Sunday, September 30, 2012

'Punch' obituary puts focus on the Borgs

Lincoln Tunnel rush hour: Five lanes of traffic into two. Why doesn't The Record write about commuting problems instead of such topics as scrutiny of school bus drivers?

Another boring report on crumbling infrastructure and a speculative story on state revenue guarantee that all eyes notice the three-column item at the top of Page 1 today -- reporting the death of former New York Times Publisher Arthur Ochs "Punch" Sulzberger.

Of course, many readers know why his death is front-page news: Marty Gottlieb, The Record's editor, spent many years working for Sulzberger in New York and Paris.

But in the past, The Record has denied some  prominent New and North Jerseyans similar notice on A-1.

I'm not sure why the Sulzberger obituary on A-6 today is from a Times' rival, The Washington Post. And what's with the nearly 40-year-old photo of Sulzberger?

Borg on 'Punch'

Among those reacting to the death is Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, chairman of North Jersey Media Group, who handed the publisher reins to one of his Silver Spoons, Stephen A. Borg.

The elder Borg isn't half the man of Sulzberger, whom he describes as "an extraordinary gentlemen, and a person who would guard the reputation of his product with his life."

(Production Editor Liz Houlton and her crack copy editors missed "gentlemen" instead of "gentleman.") 

Record v. Times

Readers know Mac Borg hasn't guarded the reputation of The Record, which has published several flattering stories about Borg family friends and business associates.

And on three days last week, an ad for a Japanese clothing retailer was wrapped around Page 1, and the Better Living and Business sections published lavishly promotional pieces on the opening of its Paramus store. 

Selfish son

They also know that Stephen Borg has put his selfish interests above the financial health of the newspaper, purchasing a $3.65 million Tenafly McMansion with a company mortgage only several months before a major downsizing.

The younger Borg also engineered NJMG's  wholesale abandonment of Hackensack, and stood by when his chief assignment editor, Deirdre Sykes, followed suit by largely ignoring non-police news from the city where The Record had prospered for more than 110 years.

News or views?

Is there any news on Page 1 today?

I got a kick out of the "ANALYSIS" suggesting Governor Christie may close the gap "between optimistic budget projections and the state's gloomy revenue totals," and deliver a tax credit.

But the editors don't mention the weakness of Christie's plan: the recipients of huge corporate bonuses and stock-market profits pay little or no tax.

The governor is going to get screwed by the very same millionaires he has made immune from a tax surcharge. LOL.

Call me maybe

On the front of Local, Road Warrior John Cichowski addresses a compelling road safety issue: why school buses don't carry phone numbers on their sides (L-1).

The answer is obviously so drivers won't be pestering the attractive female school-bus drivers for dates.

Dissing Hackensack

The only Hackensack news today is from the police blotter: a brawl at General Poor's, the Main Street tavern that has been the scene of numerous going-away parties for Record staffers (L-3).

The brown-nosing Sykes ordered the reporter to list every one of the 11 police agencies that responded, thereby ensuring that in the future none of them will refuse to release routine crime information.

Shifting the blame

In Better Living, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung just doesn't get it.

As a consumer advocate, she should use her Corner Table column to report on the bad behavior of restaurant owners and chefs, not customers (BL-1).

I can think of owners and chefs who list "red snapper," but serve mystery fish; who buy low-cost, conventionally raised or grown food to boost their profits; and who gouge customers on wine purchases.

And many of them pay servers a minimum wage of under $3 an hour, then put the burden on customers to make up the difference through tips.

If Columnist Mike Kelly is going to rail about the "sound of gunfire" and "dilapidated housing" in Paterson (Opinion front), why doesn't he have the balls to criticize Christie for forcing the layoffs of more than 100 cops or to name all of the slumlords?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ex-Timesman is two-timing local readers

Train #1651 leaves Hackensack-Essex Street, bo...
From the endless stream of Road Warrior columns on driving and parking you'd never know North Jersey and the region have a well-developed, though crowded, mass-transit system. (Wikipedia)

Here's another disappointing front page from Editor Marty Gottlieb, a New York Times veteran who seems determined to present a mix of local, state, regional, national and even international stories on The Record's premier page.

But this Times-like approach to the news betrays his duty to serve local readers.

More loco news

After he took over in late January, Gottlieb said in public appearances and media interviews that his job as The Record's editor was a "homecoming" -- recalling his days as a Hackensack-based cub reporter who covered town news.

But instead of slowing the decline in local news, he has double-crossed readers by allowing two lazy and incompetent sub-editors, Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, to accelerate the process.

Jock-itching editor

And he has made matters worse by a jock-like devotion to putting sports on the front page, such as the huge A-1 photo of football referees on Friday. 

That photo pushed below the fold a far more important story on Governor Christie vowing to veto Democratic spending bills until he gets the "income-tax credit that he has been pushing for months" (A-1)

A tax credit? What happened to the income-tax cut the GOP bully has been promoting? Are they one in the same?

Is driving a right?

On Friday's Local front, Road Warrior John Cichowski continues to ignore mass-transit users with a column on drivers who bitch about parking tickets.

Thanks to complaining e-mails from morons like reader "Irv," Cichowski has guaranteed himself an endless supply of off-the-subject columns in North Jersey, one of the world's most traffic-choked regions.

Dissing Hackensack

Even though columnist Mike Kelly declared "chaos" and a "double dose of chaos" in Hackensack several weeks ago, the drought on city news continued Friday and Saturday.

Friday's edition of the Hackensack Chronicle re-printed a story from The Record on former Police Chief Ken Zisa and the city's future.

North Jersey Media Group has  been re-printing Record stories since the departure of Mark J. Bonamo, who was the weekly's managing editor, so it's unclear whether he will be replaced.

This guarantees Sykes and Sforza won't be embarrassed by the weekly's Hackensack news scoop. 

Woops. Friday's edition of the Chronicle (Sept. 28, 2012) reports the City Council has renewed talks on hiring a police director instead of a police chief, a story I haven't seen in The Record.

More fatty desserts

In Friday's Better Living tab, a lukewarm 2-star review of Pearl Restaurant in Ridgewood emphasizes high prices and clumsy preparation, but Reviewer Elisa Ung made sure she sampled four desserts.

Ung also failed to point out the contradiction of one dish she liked: heart-healthy red snapper with an artery clogging butter sauce.

Tea Party wackos

Today, in keeping with Gottlieb's blend of A-1 stories, he gives local crackpots a platform to attack a U.N program that promotes conservation of resources and a limit on development.

David Walker, presumably a Tea Party radical, appears in a front-page photo. 

Walker and others oppose such "smart growth" initiatives as construction of homes and apartments near mass transit.

The story fails to expose them as one-man, one-car proponents who cause massive rush-hour traffic jams and pollution. 

Gun rights and wrongs

Why did Gottlieb waste more A-1 space today on the story of a Connecticut father who shot and killed "a knife-wielding prowler in a black ski mask," only to find out later it was his 15-year-old son?

The wire-service story is filled with the usual idiotic comments from neighbors who know nothing about the man or his son, and it ignores two big questions:

Why was this teenager masquerading as an armed prowler, and are the hundreds of thousands of Americans with guns an indictment of the police? 

Aircraft headaches

Today's Local front has another photo of a minor accident at Teterboro Airport, reminding readers of how little attention the editors have paid to the impact of aircraft noise on the quality of life in Hackensack and nearby towns.

Of course, the explanation might lie in Chairman Malcolm A. Borg, a long-time champion of the airport who co-owns a business jet.

On L-2 today, a photo caption leaves out an important detail: Why did county police salute Italy with a flag-raising ceremony on Friday?

Second look

After the Signature section published a cover story profiling Rep. Scott Garrett, a radical Republican from Wantage, I expected equal time for his opponent in the November election, Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen.

But Thursday's Signature section didn't have a word about Gussen, a Democrat.

The Sept. 20 story on Garrett also used two big and one small photo of the so-called conservative icon, as if section Editor Alan Finder was doing public relations for the congressman.

Has the paper published a photo of Gussen since he won the Democratic primary in June?

Instead of a Gussen profile on the cover, this week's Signature section published a confessional from Ung, the restaurant reviewer, who sounded like she needed a break from eating out on all that unhealthy food and spending huge amounts of The Record's money.

Hey, readers would certainly welcome that.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Editors drop minorities from big story

The old New York Times building. Two Times veterans now work in Woodland Park.

Editor Marty Gottlieb signed off today on a Page 1 story with a hole big enough for one of The Record's Mercedes-Benz delivery trucks.

The "ANALYSIS" of Governor Christie's war on affordable housing is fatally flawed in the first paragraph (A-1).

The story claims Christie wants to give "towns more power to decide what gets built within their borders."

Whites v. minorities

Any fool knows the real issue is whether low- and moderate-income people, including minorities, will be allowed to move into predominately white communities.

Christie is only the latest in a long string of conservative white officials who have subverted the state Supreme Court's Mount Laurel rulings, which said towns have a responsibility to accommodate low- and moderate-cost housing.

Today's long, densely written story doesn't even contain the word "minorities."

The story was probably edited on the assignment desk run by Editor Deirdre Sykes, a small-town resident whose distaste for diversity is well-known. 

Getting a grip

The big element on the front page today is about the Iranian president's grip on power.

Of course, a far better story in a North Jersey daily would be Christie's chances for reelection next year after breaking most of his campaign promises and going after the middle class.

Fur flies in newsroom

No animals were harmed in the making of the story and photo about a Ridgewood kitchen fire, but why is this minor drama all over the front of Local?

Sykes and her minions couldn't find any Hackensack or Englewood news today.

How low can you go?

Is there any connection between the enormously expensive Uniqlo ad wrapped around Page 1 today and the lavishly promotional "story" on the Japanese clothing retailer all over the Better Living front?

In the new Signature section, the editors have taken ignoring readers' lives to a new level with "IN MY OWN WORDS." 

The new feature is described as, "An occasional feature in which reporters, editors and critics write about their lives."

In view of a drastic decline in local news, do readers really want an inside look at the poor job The Record's news staff is doing?

Weary food writer

Staff Writer Elisa Ung is the first up with what appears to be a censored version of her restaurant reviewing.

There is nothing here about her obsession with sugary, artery clogging desserts or the orgasms she has over the "funk" of an enormous dry aged prime steak -- a heart attack on a plate.

She also doesn't discuss the tremendous boost to her family's finances from all those meals she enjoys on The Record's expense account, as well as the leftovers she brings home.

Finally, Ung doesn't address her Sunday column's failure to confront restaurant owners on such important issues as the broken tipping system and serving meat with harmful antibiotics and growth hormones. 

Ex-Times pals in N.J.

Gottlieb hired a pal, Alan Finder, to fill the cushy job of editing Signature, which debuted Sept. 6.

Finder, who took a buyout after 28 years at The New York Times, is married to one of The Record's graphic artists, Elaine Isaacson.

Isn't that nice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Debate stories deaden Page 1

Whole Foods Market
The Record's food editor shops at Whole Foods Market, but doesn't pass along advice to buy beef without harmful antibiotics, growth hormones and animal byproducts.

Three of the four stories on the front page of The Record today are rehashes of new and old debates -- on gay marriage, foreign policy and a silly football game.

And the off-lead story on President Obama and Mitt Romney is not even a real debate.

The so-called confrontation was fabricated by McClatchy Newspapers, where bored reporters and editors look for any way to liven coverage of the deadly dull presidential campaign.

Marty Gottlieb, the Times veteran who took over The Record's newsroom at the end of January, sure knows how to cruise into retirement.

Today, Page 1 of the Woodland Park daily has what editors call a "good mix" of stories, but the result is a page so dull, readers' eyelids grow heavy and they start flipping pages, looking for news they can use.

Phony caption

For amusement -- at the expense of the paper's inept copy desk under Production Editor Liz Houlton -- check out the photo with the story on Catholics and gay marriage at the top of Page 1.

Three students are shown with their mouths closed as they stare into the distance, but the caption says they "are discussing Archbishop John J. Myers' statement."

More lazy reporting

On the front of Local today, it's too bad slow-moving Staff Writer John Cichowski confines himself to writing the Road Warrior column from the comfort of his home or office.

Today's laughable effort focuses on a Camden County woman and photo licenses that he must have rewritten from an earlier wire-service story (L-1).

The so-called commuting columnist has been at it for 9 years, yet he's written little about the lack of speeding enforcement on roads and highways, and the other side of that story, the lack of basic road-safety training for drivers and pedestrians.

Ignoring basic safety

Monday's Page 1 told the sad story of Matthew Killen, 25, an aspiring surgeon from Wood-Ridge, whose life was cut short Sept. 7 on a Tennesse highway, where he was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer.

The account sounded familiar -- Gabrielle Reuveni, 20, of Paramus was killed in July by a pickup truck in the Poconos, where she was jogging on the side of the road.

Sadly, both victims failed to observe basic safety rules: 

Killen apparently didn't look in his car mirrors to see if a truck or car was approaching before he stepped out of his vehicle onto a dark roadway, and Reuveni might still be alive if she was jogging toward traffic.

There have been other fatalities like these in recent years, but Cichowski and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes can't be bothered to report on basic road safety.

Where's the good beef?

On the Better Living front, don't miss Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill's recipe of the week -- a dish from a Japanese farm-food cookbook (BL-1).

On BL-2, you'll find the recipe and "Susan's tips," based on a shopping trip for ingredients to Whole Foods Market.

But Sherrill doesn't tell you the whole story. For some reason, she doesn't recommend using beef shoulder that was raised without harmful antibiotics and growth hormones.

In fact, naturally raised beef shoulder steaks were on sale recently for $5.99 a pound at Whole Foods in Paramus.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This news writing looks like diarrhea

On Monday night, about 200 commuters stood in a long, snaking line to reach buses leaving from Platform 212 of the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, other NJ Transit buses left the terminal with plenty of empty seats.

Readers of The Record's front page choked on long first paragraphs in two staff-written stories today -- the equivalent of diarrhea.

The presence of Editor Marty Gottlieb and Alan Finder, former veterans of The New York Times, doesn't seem to make much of a difference.

Look at today's stories about a pastoral statement from the leader of North Jersey Catholics, and Governor Christie's comments on Paterson.

The lead paragraph of the first story is a whopping 50 words long.

The first paragraph of the Christie story is only 38 words long, but it's constructed awkwardly and filled with unnecessary details. 

The third major story is from The Associated Press. It's 35 words long, but broken down into three easily digestible sentences.

The first 12 words would have made a perfect lead paragraph for the Christie story:

"Governor Christie on Monday scolded Paterson leaders for 'disgracefully' managing city finances."

But some genius on the local-news assignment desk decided readers had to know two things immediately:

That Christie was speaking at a press conference, as well as what question he was responding to -- so readers choke on another 26 words.

High school journalists could do better.

Weak copy desk

The copy editor who handled the story next probably also choked on the first paragraph, but he or she knows enough to just spell-check the story, write a headline and move on to the next file. 

The Record has one of the weakest copy desks in the industry, and it has gotten weaker under Production Editor Liz Houlton, known far and wide as the "Queen of Errors."

For more than a decade, copy editors have been forbidden to edit stories.

God forbid they should second guess head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her crew of incompetent sub-editors.

The resulting stories are poorly written and edited, bore readers to tears and appear with crucial details missing.

Transit follies

The lead story on the Local front today reports that NJ Transit is scrambling to reroute buses after county officials placed a weight limit on a bridge between Hackensack and Teaneck (L-1).

But The Record continues to ignore problems facing North Jersey commuters who ride home on NJ Transit buses from the midtown Manhattan bus terminal.

After 7 on Monday night, an estimated 200 commuters stood on a line that snaked along the upper level of the terminal and up escalators to board buses leaving for Hackensack and Cresskill from Platform 212.

One man said the line had grown longer in the past two weeks, but he didn't know why. There were long lines to other platforms, but none longer than the line to 212.

Meanwhile, other NJ Transit buses on express routes left the terminal with empty seats, such as the No. 165T to Hackensack from Platform 232.

Copping out

Hackensack readers continue to wait for Sykes to pull her head out of her massively padded asshole and assign a story that has nothing to do with former Police Chief Ken Zisa and the city's Police Department.

On Monday's front page, Staff Writer Stephanie Akin delivered an "expose" on a Hudson Street police substation that appears to be little used.

But that has been the case for many months. Another police substation on Anderson Street also appears to be underutilized.

Why is this story running now? Why is it so long?

Is it more evidence the Hackensack reporter rarely visits the city she is supposed to cover, because Sykes has Akin constantly putting out fires elsewhere? 

Shocking error

On Monday's L-1, the headline and text were incorrect in calling the Chevrolet Volt an "electric car."

The Volt is a plug-in hybrid that uses a gasoline-powered generator to charge its batteries. It has a range of about 35 miles on electric power. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What's next for The Record?

The surest way to discourage pedestrians from crossing the tracks is a fence. A story in The Record today reports a shift by NJ Transit from blaming the victim in such fatalities.

Despite the arrival of Editor Marty Gottlieb from The New York Times nearly eight months ago, the editing of news stories and columns in The Record of Woodland Park is worse than ever.

Story length has grown -- going against an industry trend -- but not clarity, and many stories are woefully incomplete, missing many important details.

Both reporters and columnists are content to rewrite press releases, and they rarely pick up the phone or leave the office to get more information.

Super hack

One of the paper's biggest hacks, Staff Writer Mike Kelly, has been writing columns for two decades, yet he has to be goaded into taking a stand on such corrupt officials as former Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa. 

Much of the blame lies with the inept editing on the main assignment desk, where head Editor Deirdre Sykes and Deputy Editor Dan Sforza struggle daily to produce a coherent local-news report.

Sykes and Sforza think nothing of allowing Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski to base entire columns on e-mails from drivers, and to completely ignore his mission of reporting on commuting problems.

Poorly focused

Today's lead front-page story -- under a banner headline, "What's next for Hackensack" -- is typical of the poorly edited news stories that appear in the paper day after day.

Somehow, most of the text on Page 1 sounds like a nostalgic retrospective of the Zisa family's decades-long rule over Hackensack (A-1).

Readers expect a story on the city's future to focus immediately on politically active residents who plan to challenge the status quo in May's municipal election.

And the Editorial Page still hasn't called for the resignation of City Attorney Joseph Zisa, cousin of the disgraced former police chief.

Hack on Hackensack

More coverage of Ken Zisa's legal saga appears on the Opinion front today in Kelly's second column on the convicted official in three days.

Friday's column was a disgrace, highlighting the complete lack of editing by Sykes and Sforza.

Kelly gave Ken Zisa a platform to argue he is "a victim."

Today's column on O-1 is another joke on readers, who are the real victims.

Deep in the text, on the continuation page, is Kelly's mea culpa: "It's an undeniable fact that Zisa was clearly wrong" (O-4).

That's about the strongest statement ever about Zisa from the pussy columnist. Nothing of the sort appeared in Friday's laughable effort.

Greedy lawyers

Also on Page 1 today is another in a random series of stories on how taxpayers in Bergen County and Hackensack are getting stuck with enormous legal bills.

Of course, none of the editors have ever questioned whether lawyers who bill $300, $400 and $500 an hour are charging too much.

Hackensack was forced to hire lawyer Dennis Calo to act in City Attorney Joseph Zisa's place after the official recused himself from representing his cousin in the many lawsuits filed against the former police chief.  

In December 2011, North reported the city paid Dennis Calo a monthly average of $25,000 "over the past year."

Less victimization

It's good to see NJ Transit finally has shifted its focus from blaming the victim when a pedestrian is killed by a train to installing more fences and other preventative measures.

But there's no explanation in today's story why long stretches of track through a Hackensack neighborhood, where a train killed a 12-year-old boy, remain unfenced (A-1).

Foggy thinking

On the Local front today, the Road Warrior column discusses low-cost transportation services for seniors who have given up their driver's licenses (L-1).

When is Cichowski going to be proactive and report on retraining courses available to improve seniors' driving skills to prevent loss of their licenses?

Editing lapse

On L-6, clueless Staff Writer John Brennan reports "no cause of death was cited in the hospital announcement" about Dr. Peter I. Praeger, the prominent Hackensack University Medical Center heart surgeon who also sold health food.

The obituary doesn't give his age, but readers can try to do the arithmetic from a 2004 quote, when the doctor was 56.

Then, readers wonder why he died at a relatively young 64, but come up empty. Why didn't Brennan call a family member?

Where was the weekend assignment editor?

"Hospital announcement"? What's the moronic reporter talking about?

Did the hospital e-mail a press release or statement, or did hospital officials climb to the roof of one of the buildings and make an "announcement" through bullhorns?

Traveling music

On B-3 in the Business section, a story from The Wall Street Journal discusses early bird fares for Thanksgiving travel.

In The Record's Travel section, a cover story from The Washington Post tells readers about airport improvements in Hong Kong, Helsinki and Seoul -- places most of them will never visit.

Also on T-1, Travel Editor Jill Schensul cements her reputation as a klutz with a column that begins with a confession: 

In Denver, she couldn't figure out how to start her rental car.

Fast-food folly

When I saw the teaser on the Better Living front about a "healthy fast-food chain," I immediately thought of Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has a half-dozen outlets in Bergen and Passaic counties.

But Corner Table Columnist Elisa Ung, also the paper's restaurant reviewer, really must have been won over by the pitch from Energy Kitchen, which has a lone outlet in distant Montvale (BL-6).

More of the same

What's next for The Record?

More of the same poorly edited news stories and columns, many of which raise a lot of questions that are never answered -- a sure way to turn off readers.

Another way to turn off most readers is to run inane sports columns on Page 1, such as the one about the Yankees today.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Editors fail us miserably -- again

In August, there were several signs of change on Hackensack's Main Street, including Main Dish Restaurant, which replaced Naturally Good, above, and plans by a famous Hoboken deli to open a branch not far from the county courthouse, below.

After years of ignoring the epidemic, The Record's editors put two stories about obesity on Page 1 today.

New research links soda and other sugary drinks to the obesity epidemic -- something all of us have known for years (A-1).

And our obese governor has reverted to acting like the prosecutor he once was, threatening to impose fines on people who speak the truth about the state's faltering economy (A-1).

The governor is in denial about his failed business and no-tax policies -- just as he is in denial about his increasingly poor health and weight. 

Editor Marty Gottlieb also is in denial about the many lazy, incompetent sub-editors and columnists he inherited when he took over in late January.

The Sykes Curse

The so-called Local news sections today and Friday are dominated once again by court and Law & Order stories.

Two days after former Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa was sentenced for official misconduct and insurance fraud, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes continues to ignore ordinary city residents and their opinions about the legal saga.

Friday's coverage of the sentencing hearing on Thursday was filled with quotes from lawyers, experts, officials and Zisa himself (A-1). 

Zisaville dispatch

Inside, Staff Writer Mike Kelly gives the arrogant Zisa a platform to portray himself as "a victim"  (A-8 on Friday).

But all the veteran columnist does is try and fail to satirize "the Zisa-as-victim-storyline." He doesn't have the balls of most columnists to put the claim in perspective.

Indeed, readers expect Kelly to call Zisa's preposterous "victim" claim what it is:

A joke, a fraud, the most ridiculous thing he has ever heard from a former police chief and former assemblyman who knowingly broke laws he was sworn to uphold.

Failed columnist

Kelly being objective and more he said/she said reporting are the last things we need when it comes to Zisa and others who abuse their power.

But Kelly is a failed columnist. All he can do is push around words, and fill up space with some of the clunkiest prose known to journalism.

The editors continue to disappoint readers by showcasing Kelly and other tired columnists. 

Bad news bear

Friday's front page had a double dose of bad news for Christie:

State unemployment edged up to 9.9% -- the highest in decades -- and an "ANALYSIS" revealed that Roche Group's CEO refused to take a call from the GOP bully, who was trying to persuade the pharmaceutical giant to open a new research center in New Jersey.

In the Garden State, the company, which is closing its former headquarters on the Clifton-Nutley border, will forever be known as "Roach." 

Dissing Hackensack

In an editorial on Hackensack in Friday's paper (A-22), The Record says:

"We cannot see what people are excited about in a city that should have experienced the same downtown growth seen in communities like Westwood these past decades." 

Of course, the editors have completely ignored new stores and restaurants on the city's Main Street, in keeping with a seeming embargo on news outside of Zisa and related turmoil on the school board.

But the biggest problem is one The Record has never acknowledged:

The wholesale abandonment of Hackensack by the daily newspaper and North Jersey Media Group in 2009, when Publisher Stephen A. Borg scattered many hundreds of employees to the wind.

Road Worrier, food warriors

On the front of Friday's Local section, failed Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski rewrites "a new State Police report" on road deaths (L-1).

In Friday's Better Living tabloid, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung concluded her lukewarm appraisal of the refurbished Sessions Bistro in Maywood this way:

"Personally, I'd love to revisit in a few years ...."

Now that she has damned the place with faint praise, doesn't Ung know Sessions may not last that long? 

Also on Friday, a Better Living piece by free-lancer Jeffrey Page makes readers wonder if he really is the best person to be writing about budget restaurants?

In his Eating Out on $50 review of Mama Fina's in Elmwood Park, Page shuns the Filipino fish dishes, eats only pork and then stuffs his face with dessert.

Is he allergic to seafood? Why does he spend only "a shade over $33" of his $50 budget?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brand-new section, same tired voices

Even without dumpsters, The Record's old building and parking lot at 150 River St. have become eyesores. Three years after the Borgs abandoned Hackensack, neither the wealthy family nor their flagship paper have said what will replace it.

The third edition of the new Signature section fills the house with the awful smell of prolonged flatulence from three of The Record's stale columnists.

Readers are so sick of Columnists John Cichowski, Mike Kelly and Bill Ervolino, they are beginning to regard newsprint as little more than toilet paper.

"Signature" suggests a section filled with stories that are as individual as handwriting, but all readers get today is rubber-stamp journalism.

New voices, please

You'd think a new section would sparkle with fresh voices, especially in The Record, which is blessed with many talented writers.

Cichowski, Kelly and Ervolino aren't among them.

On the cover today, Cichowski, the failed Road Warrior columnist, discusses whether it is safer to drive children to school in towns with school busing.

Of course, he doesn't discuss one of the most populous communities in North Jersey without school busing -- Hackensack.

It's hard to tell what Kelly is writing about today in his rambling column on Cresskill's "idle chatter," also on the cover.

On SIG-2, Ervolino's Then & Now column focuses on Prozys on Main Street in Hackensack -- when readers really want to know what is going to replace The Record's vacant headquarters on River Street.

The building and parking lot have become eyesores. 

GOP fanatic

The main story today is about "conservative icon" Scott Garrett, a fanatical Republican whose House district now includes overwhelmingly Democratic towns like Hackensack and Teaneck.

Garrett's opponent -- Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen -- is quoted a few times in the overly long profile.

Still, Gussen has been largely ignored by The Record since he won the Democratic primary in June, so it's no wonder he's the underdog.

Bad headline, reporting

The headline -- "CONGRESSIONAL CULTURE CLASH" -- is awful.

The "clash," if you will, is in North Jersey: 

A rabid, white racist who might soon be serving another term representing some of the most diverse towns in the state.

Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson again disappoints with his gentle handling of the right-winger.

Front-page rehash

Today's front page from Editor Marty Gottlieb rehashes recent stories:

The firing of Jay Alpert, one of Governor Christie's cronies; three women who were murdered before their houses were set on fire, and another political column on Christie and Mitt Romney, the GOP's Laurel and Hardy.

Our worst governor

A story based on a news release from the U.S. Census Bureau shows how badly the state economy was lagging in 2011, the second year of the Christie administration (A-1).

More bad economic news came from the Department of the Treasury -- tax collections are $100 million behind the governor's projections (A-1 and A-3).

How long will it take before The Record christens Christie as our worst governor ever?

A toll on readers

A major error appears in a story on A-6 about Port Authority tolls.

Tolls at the agency's bridges and tunnels were raised a year ago to $12 from $8 during peak travel times -- not to $9.50.

Zisaville dispatch

In Local, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes continues to regard the Ken Zisa legal saga as just about the only Hackensack news worth printing (L-1).

The former police chief was sentenced today to 5 years in prison without parole, but Superior Court Judge Joseph S. Conte allowed Zisa to remain free until his appeal is decided, North reported.

A ruling on his appeal might take a year or more, given the state's famously slow court system.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

They stand in the way of greatness

EXETER, NH - JANUARY 08:  New Jersey Gov. Chri...
Governor Christie mocks Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for being in shape. (Getty Images)

Everyone on Wall Street and Main Street knows that New Jersey desperately needs more -- not less -- tax revenue, as The Record's front page reports once again today. 

But Governor Christie continues to push for a tax cut that will benefit his wealthy supporters most of all.

Oh, The Record long ago stopped including in its Christie stories who would get the biggest cut in income taxes. 

A middle-class family would save about $80 in the first year, enough to buy a bag of groceries.

Instead, the editors continue to give Christie a front-page pulpit for his ridiculous plan, and regurgitate even the most outlandish B.S. from the GOP bully.

You'll find this illogical statement deep in the text of the main A-1 story today:

"Christie argues that an income tax cut would help the economy by bringing businesses to New Jersey (A-8)."

Marty makes it worse

Editor Marty Gottlieb and his Trenton staff continue to ignore reality: 

It's our enormous governor -- with his rabid, no-tax policies -- who literally stands in the way of New Jersey once again becoming a great state.

At least an editorial today notes "it's the arithmetic that counts, not the politics" (A-12).

But what readers remember is Christie's relentless P.R. campaign -- plastered all over the front page almost every day.

In the newsroom

In the Woodland Park newsroom, two enormous editors stand in the way of The Record once again becoming a great local newspaper.

In the last decade, local-news editors Deirdre Sykes and Tim Nostrand have squelched any meaningful coverage of the obesity epidemic in New Jersey or what state health officials are doing about it.

Look at the story on obesity and health-care costs at the bottom of Page 1 today. It's based on a new "study."

You'd think that after years of staring at their ugly, bloated bodies in the mirror, the lights would have gone off in Sykes' and Nostrand's heads about the need to report on obesity.

Instead, they just sought solace in eating more food.

Screw all commuters

The third major story on A-1 today shows Sykes and Nostrand have given up all pretense of trying to ease the commute of tens of thousands of readers.

A story on Route 3 construction is on the front page, but not because of the continuing inconvenience to commuters.

What the editors are really worried about is the work not being finished in time for the Super Toilet Bowl, a football game scheduled for 2014. 

Lazy news gathering

Sykes and Nostrand are so inept, they squandered their staff on four full days of reporting on the death of Barbara Vernieri, who was murdered on Friday before her East Rutherford home was set on fire.

The story was slowly reported four days in a row on A-1 -- not three, as I wrote earlier -- and Tuesday's account ended up demoting Mitt Romney's insulting remarks to somewhere inside the paper.

Now, a day after the entire country was discussing Romney's campaign, The Record finally puts the controversy on Page 1. 

Laziest columnist

If two lazy local-news editors aren't enough, the lazy Road Warrior columnist continues to ignore the needs of commuters by searching out every obscure story or simply relying on e-mails from readers.

Today's entire column by Staff Writer John Cichowski is about "Route 23 signage" and a single reader's e-mail (L-1).

Sykes, Nostrand and Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza had so little local news today they were forced to lead Local with Christie's remarks on the state Supreme Court.

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