, "I'd run against [Garrett] and I'd run against him hard .... I'm not afraid of Scott Garrett."

Apparently, Rothman is afraid of the Republican.

Hackensack residents search the section in vain for yet another day for news of their community.

Smiles 'R' Us

On L-7, the first Business page, a photo of a smiling Deborah Derby is inappropriate with a story on her being fired by Toys 'R' Us.

Why didn't The Record run a photo of a smiling Francis "Frank" Scandale when the editor was shit-canned on Halloween by Publisher Stephen A. Borg?

Story really smells

Why is a story promoting a Fair Lawn man's new food business, Homespun Chili, on the cover of Better Living today?

The section's editors apparently are unaware authentic chili, as served in New Mexico, is simply pureed hot chili peppers -- no beans, no cheese, no meat -- and if you try it, you'd better have a fire hose nearby.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Round-ups are replacing local news

Demarest Farm
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A column by the restaurant critic listed only two restaurants that serve local, naturally raised food.

Although The Record's editors are ignoring local news from Hackensack and many other communities, they continue to assign round-ups and trend stories, with several appearing in the past two days.

But casting a wide net doesn't always catch all the news, and if readers don't see their towns mentioned in the regional stories, they're invariably disappointed and left in the dark.

And recently, the editors have been unable to resist linking local events to those that have roiled the nation, as they do today, comparing sex-abuse cases in North Jersey schools to the far-larger scandals in the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America.

That's a real stretch, as was Sunday's comparison of the Bergen County synagogue firebombing suspect to the Unabomber.

Editor is Queen Bee

Two more trend stories appear on the front of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section today -- one on falling property values in Bergen County and another on towns merging planning and zoning boards.

Sykes' assignment desk is responsible for generating local news, but also turns out all the regional and trend stories, and edits stories from staffers in Trenton and Washington, D.C.

She and her assistant assignment editors also are responsible for much of the atrocious writing and flawed reporting that have appeared in the Woodland Park daily in the past decade, including all the sub-par columns by John Cichowski and Mike Kelly. 

When Francis "Frank" Scandale was the editor, Sykes' minions turned out numerous regional stories. At one point, Scandale even banned stories about a single town from the front page.

Last week, a story on towns moving their school elections to November didn't mention Hackesack, so residents don't know if that's the final word or whether the city is planning such a change.

In today's Local section, there is so little municipal news from reporters at The Record, the layout editors ran a Demarest story by Amanda Baskind, a reporter at one of its affiliated weekly papers.

Second look

On Sunday, a strong consumer-oriented column from Travel Editor Jill Schensul was far more welcome than her silly musings on global homogenization or her cover story on a lavish cruise vacation she apparently took for free.

Also on Sunday, I enjoyed Better Living's upbeat "12 reasons to love New Jersey" by Staff Writer Virginia Rohan.

Below that on the Better Living front, The Corner Table column by Staff Writer Elisa Ung listed only two restaurants that serve local, naturally raised food.

Ung is the main restaurant reviewer, so is she saying there are so few restaurants that serve quality food, she had to fill the rest of the column with Whole Foods Market and similar stores, as well as winter farmers' markets?

Maybe her column should be renamed The Kitchen Table.

However, she does rhapsodize about the "beautiful dark-yellow/orange yolks" of fresh eggs from local free-roaming hens, so maybe the dessert obsession she displays in every review is easing just a bit.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Editors expose Christie's pork

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...
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Governor Christie has recommended more than 50 people for jobs at the cash-rich Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The Record has published so many favorable news stories and editorials since Governor Christie took office two years ago that readers are shocked when his true nature is exposed -- as in today's front page report on the more than 50 people he recommended for jobs at the cash-rich Port Authority.

They include donors and Republican Party officials, including one man who is being paid $50,000, plus full benefits, for only three days' work.

Is anybody surprised? When he was U.S. attorney, Christie steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees to two others -- his former boss and a former federal judge.

A second shocker is the rare byline of Staff Writer Jean Rimbach on the upbeat Page 1 account of Victor Cruz's rise to football glory from one of Paterson's most dangerous neighborhoods. The continuation of  the A-1 story and a second story fill an entire inside page (A-8). 

Unfortunately, in view of cuts in state aid and dishonest city officials, the celebration of his success will do little to help the Silk City, which the paper has consistently portrayed as a center of drugs and prostitution in North Jersey.

Money laundering? 

It's hard to believe Christie didn't know about illegal deposits totaling more than $2 million in the family business' bank account when he nominated Korean-American Phillip Kwon of Closter to the state Supreme Court (A-3).

On the front of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local, a proposal to extend light-rail service to Tenafly gets lukewarm support from Road Warrior John Cichowski (L-1).

In a rare piece on mass transit, the so-called commuting columnist says "Bergenites are married to their cars." If Cichowski's is "married" to his car, which he calls "Mr. Honda,"  that would be same-sex coupling.

He also blasts "giant SUVs and psychos on cellphones" -- yet fills columns with his inane answers to their e-mails.

His endorsement of mass transit is in the last paragraph on L-3: 

"Somehow, predictions of death, mayhem and excessive trips to ear doctors got lost in a wealth of obvious improvements in commuter convenience." 

Lazy journalism

Sykes continues to cover protest marches in Garfield in the wake of the police shooting of Malik Williams, but readers still do not know the identities of the two police officers who killed him on Dec. 10 or many other details being withheld by the prosecutor (L-1).

That's in keeping with how this lazy editor has covered local news for many years: Wait for the press release.

In Better Living, a column by Staff Writer Elisa Ung on how to eat local through the winter makes readers wonder why she rarely tells them whether the food she samples for her restaurant reviews is naturally raised or grown (F-1).

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Desperate editors hype the news

Bruce Springsteen, Drammenshallen, Norway
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A young Bruce Springsteen performing in Norway. A ticket-selling "disaster" for his New Jersey concerts is front-page news today.

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Would you get a load of today's Page 1 comparison between "horrific incidents seared in American memory" and two attacks, plus a third planned attack, on Bergen County synagogues.

"A loner from Lodi" has a certain alliteration, but does suspect Anthony Graziano, 19, really deserve mention in the same paragraph as "the Unabomber, the Virginia Tech shooter and the Anthrax attacker"? 

I stopped reading there, but the story goes on and on.

The hard sell

Half the front page in The Record is devoted to bias crimes that killed no one, clearly showing that head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes is out of control, desperate to fill space and sell papers. 

Three reporters worked on the story about new charges in the firebombing case, including Staff Writer Stephanie Akin, who has neglected her Hackensack beat for the last 10 days.

And if that isn't enough, part of the front page is devoted to a story by three more reporters on fans who had trouble buying tickets to Bruce Springsteen concerts. Now we know the world is ending.

Page A-2 carries another embarrassing correction -- for the second day in a row.

Flawed reporting

An editorial on A-13 today incorrectly blames a proposed $515,000 budget cut for the Englewood Public Library on the city manager, as did earlier news stories.

But the idea to cut the library budget -- which would hit minority families hardest -- was floated first in November 2010 by a group of wealthy residents from the East Hill, where Chairman Malcolm A. Borg lives. 

They were members of a budget-review panel that called itself  "Englewood F.A.S.T or Fiscal Accountability Starts Today Coalition." 

Here is a link to an Eye on The Record post: In Englewood, whites know best

Muni tunes

I searched for municipal stories in Sykes' Local news section, but had a hard time finding any among even more Law and Order reports on L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-6.

Maybe most of the assignment minions took Friday off to make it a three-day weekend.

Mixed message

Contrast today's Better Living cover story on "stocking a healthy pantry" to the unhealthy food described in Friday's Eating Out on $50 restaurant review (Better Living, Page 20).

Why did free-lancer Jeffrey Page chose Stacks Pancake House and Cafe in Paramus for dinner and why did he spend only $27.42 on two meals, including tax and tip?

Page is The Record's original Road Warrior columnist. With his strong point of view and command of the language, he wrote circles around most of the reporting staff, including John Cichowski and Mike Kelly, two of the paper's weakest staffers.

Page also was obese for most of his working life. What kind of example does he set by ordering an artery clogging dessert to split with a friend that was composed of "two large scoops of ice cream and four large dollops of whipped cream with a brownie"?

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Friday, January 27, 2012

The editors and the paper are all wet

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Readers yawned twice today -- when they awoke and when they looked at a front-page column on Rutgers' head coach.

My copy of The Record was soaked through, even though it was in two, knotted plastic bags when it landed on my wet driveway this morning.

When I opened it and saw that most of the front page was devoted to a vapid sports column on Rutgers' overpaid football coach, I realized that the editors are all wet, too.

The piece by Staff Writer Tara Sullivan is full of hype.

Sullivan fails to mention that Greg Schiano makes more than three times the salary of Governor Christie or that the coach's greed is gross and disgusting.

His departure for Florida may be a huge sports story, but it leaves the majority of readers cold and scrambling to find relevant news in the rest of the Woodland Park daily.

Cold shoulders, cold body

The lead A-1 story on Donald Domsky, a Wayne man who was found more than a year after he collapsed and died at home, is filled with unanswered questions, but the editors fail to address the biggest one: 

What does his long-undiscovered death say about our society?

On head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local front, the biggest news is that no incendiary materials were found in a search of about 70 synagogues after a suspect was charged in a firebombing and an arson.

More road kill

Road Warrior John Cichowski has yet another column based on a reader's e-mail, this one from a driver whose car was rear-ended by a Passaic County pick-up truck and who complains of slow payment of his insurance deductible.

This is about as far as you can get away from the commuting problems Cichowski is supposed to write about. 

Car-centric coverage

Why did The Record run two overwhelmingly negative stories in a row on a proposal to extend light-rail service to Tenafly on Page 1 and the Local front, then put a report on support for the plan from residents of four other towns on L-3 today?

In a region as traffic-choked as North Jersey, the progress of mass transit should be front-page news -- it's certainly a hell of a lot more important than football.

Editors seem lost, too

Another story worthy of Page 1 is way back on L-7, the first Business page, where Staff Writer Joan Verdon reports on a shoe that uses GPS technology to track people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

Editor Martin "Marty" Gottlieb, 64, is winding up his first week at The Record, where he began his journalism career as a cub reporter. 

How much input he had on the play of stories is unknown. Does he live in New Jersey or know anything about it? Those are more unknowns. 

A third unknown is whether he is familiar with the paper's bias for the young, especially in news coverage that favors autism and ignores the challenges facing the elderly.

Putting on a feed bag

In Better Living, the food at Valley Stables Food and Drink in Oakland sounds awful -- and what a stupid name for a restaurant. It might as well serve horse meat or hay.

Why did Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung even bother writing a review after consuming all that artery clogging meat, plus cake, a cookie and an apple crisp? Her rating is between Fair and Good.

It should have been, "Don't bother."
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

What happened to localizing the news?

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The meals served at public schools in Bergen County are due for an overhaul, but you won't find any quotes from students or food-service workers in The Record today.

With my son's complaints about the food at Hackensack High ringing in my ears, I stared in disbelief at today's Page 1 wire-service story about a major overhaul of school meals nationwide, searching for any mention of Bergen County or North Jersey.

The changes won't go into effect until September, so readers would have appreciated an assessment of the meals served in any of the hundreds of schools in the region, and what students have to look forward to.

The Associated Press reporter visited an elementary school in Alexandria, Va., where students met first lady Michelle Obama and ate food made from recipes of celebrity Chef Rachel Ray.

This is the kind of story that would appear in The New York Times, where Martin "Marty" Gottlieb worked for many years before taking over this week as editor of The Record.

But he should know better than to settle for a national story on the front of a local newspaper.

Let's do lunch

Why not send Mike Kelly or another reporter to have lunch at Hackensack or another big high school, and report on the fare? I'm sure it would be an eye opener, given the high school taxes North Jersey residents pay.

Instead, Kelly was assigned to write a column on the arrest of Anthony Graziano in a firebombing and arson at two synagogues.

Kelly is a columnist who struggles to form the strong point-of-view readers expect, so his L-1 column today asks lots of rhetorical questions, and in a desperate bid to fill space, actually duplicates the reporting in an A-1 news story on the suspect's not guilty plea.

Kelly wrings his hands over "this unexpected invasion of hate." He says he is searching for "the emotional cleanser to wash" that hate away. 

Meanwhile, readers are searching for the phone number to cancel their subscriptions.

Another story on L-1 was long on the experiences of workers or volunteers tallying the homeless in Bergen County and short on interviews with the homeless themselves.

Hackensack readers get a political story and a police story, both on L-3, but no municipal news.

Another great job by head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her minions.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Did new editor bring fresh objectivity?

English: President Barack Obama delivers the 2...
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President Obama giving his 2010 State of the Union address.

The Record has been less than objective when it comes to President Barack Obama, so it was a pleasant surprise to see an even-handed approach to his State of the Union address on the front page today.

The Woodland Park daily used a balanced story from The Washington Post instead of running the usual, shrill account from The Associated Press.

I don't know whether that was the work of Martin "Marty" Gottlieb, the new editor, but a look at the rest of the paper shows he has many months of hard work ahead of him, if he intends to improve the clunky headlines, slanted reporting and slipshod editing.

The major element on Page 1 is the arrest of an "anti-Semitic loner" in attacks on two synagogues, but the awkward main headline leaves readers shaking their heads.

Firebomb attacks
delivered by bike

"Delivered by bike"? Did the suspect "deliver" firebomb attacks? Hey, Editor Liz Houlton, supervisor of the news copy desk, doesn't that make it sound like Chinese takeout?

Super Toilet Bowl

And as usual, precious A-1 space is devoted to the cost of attending the Super Bowl, demoting the debate over same-sex marriage to A-3.

A story on politicians' tax returns on A-8 prompts Eye on The Record to predict Obama will defeat the Republican nominee in November, whether it is the $20 million man, Mitt Romney, or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who can't keep his cock in his pants.

But, of course, The Record and other media will keep readers guessing until the last possible moment as they play up all the conflict and make it sound like a horse race, even if it isn't.

I was expecting to see an A-10 editorial on Obama's plea for the middle class, but his speech ran late and I guess it was past the bedtime of Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin.

Road manure

After an unexplained absence on Sunday, Road Warrior John Cichowski returns today with another column based entirely on readers' e-mails -- this time about paying tolls with and without an E-ZPass. Ground breaking.

When is the last time Cichowski wrote a column based on his own legwork, such as asking commuters at bus stops or train stations to tell him what's on their minds?

The major element on head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local front is another negative story -- the second in a row -- about a proposal to extend electrified light-rail service to Tenafly, where Publisher Stephen A. Borg lives.

The poorly edited piece violates a basic rule of journalism, raising "pollution" worries in the lead paragraph, but never discussing them in the rest of the story.

Defending their constitutional right to drive solo into the city, Tenafly residents are so desperate to stop the project they asked NJ Transit officials at a hearing about the horrible possibility light-rail riders might need to use a restroom in town.

Editing is suspect

Also on L-1, a plea for donations to help a Korean international student who was robbed and stabbed in Paramus makes readers wonder why Sykes hasn't run a big story seeking donations for other injured or sick residents who don't have health insurance.

A police sketch of the suspect in the attack on the 19-year-old woman appears on Cliffside Pilot.com, but not in The Record.

On L-3, a fatal accident involving three cars, all driven by senior citizens, killed an 84-year-old Paterson woman, but only her name and age are given, reducing the story to a photo-op.

Who was she, is her spouse still alive, did she raise children or have a career, does she have grandchildren? Those questions and others are unanswered by Sykes' crack assignment desk.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Today's big news isn't on Page 1

NJ Transit Newark Light Rail #104 crossing Bro...
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Electrified NJ Transit light-rail cars such as these would serve commuters under a plan to extend the line to several Bergen towns, including Leonia, Englewood and Tenafly.

Martin "Marty" Gottlieb finally has taken over as editor of The Record of Woodland Park -- as readers can see from a change in the masthead at the bottom of the Editorial Page today (A-10).

Gottlieb's name and title appear between those of Publisher Stephen A. Borg and Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin.

Readers are hoping the former New York Times editor will usher in much-needed change at the North Jersey daily as caretaker Douglas Clancy returns to his newsroom budget chores.

Gottlieb, 64, certainly can ask for better writing and editing from the staff, and a more even-handed approach to such important issues as mass transit.

Two glaring examples appear on the front page today under the main headline, which just as easily could have read:

New day for The Record

The first paragraph of the lead story on Governor Christie's historic nominations to the state Supreme Court is awkwardly written, especially the phrase between the dashes -- "hailed by him Monday for their diversity and 'pure judgment.'"

What an abomination. Did a committee write that lead?

Trashing transit

Given the huge amount of advertising revenue from car dealers, it's no surprise that news stories are anti-mass transit, as demonstrated again by today's A-1 centerpiece on the proposed extension of light rail to Tenafly.

Tenafly officials appear to be the only ones opposing the plan, claiming they will have to give up $200,000 in tax revenue from the loss of commercial property to create parking lots for commuters.

But why add parking? The commuter ferry at River Road and Route 5 in Edgewater is thriving with a shuttle bus and no public parking. Why couldn't light rail do the same?

The A-1 photo caption for the light-rail story also contains an error, calling Englewood "one of the cities affected" by the plan. It is the only city; none of the other towns have a city form of government.

The boring photo of a man crossing the tracks isn't worthy of appearing on the back page, let alone the front page. Where is a photo of the electrified light-rail cars that would serve Englewood and Tenafly?

Hack attack

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section is missing any Hackensack news.

But I love that photo of a horse carved from snow in Cliffside Park by talented Staff Photographer Tariq Zehawi, who Sykes has had chasing ambulances for too many years (L-1).

The Road Warrior column didn't run on the front of the section on Sunday, as it usually does, and there was no explanation in the paper. It is scheduled to appear again on Wednesday. 

Mixed message

On the front of Better Living, the promotional Starters restaurant feature reports MK Valencia in Ridgefield Park serves "American-Italian" cuisine "with an emphasis on seafood," but a photo shows two dishes with meat and none with fish.

At The Times, Gottlieb served as global edition editor, associate managing editor in charge of the weekend editions, deputy culture editor and an investigative reporter and editor on the national and metro staffs. 

He has also been editor-in-chief of The Village Voice, managing editor of The New York Daily News, and a reporter at The News and The Record when it was in Hackensack.
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Breaking news: Dead patients don't pay

Computer rendering of the future World Trade C...
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The New World Trade Center is over-budget and won't be finished until who knows when.

Did you see the inadvertently hilarious Page 1 quote in The Record today from Anthony Orlando, CFO at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center?

Englewood and other hospitals apparently are stiffed so much they are requiring patients to pay upfront, even in the emergency room.

"When you go to Best Buy, do you walk out without paying," Orlando asks rhetorically -- as if an operation or other medical procedure is as common as buying a flat-screen TV.

"The only chance to collect a debt, direct and face to face, is when they're [patients] here," he goes on. "You may never see them again."

Especially if they die on the operating table. In other words, dead patients don't pay, so the hospital tries to get its money while they are alive and kicking.

Editor's giant error

Thanks to interim Editor Douglas Clancy, overblown coverage of the Giants on A-1 doesn't leave much room for general-interest news besides the hospital story.

A second front-page report says North Jersey residents continue to take a bath from the Port Authority's construction of the New World Trade Center. 

It's bad enough we're all paying higher tolls, but now readers learn about the outrageous compensation being paid to members of the private 9/11 Memorial foundation.

In the Local section, a story on the miraculous recovery of an Englewood woman whose heart stopped in church on Jan. 15 doesn't say whether her relatives were asked for a credit-card imprint when she arrived at the Englewood Hospital emergency room (L-3).

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Searching for news in the Sunday paper

Mario Batali, American chef and restaurateur.
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In a recipe column in The Record today, Chef Mario Batali says meat is "overused."

Once you get past the riveting Page 1 story about a 58-year-old Dumont woman bankrupted by her illnesses, there isn't much to read in The Record's once-special Sunday edition.

People like Frances Giordano eventually will be helped by national health-care reform, so can you imagine what would happen if selfish Republicans succeed in repealing the law?

The two other stories on the front page are follows to previous reports on a former police officer who is charged with killing his childhood friend, and a onetime lawyer at that shadow government known as the Port Authority. Who cares?

He needs editing

On the front of Local, former sports reporter John Brennan uses the wrong verb in the first paragraph of the weather story, and nobody on the assignment or news copy desks caught it. He wrote:

"North Jersey sloughed off the winter's first measurable snowfall Saturday...."

"Sloughed off" means "discard as undesirable, get rid of or remove." Brennan meant to say "shrugged off."

Despite all his years in the business and his hard sell to the editors of every one of his stories, Brennan writes at the level of a high school journalist.

Red-light cameras have proven to be life savers, but you wouldn't know that from today's poorly edited story on L-7 that quotes unnamed critics.

Food follies

In Better Living, contrast the columns by Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung (F-1) and restaurant owner and Chef Mario Batali (F-3).

Ung promotes low-quality food at chain restaurants, including mystery chicken and farmed salmon. Batali reports meat's reign is waning, and offers a healthy pasta recipe without cream or butter.

After more than a decade as a columnist, Mike Kelly still doesn't get it that readers look to him for strong opinions, not rhetorical questions. 

In his assessment of Cliffside Park Mayor Gerald Calabrese on the front of Opinion, Kelly should have condemned the politician for being propped up by a corrupt system for nearly 50 years, not seek to balance his column with opposing views.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Key editor is 'Too Big to Fail'

English: Photo of Dennis Elwell, mayor of Seca...
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A story about ex-Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell appeared under the headline, "North Bergen mayor's sentencing delayed." 

Coverage of snowstorms can make or break an editor at The Record -- as the trick-or-treat Halloween firing of Francis "Frank" Scandale clearly showed.

The lesson in the anemic editorial response to the surprise October 2011 snowstorm -- which knocked out power to hundreds of thousands for days -- wasn't lost on the staff, which produced today's timely stories on Page 1 and the Better Living cover.

Scandale arrived at The Record 11 years ago this month, and he didn't have to wait long for a big storm, which demonstrated once again how poorly the local assignment desk handled weather stories.

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes was in charge of covering the storms -- in January 2001 and October 2011 -- and she or one of her junior assignment editors directed the news-gathering staff. 

But she has survived all the complaints about pathetically weak coverage from higher-ups like Publisher Stephen A. Borg

Like the banks and brokerages that brought the nation to the brink of financial ruin, Sykes is simply "Too Big to Fail."

Sykes and Tim Nostrand, who held the top assignment post before her, have survived at least three managing editors. And Sykes emerged triumphant in the Scandale debacle, even though one of her junior weekend editors botched the pre-Halloween snowstorm story. 

This weekend's storm, the first of the new year, may also be a milestone, coming in the waning days of the interim editor, Douglas Clancy, who presumably will resume his newsroom budget chores.

The Borgs' new editor, Marty Gottlieb, was hired away from The New York Times in December, and was expected to start early in the new year. Gottlieb was global editions editor of The Times for three years.

Milking the GOP process

Readers who picked up the Woodland Park daily today realized from the lead story that the excruciatingly boring process of picking a Republican presidential nominee will be shoved down their throats until the convention in August (A-1).

On A-2, another embarrassing correction appears. An L-3 headline on Friday said, "North Bergen mayor's sentencing delayed." 

The problem is the story was about Dennis Elwell, former mayor of Secaucus. The words "North Bergen" or "North Bergen mayor" never appear in the story, which was handled by Editor Liz Houlton's news copy desk. 

Free editorial help

Congress has been virtually paralyzed since a posse of rabid Tea Party members took their seats a year ago, but the editors have refused to do the story, leaving it to readers to explore how much damage they've caused.

In a letter on A-11 today, former Closter resident Chuck Bailey
discusses "the unprecedented lack of cooperation by [Republican Party] members of Congress " in aiding the economic recovery.

Instead of municipal news from Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and other towns, Sykes' Local section is filled with court and police news today.

Where are you, Marty Gottlieb?

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Everything but the kitchen sink

Pad thai (ผัดไทย), served in Bangkok.
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Pad thai as served in Bangkok, Thailand. Elisa Ung reviews a Thai restaurant, delaying her food critique until the end.

One look at The Record's front page today and you'd think the world is ending with the move of school elections to November or that driver-license fraud is the biggest problem facing the state.

In fact, interim Editor Douglas Clancy had so little news for Page 1 today, two of the four major stories are about football -- the second day in a row he has squandered precious space on the sport.

Now, all we need is a kitchen sink. 

The overlong, eye-glazing story on license fraud carries the rare byline of Staff Writer Jean Rimbach, who milked the subject for all it is worth.

Four corrections

On A-2, are four embarrassing corrections and one clarification a new record?

Hackensack residents are offered two stories -- the umpteenth development in the legal saga of suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa (L-3), and the denial of an application to build a 19-story health care building between Prospect and Summit avenues, near Golf Place (L-6).

I haven't seen anything in head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section concerning a proposed $516,000 cut in the budget of the Englewood Public Library, but it is blasted in a letter to the editor of the weekly Hackensack Chronicle.

Fit to be Thai'd

You know the food must be pretty bad if Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung fills the first two-thirds of her report with everything but the dishes she sampled at Pa De Thai in Edgewater.

The 34-seat restaurant is called a "hole-in-the-wall" on the cover of Better Living and a "tiny treasure" in the centerfold. Ung gave it a lukewarm 2 stars (Good), though it doesn't deserve even that.

In two visits, she tried only 11 items, including two desserts. The waiter recommended the "crispy red snapper" for $16.95, but the small fillet had a "tough exterior." 

A duck salad had "tough chunks of meat," and the fried rice and pad thai had "too much soy sauce."

Thai food is known for its wide use of fresh vegetables and restaurants usually offer vegetarian alternatives to many dishes, including duck salad. Ung is silent on those scores.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Belated second thoughts on Christie plan

Image by 401K via Flickr
The biggest winners in Governor Christie's plan are residents with $1 million in taxable income.

Why did it take The Record's staff the better part of two days to give prominence to Democratic criticism of Governor Christie's latest proposal as a "B.S. tax cut" that's "not real" and "for the wealthy"?

All of the quoted words came from state Senate President Stephen Sweeney on Tuesday, but they're just appearing on Page 1 today, along  with an "ANALYSIS" that found a lot of holes in the governor's proposal.

And the State of the State address may have been released under an embargo the night before Christie was to deliver it on Jan. 10. The delay was prompted by the unexpected death on Jan. 9 of Republican Minority Leader Alex DeCroce.
Interim Editor Douglas Clancy again shows readers he isn't a serious journalist, devoting only a third of the front page to state government and burying other important stories inside.

A Christie veto of a bill on taxpayer-funded pensions is on A-3, and a $325 million shortfall in state revenue is reported on A-4. Both of those stories are worthy of being packaged with the two on the tax-cut plan.

Two more embarrassing corrections appear on A-2 today.

Column has holes

On the front of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes' Local section, an unflattering photo makes Columnist Mike Kelly look like the newsroom idiot (L-1).

Kelly finally has taken note of the five-week-long "silence" from law enforcement officials on the many questions surrounding the shooting of Malik Williams, 19, of Garfield.

But Kelly doesn't do any original reporting here. He doesn't even bother interviewing the owner of the garage where Williams hid before he was shot dead by two police officers.

All he does is regurgitate all the unanswered questions, which have appeared in at least a half-dozen news stories since the Dec. 10 shooting.

In fact, Kelly's style is to ask a lot of rhetorical questions. He rarely expresses the strong opinions that readers are looking for in a columnist.

Nor does Kelly inform readers he wrote a book defending a white Teaneck police officer who shot and killed a fleeing black teenager, Phillip C. Pannell, in April 1990.

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