Thursday, May 31, 2012

Zisa story: From hysteria to an A-1 brief

Sykes Yellow Wagtail in Kazakhstan
If head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes believes in reincarnation, she will come back as a Sykes Yellow Wagtail in Kazakhstan, and weigh only a few ounces.


An anticlimactic court ruling -- ordering the disgraced Hackensack police chief to immediately forfeit his office -- isn't worth more than a brief on the front page of The Record today.

This from the same editors who splashed the city's affairs all over Page 1 on more than a half-dozen occasions before and after suspended Police Chief Charles "Ken I Am The Law" Zisa was convicted on May 16.

"Havoc," "chaos," "limbo" and "upheaval" were among the words used to describe the paper's former home in a frenzy of exaggerated, the sky-is-falling coverage from assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza.

Zisaville intrigue

Despite thousands of words, Sykes and Sforza have ignored the grip another Zisa has on a city the family has ruled for decades.

The Record's editors have obscured the potential conflict posed by City Attorney Joseph Zisa, the ex-chief's cousin, who is defending Ken Zisa against more than 20 lawsuits (L-1). 

Even Joseph Zisa's role in those lawsuits is unclear. At first, The Record and the Hackensack Chronicle quoted him as saying it is cheaper for the city to fight the suits than to settle.

In a more recent story, The Record's Stephanie Akin said Joseph Zisa has recused himself. Who should we believe?

Another dual role

Today's story also identifies Richard Malagiere as "an attorney hired by the city" to defend convicted felon Ken Zisa against suits in federal court, noting Malagiere has received legal fees of $754,000 in the past two years. 

Why doesn't The Record tell readers Malagiere also is the attorney for the Hackensack Zoning Board?

If Zisaville news is all Hackensack readers can expect, the editors should make sure it is as accurate and complete as possible.

Tugging at the heart 


Two more stories about Tenafly appear in the paper today, but all Englewood readers get is the rededication of the public safety complex (L-3).

Readers will find a bright spot buried on L-6, one of the obituary pages, where Staff Writer Jay Levin tells the life story of John Duffy, a tugboat captain who opened a player piano store in Palisades Park.

Levin has readers chuckling moments after they cursed another inane column from Road Worrier John Cichowski, the seat-belt and pothole reporter who should be barking up the commuting-problem tree (L-1).

Jailhouse rock

The tiresome Dharun Ravi is back on the front page today.

Would anyone shed a tear if he becomes a victim of repeated jailhouse rapes at the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center (A-1)?
 
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Which Borg is calling the shots?

English: I took this photo December 2006
Tenafly officials are fighting NJ Transit's plan to extend light-rail service to the old railroad station, above. They believe Publisher Stephen A. Borg and other residents have a constitutional right to drive to work in a gas-guzzling limo or SUV.
 

Readers in Hackensack, Englewood and many other towns did a double take on Tuesday, when they saw three long stories about Tenafly on Page L-3 of the Local news section.

Publisher Stephen A. Borg just happens to live in the wealthy borough.

Each story reminded readers of how little news they have seen about their communities since Borg replaced his father as publisher in mid-2006, when local journalism took a back seat to personal gain and keeping the paper afloat during the recession.

Today's Local section doesn't bring any relief, as head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her incompetent deputy, Dan Sforza, can't seem to inspire their reporters to cover their towns. 

King of the hill

With the so-called Englewood reporter gamboling with Governor Christie in Trenton, there is no news about that city's struggling downtown or its mostly minority schools, even though Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg has lived on the East Hill for decades.

The younger Borg attended the presumably all-white, private Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood.

All Hackensack readers get is a "scene setter" on today's  court hearing to determine whether their convicted police chief must give up his job (L-3). 


Porn allegations

Mac Borg had so little to do after his spoiled brat of a son pushed him aside, he allegedly spent a lot of his time looking at pornography on a computer and sharing it with other managers.

Readers were never told who fired Francis "Frank" Scandale as editor last October, but the elder Borg seemed to have asserted himself with the selection of Marty Gottlieb of The New York Times to take over the newsroom in late January.

Gottlieb, who started his reporting and editing career at The Record, is 64, and would have been an unlikely choice for Stephen Borg, whose disdain for older workers is well known.

Front-page Marty

Unfortunately, Gottlieb seems to have spent all his time improving the front page, and has done little to stem the precipitous decline in local news coverage.

The younger Borg could have cleaned house on the assignment desk and hired more reporters to cover municipal affairs, but he chose instead to grab $3.65 million in North Jersey Media Group money for a mortgage on his McMansion in Tenafly.

Downsizing

Not long after he moved in, Stephen Borg continued to "downsize" The Record -- sending copy editors, photographers and others to join press operators on the unemployment line -- and ended the paper's long run in Hackensack, where it was founded in 1895. 

In addition to its impact on Main Street businesses, the exodus of NJMG and its flagship daily to Woodland Park and Rockaway translated into less news coverage of River City.

Recently, Sykes and Sforza ordered reporters to ramp up their coverage of house burglaries in Tenafly, including those in Borg's neighborhood.


Today's paper 


A Page 1 story reports homophobe Dharun Ravi has apologized -- finally. Now, readers can look for another column from staff homophobe Mike Kelly on more "unanswered questions" surrounding the case.

You can be sure poor Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood is turning over in his grave.

Does anybody really take seriously Christie's latest high-court nominee, Bruce Harris, an openly gay black lawyer who has no courtroom experience and who would have to stay out of any cases involving gay marriage (A-1)?

He's a really bad choice to replace John E. Wallace Jr., who was the high court's only African-American justice when Christie canned him in 2010.

Railroaded


On A-9, transportation reporter Karen Rouse makes light of air-conditioning problems at Penn Station in Manhattan.

There's no explanation why she has never reported how uncomfortably hot it has been in the NJ Transit waiting area since the onset of warm weather.

Road Warrior John Cichowski continues to mine readers' e-mails for column ideas -- instead of leaving the office and reporting on commuting problems (L-1).



Tuesday's paper


Gottlieb thinks potential traffic problems at American Dreams Meadowlands is front-page news, but the New Yorker doesn't seem have noticed all the traffic nightmares we already have.

That must explain how little coverage we have seen in The Record about Christie's and the Port Authority's abysmal lack of commitment to mass transit.

Bergen County's most-diverse communities, including Hackensack, Englewood and Teaneck, have been poorly covered, but prosperous towns have gotten more coverage.

That might be why Gottlieb made such a big fuss on Tuesday's Page 1 over the planned opening of Wegmans in Montvale, near the New York State border. 

It would be a non-event for most food shoppers in the rest of Bergen.

They already have a wide selection of high-quality food at Whole Foods Market, Costco Wholesale, Fairway Market, ShopRite and H Mart, most of which beat Wegmans' prices.

Along with the three Tenafly stories on L-3, a story discusses police overtime in tiny Harrington Park, where Sykes lives. 


(201) family

(201) family is an offspring of (201) magazine, the publisher's pet project, and the June 2012 issue was delivered with today's paper.

Among contributors, former sports reporter Marc Schwarz is listed as "assistant director of Features and Travel Editor for The Record."

If Schwarz is travel editor, what is Jill Schensul? 

The Father's Day issue focuses on Super Dads, and the cover photo shows a wealthy father and his four sons -- in the image of Stephen Borg himself.



The Wegmans in Woodbridge.
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Padilla 'expose' is 2 years in the making

Seal of Bergen County, New Jersey
The first editor of The Record, left, makes a deal to publish the paper in Hackensack.


Two years after the Bergen County prosecutor tapped Tomas Padilla to run the troubled Hackensack Police Department, The Record today finally "exposes" his strong ties to the convicted police chief.

The Page 1 story by Staff Writer Stephanie Akin reports the interim police chief "is a close friend and political protege of his disgraced predecessor."

Padilla also is a co-defendant in three of the lawsuits filed by subordinates against the suspended chief, Charles "Ken I Am The Law" Zisa, the Woodland Park  daily reports.

The suits allege Zisa and Padilla "tried to coerce officers to donate" to their political campaigns for the state Assembly and Freeholder Board, respectively, Akin says.

Contrast today's A-1 story with a report that ran in The Record in early May 2010, when head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and Staff Writer Monsy Alvarado made Padilla sound like a reformer:

"Capt. Tomas Padilla, who was named the department’s acting officer in charge, signed the administrative charges against [Ken] Zisa, who earns $191,606 annually. The chief was placed on a paid leave of absence on Friday by the city manager, a day after he surrendered to authorities on an insurance-fraud charge.
 “'We did this under the authority and with the approval of the prosecutor and the advice of our labor counsel,' Padilla said Monday. '… We received copies of the criminal charges, and based on those criminal charges, under the Attorney General Guidelines, we have a duty to act, and I did.'”
"Last week, after Zisa’s arrest, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli announced that his office would begin to monitor the 107-member police department for at least six months. Under an agreement between the city and the prosecutor, Zisa was stripped of his chief’s duties, and Padilla was named the department’s acting leader.
"Residents are expected to attend Tuesday's council meeting — the first since Zisa’s arrest — to protest Padilla’s appointment, which some are saying is not the best choice because of his political background. Padilla, a Bergen County Democratic freeholder, said he plans to resign that post in June.
"Lt. Timothy Condon, of the prosecutor’s office’s special investigation section, will be in daily contact with Padilla.
"Padilla said Condon was at police headquarters on Monday morning, and issued directives. Among them is that each officer will get a copy of the agreement, and understand how the monitoring will work.
“'There are specific issues that were addressed by the prosecutor, no political contributions, disclosure of any business arrangements that officers may have with each other,' he said. 'We are in the process, through all my commanders, to make sure that each one of our officers is given a copy of the agreement, reads it, and if they have any questions they can be addressed, and fully understand it.'”
"Padilla said he expects officers to disclose by the end of next week if they have been hired to do outside work for any of their colleagues in the department."

Local news?

The entire front of the Local news section today is devoted to honoring North Jersey armed services members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That lets Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, off the hook of trying to inspire their reporters to produce any meaningful municipal news.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

More lame police reporting

1986 Pontiac Fiero GT
One of the torched cars is said to be a restored 1986 Pontiac Fiero.


From The Record of Woodland Park:

Englewood home, five cars set on fire

BY MATTHEW MCGRATH
STAFF WRITER
The Record

ENGLEWOOD – A home and five cars were set on fire early Sunday morning along West Palisades Avenue.
The five cars were parked along the street near Great Lord Ko-Am Church.

“We have had major fire incidents before,” said Councilman Eugene Skurnick, who surveyed the scene Sunday morning. “This one is quite disturbing since it involves innocent people. A Hispanic family lost three autos.”

Three of the cars appeared to be destroyed, Skurnick said. The other two appeared to have exterior damage and a small patch on the side of the house was damaged.

The fires were started at about 3 a.m.

Englewood
police did not comment Sunday.


From Cliffview Pilot.com

Englewood arsonist torches 5 cars, house

Sunday, 27 May 2012 12:12 Jerry DeMarco
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Five cars and a house in an Englewood neighborhood were set ablaze overnight, and investigators from the city and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office's arson unit are trying to determine who's responsible.
cvpex1111
A resident flagged down a city patrol officer at 3 a.m., alerting him to the burning cars on West Palisade Avenue near the Soldiers Monument, Detective Lt. Tim Torell told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

"Five of them were purposely set on fire," he said.

Police and firefighters were at the scene moments later when the siding of a house suddenly sprouted flames, the lieutenant said.

"It was probably smoldering for awhile when it went up," Torell told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. "Fortunately, there was little damage.

"Those are all big, older, subdivided homes in that neighborhood. A lot of people live there."

The vehicles were all parked curbside between the monument and Cottage Place. They include a retored 1986 Fiero, a Lexus and two Camrys.

Two were destroyed, two had moderate damage and one had minor damage. A sixth car that was near those set on fire sustained some damage, as well.

The Bergen County Sheriff's Department's Bureau of Criminal Identification collected evidence for the investigation, finishing around noon.

Because they're not impeding the traffic flow, the cars will remain on the street for now, authorities said. The incident won't affect tomorrow's Memorial Day parade, they said.



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Readers' eyelids are growing heavy

Englewood, New Jersey
News coverage of Englewood has fallen behind Hackensack.


As editor of The Record, veteran newsman Marty Gottlieb must be so focused on Page 1, he doesn't notice all the poor journalism being practiced by his other editors.

Municipal coverage continues to decline under head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, and no one except the reader seems to notice.

Local photo-ops

If you are going to use accident and fire photos on a daily basis to fill the Local section, as Sykes and Sforza do, at least do them well.

The Hackensack house-fire photo on L-2 today is so lacking in information, it is shocking, especially when you compare it to coverage on Cliffview Pilot.com.

The Record's photo caption doesn't contain the cause of the fire, the name of the injured firefighter or even the address of the house that was destroyed.

It's likely the clueless assignment editor sent a photographer to the scene, but told the reporter to try get the information by phone, rather than drive 20 minutes to Hackensack from Woodland Park.  

Putting readers to sleep

Maybe Gottlieb feels that if he puts sleep-inducing stories on the front page, readers will never get to Local.

Can you imagine anything more boring than a "water war," or Columnist Mike Kelly wringing his hands over "unanswered questions" in the Dharun Ravi case (A-1)?

I couldn't find anything funny in another A-1 story, this one about Governor Christie's "comedic chops."

The piece carries the byline of Melissa Hayes, who apparently has been taken off her Englewood beat and sent to Trenton.

That explains why I haven't seen any Englewood stories in the paper since the end of April. 

Englewood is where Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg lives, but the city is getting even less coverage than Hackensack, if you can imagine that.

High to lows

Gottlieb gives readers only one meaty A-1 story to read -- about the surprisingly large number of World War II veterans dying every year.

On the Local front, seat-belt and pothole Columnist John Cichowski puts readers to sleep with another Road Warrior piece (L-1).

"Sopranos"? Gourmet ketchup? Gag me with a spoon.

For a Sunday paper, today's edition is quite a disappointment.


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Look elsewhere for full story

Part of this house on Clinton Place collapsed, injuring a firefighter.

 
A house fire on Clinton Place in Hackensack on Saturday was covered by Cliffview Pilot.com and The Record.

Comparing the coverage -- as it appeared on North Jersey.com and Cliffview Pilot.com -- you'd think it was two different events.

In the print edition today, a photo and caption on L-2 in Local makes sure to list all the fire departments assisting Hackensack, but doesn't include the cause of the blaze.

Homeowners on the block of Clinton Place where the house was destroyed draw tens of thousands every year with their Halloween decorations.

The following comparison of fire coverage is from Jerry DeMarco:



1 a.m. (THEM):


Saturday, May 26, 2012    Last updated: Sunday May 27, 2012, 1:00 AM

BY JAMES QUIRK
STAFF WRITER
The Record
HACKENSACK — A Teaneck firefighter was injured in a three-alarm fire Saturday night when the back of a two-story home on Clinton Place collapsed.


Firefighters attending to a fellow firefighter who was injured Saturday in a blaze at a house on Clinton Place in Hackensack.
BILL TOMPKINS / SPECIAL TO THE RECORD


Firefighters attending to a fellow firefighter who was injured Saturday in a blaze at a house on Clinton Place in Hackensack.
Fire officials said the fire broke out just after 6:10 p.m. and escalated quickly. Units from Hackensack, Teaneck, Bogota, Maywood, River Edge and Ridgefield Park responded.
The Teaneck firefighter, whose identity was not disclosed, was taken from the scene by emergency responders around 6:30 p.m. as flames surged at the rear of the building. The nature of his injuries was unclear.
Firefighters battled the blaze for more than three hours before bringing the fire under control.
Fire officials declined to comment Saturday on the suspected cause of the fire.




9:28 p.m. (ME):

Teaneck fire captain held overnight after falling through roof at BBQ tank explosion in Hackensack

Saturday, 26 May 2012 21:28 Jerry DeMarco
ONLY ON CVP: Teaneck Fire Capt. Paul Kearns was being kept overnight at Hackensack University Medical Center after falling through a roof while fighting a fast-moving blaze that destroyed a Hackensack house where a propane tank exploded during a barbecue early Saturday evening.


paul3
INSET: Paul Kearns (center)
Fifty firefighters from several companies responded to the three-alarm blaze at 265 Clinton Place, which, "from the looks of it, appears accidental," a Hackensack fire official told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight.

Kearns didn't appear to be critically injured, another firefighter said.

"Last report was that he has a back injury and is being held overnight for observation," he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
cvp strip 5a


Kearns, the co-founder of the the Bergen County Firefighters Pipe Band (BCFPB), has been with the Teaneck department more than 17 years.

hackfire777
An active member of the New Jersey Firefighter’s Mutual Benevolent Association, Kearns is a senior research associate at The Christian Regenhard Center for Emergency Response Studies.

He is also an adjunct professor of fire science at John Jay College.

Both are in New York City.

hackfire5555


Two other people with minor injuries were treated following the 6:10 p.m. explosion and subsequent fire, which blew quickly through the house.

Kearns fell through a roof out back (shown in photo at right).

It took nearly four hours for firefighters to fully extinguish the blaze, which destroyed the house, which will have to be razed.


Flames quickly spread through the interior walls and along the second floor of the back of the building.
Besides Teaneck, companies that assisted included Bogota, Maywood, Ridgefield Park and River Edge.

Hackensack and Bogota EMS also responded.

hackfire1d
The fire began in a rear enclosed porch and then quickly spread through the 2½-story house.

Flames popped from various spots, eventually shooting through a hole that firefighters opened in the roof out front -- as well as through a second-floor window in back.

This video captures the danger of the fire, the removal of Kearns and the aftermath:


Video of 3-alarm fire

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hackensack news blackout returns

Soppressata
The Record's restaurant reviewer complains the cured salami she found in a dish of grilled mushrooms at a new place in Ridgefield Park "could have been more obvious."


Long-suffering Hackensack residents can be forgiven for thinking a Navy SEALs team that landed on Friday was intended to take out The Record's apathetic assignment desk.

City readers, who were hit by more than six weeks of intense coverage of Zisaville, will now have to endure police-blotter and gee-whiz items until next week's court hearing for suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa, a convicted felon.

Mountain fortress

In their Woodland Park redoubt, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes; her deputy, Dan Sforza; and their clueless minions think so little of the newspaper's former home, the SEALs' visit to Paramus appeared on the Local front (L-1), while a photo of the helicopter at Hackensack High School was relegated to L-6.

Stories about municipal finances in Bogota and Cresskill appear in Local today, but Hackensack readers remain in the dark about the city's budget and tax rate.

There is so little town news Sykes and Sforza needed a big photo of a minor Ridgewood accident with "unknown injuries" and unidentified "parties" to fill out L-3.

Roof collapse

The big Hackensack news today -- besides the appearance of the SEALS -- is the partial collapse of a vacant building's roof (L-2).

North Jersey readers get a good pucking from Editor Marty Gottlieb, who thinks a sports columnist's drivel about hockey is Page 1 news.

The major front-page stories today are trend pieces about the homeless using hospital emergency rooms for shelter and food, and proposed pension-like payments to volunteer firefighters and rescue workers.

Go with the pros

Why hasn't the paper ever reported that many residents of Hackensack and other communities feel secure in knowing their  firefighters and rescue workers are professionals?

Thank God I don't have to live in a town where my life is entrusted to the care of well-intentioned volunteers -- one of the worst features of North Jersey's home-rule governments, despite high property taxes. 


Jersey swamp


An elaborate Jersey joke appears today in Better Living, where the cover story reports the opening of the state's  "own version of Jurassic Park" (BL-1).

One 90-foot dinosaur is visible from the Empire State Building, reinforcing New Yorkers' impression the Garden State is nothing more than a swamp.

Bad for your health

On Friday, Better Living carried a restaurant review that damned with faint praise an ambitious new place in Ridgefield Park.

Even though she gave 2 and a half stars to MK Valencia (Good to Excellent), Staff Writer Elisa Ung apparently was so underwhelmed by what she ate, only one food photo appears with the review -- and that's an artery clogging dessert (BL-18-19).

Given all the obesity, diabetes and heart disease among her readers, what's the point of Ung wasting money on four desserts? 

Vegetarian alert

And she wasn't even able to recommend a seafood dish, preferring to promote mystery steak and pork chops (cover photo).

When she discovered soppressata "buried" under a dish of grilled mushrooms, she complained the cured dry salami "could have been more obvious."

Like how? Shoved whole down her gaping maw?


Pussy chef


Also in Friday's Better Living tab, an item about Chef Anthony Bourdain corrects a post by Food Editor Susan Sherrill on the Second Helpings blog, which erred in reporting he grew up in Englewood.

Bourdain grew up in Leonia, but the pussy went to private school in Englewood (BL-22), as did Publisher Stephen A. Borg.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Christie's bull leads Millionaires' March

The floor of the New Jersey General Assembly i...
Governor Christie and the Legislature's Democratic majority are preparing to sacrifice middle-class taxpayers on the altar of the General Assembly in Trenton.


The Record's wealthy publisher, Stephen A. Borg, continues to promote and endorse Governor Christie's war on the middle class, as today's front page clearly demonstrates.

The GOP bully, who has long had Borg and other media owners in his pocket, now adds the Legislature's Democratic majority to his arsenal, Staff Writer Charles Stile reports (A-1).

But even though his Political Stile column leaves a lot more leeway than a news story, Stile can't seem to muster any outrage over the governor's diabolical plan to cut mass-transit and Clean Energy programs to preserve a tax cut that will benefit the rich most of all.

Jersey bull

In writing about Chrisitie's so-called Jersey Comeback income-tax cut in recent months, The Record's editors have been careful to omit how little the middle class would benefit.

If I recall the earliest stories accurately, in the first year of a cut, a typical middle-class family would save $80 -- enough to buy a bag of groceries -- but a millionaire would be handed a cool $10,000 gift from Christie, who has vetoed any attempt to impose a tax surcharge on Borg and other members of the filthy rich class.

The expected huge shortfall in state revenue has Christie jumping through hoops to find ways to reward his wealthy supporters -- quite a feat considering his size.

Zisaville news

But the state budget drama also has pushed back to the Local news section the sky-is-falling-in-Hackensack saga, which has dominated Page 1 since the conviction of suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa eight days ago. 

After all the doomsday predictions from head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her lazy, incompetent minions, readers now learn the judge who presided at the six-week trial must decide whether Zisa should forfeit his position (L-1).

Why this hasn't been reported before is unclear, though it is typical of how the editors ignore the requirements of the law in pursuit of sensational journalism whose only aim is to sell copies of this once-great daily.

Here comes the judge

This ensured that residents' anger was directed at city officials, not Superior Court Judge Joseph S. Conte, who has moved up the Zisa hearing to next Wednesday from June 14.

The Record has never explained why, on the day the jury announced its guilty verdicts, Conte deflected the prosecutor's request that the court order Zisa to relinquish his hold on the position of police chief.

On Monday night, Hackensack officials named Capt. Tomas Padilla as interim police chief. It's not known whether Padilla, who has run the department in the two years since Zisa's arrest, would be the city's first Hispanic chief.

One man, one vote

Outside of all the Zisa stories, Hackensack residents have seen little reporting about their city's municipal affairs.

And they've simply had to shake their heads over the endless stream of stories about the Rothman-Pascrell battle in the 9th Congressional District's Democratic primary.

Voters in Hackensack, a large part of Teaneck, Fair Lawn and many other towns have no say in the 9th District battle, so they remain in the dark about the contest in their new district, the 5th. 
  
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More patchy Hackensack reporting

English: Annie
"The sun will come out tomorrow," the Hackensack City Council declares in a special, musical session.


After The Record completely abandoned Hackensack -- sending Main Street into a tailspin -- the newspaper's editors reduced coverage of municipal affairs and virtually ignored the schools.

I did not see any coverage of April's school board election or the city budget and tax rate -- as the assignment desk concentrated on the trial of suspended Police Chief Ken Zisa, who was convicted a week ago.

Then, the editors ratcheted up the rhetoric and began hanging crepe, declaring the Police Department "in limbo" and, today on Page 1, the entire city in "upheaval."

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes is so intent on making her case that Staff Writer Stephanie Akin -- the so-called Hackensack reporter -- actually included a plan to rezone and remake Main Street in the "upheaval."

On the continuation page, Akin says in architectural plans, a revamped business district "looks almost unrecognizable."

Horrors.


Political lesson

This story says a trio of school board members voted to oust three high school administrators, including Principal James Montesano.

They cited "a network of cronyism and patronage that has worked behind the scenes to control school board decisions for years," Akin says.

But there is no mention in this account of the Zisa family's role in directing school cronyism and patronage, as there was in a previous story.


Journalism lesson


The story also discusses the well-known apathy of voters in City Council and school elections, but doesn't connect the dots to the well-known apathy of Sykes and her lazy minions for covering Hackensack and many other towns.

And would you get a load of the interviews with six Hackensack residents (A-1 and A-8). 

When is the last time a resident -- not a gadfly or an official or an expert -- was asked for reaction to anything that happened in the city that served as the paper's home for more than 110 years?

Legal lesson

And missing in the latest account, as in all the stories since the jury returned the guilty verdicts in Superior Court, is any explanation of the law governing the dismissal or firing of a police chief who is now a convicted felon.

Is the City Council supposed to fire Zisa? Is the judge supposed to order him to forfeit his office and pensions? Readers are left in the dark.

Road to nowhere

On the front of Local, Sykes continues to allow Road Warrior John Cichowski to take his lead from readers and ignore the commuting problems he is supposed to be covering (L-1).

The quote of the day also appears on L-1, where one friend or relative of Robert Cantor of Teaneck shouted at the suspect who pleaded not guilty in his murder, "You are screwed, Tung."

The same could be said for readers in Hackensack.


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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Burying the lede on Hackensack

English: White Manna Diner, Hackensack, New Je...
The once-powerful Zisa family commiserated at White Manna after Ken Zisa was found guilty. The hamburger joint on River Street named a special after Zisa: The B.S. Burger. The connection is clear: Pink slime in the burgers, more slime in City Hall.


The Record today again insists that Ken Zisa is "still chief" of police in Hackensack, according to a headline on Page 1.

Inside, deep on A-8, the story mentions "Zisa's continued position at the head of the Police Department ...."

But Editor Marty Gottlieb and head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes are just burying the lede (newspaper jargon for a story's lead or first paragraph, which is supposed to capsulize what happened).

And what happened at an unusual Monday night meeting of the City Council was the appointment of Capt. Tomas Padilla as interim police chief -- two years after Zisa was suspended without pay and Padilla took over the department (A-8).

Out of the picture

Zisa, 58, has been a non-entity for two, long years as his case moved slowly through the criminal courts, and he was found guilty by a jury nearly a week ago.

Still, the editors, Columnist Mike Kelly and other reporters maintain the fiction that Zisa is head of the Police Deparment -- contradicting the facts -- because controversy sells papers.

They continue to manufacture controversy where none exists, and ignore the real crime in Hackensack.

Family conflicts

Zisa will forfeit his so-called position -- and his pensions -- on the day he is sentenced. But his cousin, Joseph Zisa, remains city attorney. That's the real problem for residents.

It would be natural for The Record to ask the city attorney to explain the legal process of cutting ties to Ken Zisa, but, of course, the city's lawyer is involved in a clear conflict.

Turd-filled Ravi-oli 

Many readers were disappointed by the 30-day jail term for homophobe Dharun Ravi, who maintained his superior airs through his sentencing and refused to apologize for hounding Tyler Clementi to his death (A-1).

Let's hope that after he serves his time and performs 300 hours of community service, Ravi gets deported to his native India, where privileged people like him keep millions underfoot, living in abject poverty.

A famous travel writer coined the phrase "Turd World" to describe the country after he saw an Indian man squat down and defecate on a train platform.

Avatar news

On the front of Local, the Port Authority's plan to install customer-service avatars at the three metropolitan area airports may give Gottlieb an idea on how to improve municipal coverage.

He can replace head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her cast of lazy, incompetent minions with a single assignment avatar in the Woodland Park newsroom.

Just imagine. The avatar won't overeat or fart or fill the newsroom with insane laughter, which I used to hear no matter how bad the news was that day.

Today's Local news section is so short on stories about Hackensack and other towns, every page carries police, court or accident news as filler.

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