Friday, November 30, 2012

Road Warrior's gas chokes readers

NJ Transit Police vehicle #318, a Dodge Durang...
NJ Transit has its own police force. This Dodge Durango was photographed at Secaucus Junction. (Wikipedia)

Editor's note: Another gaseous column prompts a concerned reader to complain about the Road Warrior's answers to readers' questions.

Once again, the Road Warrior misleads, confuses, misdirects and wastes readers' time with answers to their questions.

Some of the same questions have been asked and answered by the Road Warrior multiple times, including as recently as his October 5 column.

His Nov. 28
column is the 19th problem article, starting with his 9/12 piece, about which I've notified The Record's management & the Road Warrior without indication of any preventive actions to address these problems and very few published corrections.  

It's time for answers, corrections, and solutions.

His online posted column was aptly titled "Gaseous Omissions," because his responses to some readers' questions were long winded and/or omitted key, relevant answers to those questions.

Highlights of misleading or false facts and statements from his column are noted below.  The Record or Road Warrior should make appropriate corrections.

Road Warrior also has a frequent habit to
NOT directly address a reader's specific question or provides unrelated or somewhat related information, as noted below.

The Record's management should question who are these clueless "readers" who ask the same questions over and over, and why does the Road Warrior offer the same unsubstantiated or wrong theories.

Does The Record need to stop or revise this practice?

1. Repeated question - "Why don't many stations post premium-gas prices on [street] signs anymore? asked one reader." 

Repeated false Road Warrior answer - "A few readers theorized that posting only cheap regular-gas prices amounted to a bait-and-switch scheme to lure unsuspecting premium buyers." 
PROBLEMS WITH ANSWER - The same clueless question and unsubstantiated answer were posted in his Oct. 5 column, which I addressed in a previous e-mail.  Why was the same clueless question and wrong, unsubstantiated answer repeated? 

The Road Warrior wasted readers' time and damages The Record's credibility.  The Road Warrior then wasted readers' time further with 5 paragraphs of more details about this issue that was succinctly and fully answered in 3 sentences in his Oct. 5 column.

The Road Warrior and his other clueless "readers", who apparently don't read recent Road Warrior columns, mistakenly theorize there are some unsuspecting "clueless" premium customers (is it 1% of 1% of 1%?) that do not know Premium costs considerably more than Regular gas and could think that the
ONLY price listed in a street sign is for their more expensive gas rather than the less expensive Regular, which most people use.  

There are NO bait-and-switch schemes since the correct higher pricing, including cash and credit, where applicable, must be prominently displayed right over each pump!

2. Misleading, confusing answer, including omission of key relevant items -
"After negotiating with retailers in 2007, the state Division of Consumer Affairs settled for minimalist street signs that list only two regular-gas prices – one for cash and one for credit purchases."

CORRECT FACTS - In 2007, NJ Division of Consumer Affairs only settled for notifying the Gas Retailers Associations to tell its members the concerns/preferences of the state agency to make changes to post both cash and credit pricing, if different, on street signs that list any fuel grade prices.  

The Road Warrior omitted a key fact that since this signage preference was not being universally implemented at NJ gas stations, a law was passed in January and became effective in May 2012 that requires both cash and credit pricing, if different, for any fuel grade that is shown on street signs.  Pricing for all grades of fuel do not need to be shown on the street signs. As a minimum, gas stations with street signs show cash and credit pricing, if different, for regular gas.

3. Repeated question -
"Why is New Jersey the only state I know that doesn't allow self-serve gas pumps? Wouldn't this shorten lines and reduce prices by removing the cost of attendants?"

PROBLEMS WITH ANSWER - "Maybe not" was NOT a legitimate response and showed a complete lack of any investigation of the facts based on economic competition factors and experiences in other states.  The Road Warrior then misdirected readers based on polls of what NJ motorists think might?? happen with pricing rather than report on what has actually occurred in other states and what experts know about this answer that are somewhat different than these polls.  The Road Warrior should also be aware the reason why NJ motorists are still in favor of attendants is that there are many other benefits to keeping attendants and drawbacks to eliminating attendants that go beyond the impact on pricing.   

He also never even addressed an answer about shorter lines.

This is a regularly repeated question about the potential for N.J. self-serve pumps and pricing with misdirected answers that omit key relevant information in Road Warrior columns.

4. Clueless misleading question -
"Shouldn't NJ Transit resume cross-honoring rail and bus passes [through the end of November] bought just before [S]uperstorm Sandy? ...this miserly policy forced me to buy daily bus fares from Secaucus to Manhattan because storm damage no longer allows me to take the cheaper PATH trains from Hoboken to Manhattan."

PROBLEMS WITH QUESTION AND ANSWER - First off, this is an inaccurate question since this policy change by NJ Transit did NOT FORCE this rider or anyone else to buy daily bus fares from Secaucus to Manhattan.  This daily bus fare option was chosen by this rider because he did not investigate his other bus and train options, which were offered by NJ Transit online or by customer service telephone that would have avoided any extra costs during the trying times after Sandy.  

In fact, NJ Transit was very generous and NOT miserly since it offered free bus shuttles and ferry rides into Manhattan for a period of time that could have been utilized by this rider.  In fact, NJ Transit's regular policy allows current riders with train passes to Hoboken station, which has reopened, to transfer at no cost to a bus to reach PATH at the Jersey City journal station.

The Road Warrior forgot to tell this rider and other readers about how they can contact the NJ Transit customer service telephone number and find applicable sections of the NJ Transit Web site in order to easily address these questions in the future rather than ask the Road Warrior.

Even though I normally do not take the train, I was able to easily call NJ Transit customer service and access the NJ Transit Web site to get all of the needed facts and answers.

Instead of providing any specific answers that would be helpful to the rider and other readers, the Road Warrior told the rider that a NJ Transit customer rep would get back to the rider.  So readers were left with no answers to this easily solved problem.

5. Misleading false answer -
"One day before Tuesday's snowstorm, NJ Transit announced it would cross-honor all its rail, bus and light-rail tickets. So, thanks to Mother Nature, you should at least be able to enjoy one or two days of cross-honoring even if NJT fails to deliver on its promise."

CORRECT FACTS - NJ Transit announced on Monday it would cross-honor all its rail, bus and light-rail tickets ONLY for the day of the storm, which was a relatively weak storm, on Tuesday.  NJ Transit was no longer cross-honoring passes on Wednesday.  Sadly on Wednesday, the Road Warrior tells the rider that he can expect one or 2 more days of passes that would be cross-honored, even though it already expired the day before the paper was published.

Here's hoping for change and better fact-checking, corrections, reviewing (Googling?), and oversight of proper questions and answers to readers' questions by The Record's editors, columnists, & reporters based on more reliable, accurate and common sense information prior to publication.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christie's rich friends are crying poverty

A 44-ounce sugary drink costs only 99 cents at Governor Christie's favorite rest stop on the Garden State Parkway south, not far from the Route 1 exit to Trenton.

I'm leafing through The Record today, looking for something on Governor Christie's opposition to raising the minimum wage.

He's arguing businesses hit by Superstorm Sandy can't afford it, though he's been on record against it since June.

The front page today is dominated by a revised $36.9  billion bill for Sandy recovery, and the appointment of another Christie pal to the $141,000-a-year-job of "storm czar."

But on Wednesday, a radio-news report made it sound like the governor would veto any minimum-wage hike during the recovery, which could take 3 to 5 years.

Christie said nothing about whether all those businesses damaged by Sandy will eventually be made whole by insurance or why businesses that gouged consumers in the days and weeks after the storm's Oct. 29 landfall shouldn't raise their minimum wage.

Nor did the governor mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks he is giving businesses, which presumably could then afford to raise the minimum wage.

Pay to play

Maybe these wealthy business owners could afford to pay their workers a decent wage, if they didn't send the governor all that campaign cash he'll be using in his re-election bid. 

The Democrats' proposal is to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 from $7.25 an hour, with annual cost-of-living hikes.

Many restaurant servers, who receive tips, make less than half of the hourly minimum wage.

Christie has gone on record as early as June, promising to veto any bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature to raise the minimum wage.

Ignoring workers

I didn't see anything about this nasty fight among the wealthy in Wednesday's A-1 column or an A-10 editorial on Christie's bid for a second term.

The editorial mentions Christie's allegedly "bipartisan record," including "a cap on property taxes," but conveniently ignores that property owners in most towns continue to see higher tax bills -- directly contradicting the GOP bully's campaign promise.

New shooting details

Despite new information provided by Prosecutor John L. Molinelli (A-1), an editorial and a letter to the editor from Mike Connor of Wood-Ridge ask for even more details on why a black robbery suspect armed with a knife had to die from police bullets on Sunday in Leonia (A-20).

Today's Local front carries a second story from Hannan Adely, the new Hackensack reporter, who says the sponsors of a rejected 19-story medical high rise are suing.

Pool coverage

But the thin, 6-page local-news section carries six Law & Order stories, including two photos of minor accidents that crowd out municipal news the editors were too lazy to land.

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes ordered Layout Editor Jim "Corny" Cornelius to put on L-1 a photo of four divers searching a Secaucus community pool after a deranged driver and his or her Cadillac went off the diving board (L-1).

The driver likely was catching up on the latest Road Warrior column when he/she missed a turn and got a free wash for the gas-guzzling vehicle.

The photo caption, written under the supervision of Production Editor Liz Houlton, never tells readers what the divers were trying to recover.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

'Coattails'? What about Christie's fat ass?

The New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel on Monday, a light-traffic day.

You'd think The Record's editors would be exhausted from covering the presidential campaign, but you'd be wrong judging from the Page 1 column that kicks off hyping the 2013 gubernatorial election in New Jersey.

Just three weeks after President Obama's decisive victory over the greedy Republicans, "new polls showed that Governor Christie could be poised for a landslide re-election victory," Columnist Charles Stile reports.

But that's "if the race were held this week." What nonsense. Why put that kind of poll on Page 1, Editor Marty Gottlieb? 

This is another piece that makes Stile sound as if he gave up journalism in favor of going on the governor's payroll.

The headline is equally ridiculous:

a concern
 for Dems   

It should probably read:

fat ass
a concern
for GOP

Because when the Democrats get through exposing the GOP bully's cuts in aid for women's health programs, school meals for low-income children, poor cities and unionized workers, his fat ass will come to symbolize his more-for-me, less-for-you policies.

Let's not forget all of Christie's cronies on the payroll at the Port Authority, which slammed commuters with a 50% toll hike last year.

Guess how much Christie weighs 

Mass hysteria

Page 1 today continues The Record's unprecedented attention to mass transit after a decade or more of car-concentric coverage by the Road Warrior and other transportation reporters (PATH repairs, A-1).

But the post-Superstorm Sandy coverage is in keeping with the editors' policy of highlighting mass transit only when something goes wrong, while ignoring paralyzing rush-hour traffic congestion.

Yup, it's still segregated

At the bottom of Page 1 today, a news story makes rare mention of Englewood's "still-segregated" school district -- an imbalance head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and Deputy Assignment Editor and former Englewood reporter Dan Sforza have been hiding for years.

On the Local front, the Road Warrior sleepwalks through another column based entirely on e-mails from readers (L-1).

Protecting cops

Prosecutor John L. Molinelli and officials from Leonia and Palisades Park are walking in lockstep by refusing to identify the three white police officers who on Sunday shot dead Rickey McFadden, 47, a black robbery suspect (L-1).

What do they have to hide?  

Has The Record learned anything from covering the fatal police shooting of Malik Williams, 19, of Garfield in December 2011 -- another case where Molinelli kept a tight lid on information, including the cops' identity? 

Maybe, Sykes and Sforza should send reporters out to talk to residents, other cops, town officials -- anyone who might know the names of the cops who killed McFadden in Leonia, and print the names. 

That's what newspapers usually do when officials are trying to hide something. Of course, that's not what The Record does, but maybe it's time for Sykes and Sforza to stop waiting for the official news release. 

The only Hackensack news recently has been about residents flooded out of their apartments by Sandy, and today, no city news appears in the paper. 

Related articles
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More editing lapses undermine reader trust

A sign for Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, somehow ended up in a Lukoil station in Englewood, where a Republican, Shmuley Boteach, put up a lame challenge, despite lavish coverage of the rabbi's campaign by The Record's local-news assignment desk.

The breaking-news story continues to trip up The Record's local-news assignment and copy desks, which are supposed to serve as damage control for errors made in the rush to publication.

Today and Monday, Page 1 coverage of a black suspect killed by white police officers strikes a familiar chord with readers:

A confused recounting of what happened,  Prosecutor John L. Molinelli keeping his usual tight control over information, including his refusal to release the names of the officers involved; and The Record filing Open Public Records Act requests for reports and officers' accounts.

Location of shooting

Monday's front-page account of the Sunday shooting reported the suspect, Rickey L. McFadden, 47, of Leonia allegedly was armed with a knife "when four officers confronted him two blocks" from the CVS pharmacy on Broad Avenue [italics added].

Five paragraphs later, still on A-1, the story says, "The gunfire erupted outside the CVS at 410 Broad Ave. in the late afternoon [italics added] ...." 

There are other conflicts, with the lead saying the suspect "tried to rob" the CVS, and later that he "robbed the store of cash and other items."

Flawed photo caption

On the continuation page of today's Page 1 follow-up, a photo caption says "the windshield" of a car parked on Hillside Avenue in Leonia shows evidence of the shooting, but it's the car's back window that is shown, not the windshield, and the text says as much (A-6).

The brain-dead copy editor who wrote the caption should have noticed there are no windshield wipers in the photo.

Maybe he or she didn't notice, because of exhaustion from combing through every local and wire-service story to lower case "superstorm Sandy." 

Sykes and Sforza 

Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza or their deputies are supposed to catch these errors, which damage the paper's credibility.

If they don't fix the problems, the copy desk under Editor Liz Houlton should be fixing the errors, not letting them get into the paper.

Six-figure salaries

Sykes and Houlton are pulling down six-figure salaries, yet day after day, inaccurate, confusing and conflicting information appears the paper, and few correction are ever published. 

Staff Writer Justo Bautista, a veteran police reporter, should be commended for finding witnesses to the shooting, and quoting them in the initial story on Monday. 

But so far, the stories haven't addressed why three police officers had to open fire and kill a man who only had a knife in his hand.

55th and worse governor

The lead A-1 story today is Governor Christie's announcement that he is seeking a second term -- to finish the work of destroying the middle class and protecting his wealthy supporters from any tax increases.

Is it really Page 1 news that utility companies did a poor job of communicating with customers during Superstorm Sandy outages (A-1)?

The story by three State House reporters doesn't explain why The Record and other media attended the utilities' regular briefings, where company executives "stressed how tough their jobs were," and then quoted them repeatedly. 

Short circuits

The Record's editors should have asked Public Service Electric and Gas Co. why it didn't have enough repair crews to handle the storm or compare the number of crews to staffing levels 10 years ago.

Hackensack news

On the front of Local, the byline of the new Hackensack reporter, Hannan Adely, appears for the first time over a story about the city (L-1).

Meanwhile, residents are still waiting for the results of the newspaper's investigation of city government in the wake of the conviction and sentencing of former Police Chief Ken Zisa.

According to a usually reliable source, reporters involved include Stephanie Akin, the former Hackensack reporter; and Jeff Pillets, and The Record has filed at least one lawsuit seeking city records.

On L-2, the assignment and copy desk miss another error, calling a Hispanic suspect by his mother's family name.

Franklin Reyes Ponce should be referred to on second reference as "Reyes" or "Reyes Ponce," not "Ponce."

See previous post
on more Road Warrior flaws

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For Road Warrior, a bridge too far

List of bridges, tunnels, and cuts in Hudson C...

Editor's note: A concerned reader again finds numerous flaws in a Road Warrior column, this one about the Route 46 bridge over the Hackensack River, connecting Ridgefield Park and Little Ferry, that was opened in 1934.

Once again, the Road Warrior mistakenly reports misleading and incomplete information and then further confuses or misleads readers by misinterpreting and misstating the facts.

His Nov. 25 column is the 18th problem article since his 9/12 column that I have brought to the attention of The Record's management & Staff Writer John Cichowski without indication of any preventive actions to address these problems and very few published corrections.

Highlights of misleading and incomplete facts and statements from his column are noted below. The Record or Road Warrior should make appropriate corrections.

1. Misleading incomplete fact - "The Hackensack River span [bridge by the Little Ferry Circle] — under state control as part of U.S. 46 — is considered functionally obsolete"

CORRECT FACT - That Hackensack River span is considered structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.  US DOT national bridge inventory classifies this bridge as structurally deficient. A NJ DOT bridge rehabilitation project, which is extensively reported in this column, was approved to primarily rectify the problems that cause the bridge to be classified as structurally deficient, as well as correct some functionally obsolete problems.  One of the reasons the bridge will still be functionally obsolete, even after the rehabilitation project, is that it will still not have any road shoulders.

2. Misleading statement - "The Hackensack River span ... is considered functionally obsolete, which means cars and some trucks can use it safely"

CORRECT FACTS - Functionally obsolete does NOT automatically mean cars and some trucks can use it safely. 

Functionally obsolete means a bridge has older design features and configurations, and though not unsafe, cannot accommodate current traffic, larger vehicle sizes, or heavier weights in accordance with current improved safety design standards.  It can lead to more traffic congestion or accidents, such as the fatal accident of Gloria Popp that the Road Warrior has regularly recounted over the years, including in this column.

Structurally deficient means a bridge may be closed or have traffic restricted in accordance with weight limits and/or speed limits because of its more limited structural capacity in comparison to its original design capacity.

Functionally obsolete or structurally deficient bridges may still allow cars and some trucks, depending on size and weight, to use the bridge if drivers and pedestrians, if allowed, use it in a more cautious safe manner.

3. Misleading and contradictory Road Warrior forecasts - "Last year, your column told us to sit tight because the state would soon do the work [on the Route 46 bridge]," said the Dumont reader who was 13 [43 years ago] when his big sister was run down by a driver. "I told my family and friends, but still no work has been done."

"But in an economy move last year, the agency decided to combine the bridge work with a reconfiguration of the Little Ferry Circle."

PROBLEMS WITH READERS RELYING ON ROAD WARRIOR FORECASTS -   While the Road Warrior was forecasting last year the state would start bridge work soon, he did not report last year that the DOT agency had decided to combine that work with reconfiguration of the Little Ferry circle, which meant the work would be delayed. 

The Road Warrior also did not report in his current column on any current project estimate for when the contracts for the bridge work and Little Ferry circle reconfiguration might be awarded or work started.  Instead, he provided no real answer based on a DOT spokesman.  Perhaps, the Dumont man and other readers will have to wonder again for another year.  Perhaps, the Road Warrior will follow up with the project manager for this work rather than a bureaucratic DOT spokesman for more accurate and timely forecasts.

Readers want accurate reporting, forecasts, and reviews with timely updates and corrections.  I'm in agreement with that Dumont reader, who said, "I'll believe it when I see it."

Here's hoping for change and better fact-checking, corrections and reviewing (Googling?) by The Record's editors, columnists, & reporters -- for more reliable, accurate, and common sense information.

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