Thursday, February 28, 2013

Coverage of black community ends today

An abandoned home is framed by Overlook Avenue high-rises in Hackensack. Residents have a bird's-eye view of noisy business jets that skim rooftops on the way to Teterboro Airport. Is there any reason they can't approach at a much higher altitude? 

With the end of Black History Month today, head Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they can turn their backs on North Jersey's African-American community for another year.

Now, they'll only have to run stories about black people who get in trouble with the law, sue or get sued, or die in one of those drive-by shootings in Paterson.

Sykes has consumed enormous quantities of Jamaican black-rum cake in recent years, but has completely ignored the hard-working, God-fearing Jamaican-American enclaves in Hackensack, Teaneck and Englewood.

If I didn't know better, I'd guess Sykes and Sforza had something to do with assigning black history to the shortest month of the year.

Even the Woodland Park newsroom mirrors the lack of coverage. There are no black editors with any authority and only a couple of black reporters.

More bad writing 

More bad news writing appears on the front page today, this time in the photo caption for Pope Benedict XVI (A-1).

We know the pope has great spiritual powers, but the caption informs readers he can travel "through" 150,000 people without harming them.

Is it too much to ask six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton to read every headline and caption that appears on the paper's premier page or at least to have them read to her?

With her proofers' eyes riveted on the TV screen during the David Letterman show, how else is she going to prevent such embarrassing errors from appearing on Page 1?

After Mike Kelly's latest flop appeared on Wednesday's A-1, the long-winded columnist was taken to the hospital with a case of bad writing.

Bad reporting 

The Record and other media continue to cover the battle to avoid the sequester as if President Obama and his policies didn't win a decisive victory over the Republicans in November (A-1, A-10, A-20). 

The big Hackensack news today appears on L-3 -- a non-fatal, two-vehicle accident near ShopRite, in another brilliant photo from chief ambulance chaser Tariq Zehawi.

The is clearly filler. As usual, no attempt is made to report the possible cause of the accident or whether any of the drivers received a summons.

And God forbid the paper actually identifies the drivers.  

Obesity is ugly

Look at the two beautiful, "plus-size" women on the Better Living cover today -- the latest attempt by The Record's editors to hide the ugly obesity epidemic in New Jersey, as epitomized by Governor Christie. 


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More tax cuts for the wealthy, crumbs for the poor

In the City Council meeting room, the Hackensack seal is crooked.

Thanks to sloppy work by editors, reporters and copy editors, The Record doesn't help readers understand how many low-income residents would benefit from an expansion of Medicaid in New Jersey (A-1).

On Tuesday's front page, Columnist Charles Stile mentioned "300,000 ... families," but in a staff-written story on A-6 the same day the reference  is to "300,000 of the state's 1.3 million uninsured."

On Page 1 today, the paper reports Governor Christie will bring "104,000 citizens" into the program next year.

F.U. to middle class

What is clear is that Christie continues to give business-tax breaks to the wealthy, throw crumbs to the poor and screw the middle and working classes in the state.

You won't find any mention of how a modest tax surcharge on millionaires -- which Christie has vetoed at least twice -- would raise $1 billion in sorely needed revenue or what the governor plans to do to boost the economy and job creation.

Yet, today's coverage is so upbeat, and even includes another wildly exaggerated Stile column on the GOP bully's "leadership style," and his chances for reelection and an eventual White House bid (A-6). 

More A-1 errors

More sloppy work by Production Editor Liz Houlton's wrong-way copy desk is evident in Mike Kelly's column on the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center (A-1).

The photo caption starts with a typo: "Flower were laid ...."

And sticklers would insist on a comma after the first line of the headline:

Attack overshadowed
but never forgotten  

Then, readers encounter a Kelly who fails miserably in an attempt to write a coherent, hard-hitting column, and the reason is clear.

He's has been beating the pathos out of the 1993 attack and 9/11 as if they were dead horses, using them as the basis for numerous, long-winded columns. Enough already.

Mr. Trite

Look at his first line: "The calendar told us 20 years had passed."

As if a talking calendar isn't bad enough, the second paragraph contains a multitude of sins:

A "stoic group of 100 relatives and friends ... huddled in the February chill ... at the patch of landscape known as Ground Zero," and "the terrorist bombing ... that killed six people ... was as real and vivid as morning coffee."

Give me a break. "As real and vivid as morning coffee"? How trite can you get?

At the end of the third paragraph, Kelly mentions the truck bomb exploded on Feb. 26, 1993, and follow that with a quote: "And then 9/11 happens."

Huh? Not "then." It was more than eight years later. 

As usual, he pads his column shamelessly, using six extra words to say "Ground Zero." In Kelly's desperate try to fill space, it's "the patch of landscape known as Ground Zero."

"Landscape"? This man is a tongue-tied hack. 

Where was head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes, Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza or whichever assignment flunky sent this disaster to the copy desk for spell-checking?   

Another local snooze

On the front of Local, readers looking for news find another Road Warrior column based on a highway safety "report,"  and a big story about a dog that was shot and beaten in Iraq.

At the top of the page, the Englewood City Council rejects a $674,000 plan to repair the Mackay Ice Arena, which is in a minority neighborhood (L-1).

Hackensack news is conspicuously absent.

But The Record carries yet another story about the Paterson book drive it is sponsoring (L-1).

Laughing at death

Most of the readers of The Record are over 50, and tens of thousands of them take Lipitor and other statins to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks.

Food Editor Susan Leigh Sherrill says grapefruit "is downright dangerous" to statin users, yet she promotes National Grapefruit Month with three recipes for the citrus fruit that include butter, sugar and vanilla bean "creme" (BL-1).

Check out her what-me-worry grin in the thumbnail photo with the "IN YOUR KITCHEN" column. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dumbing down of the paper accelerates

The city of Hackensack has been extremely slow in embracing solar power, which would save money and help the environment. Mount Olive Baptist Church on Central Avenue in Hackensack installed hundreds of panels six years ago, above and below.

Monday's Page 1 story on  Municipal Judge Vince A. Sicari misnamed the ethics panel that has asked him to give up moonlighting as a standup comedian, according to an A-2 correction today.

The story called it the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (A-4), which isn't even close and doesn't make sense, because it is his conduct outside the courtroom that is being questioned.

The correct name is the Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activities.

This is the latest in a series of embarrassing errors on the front page or in Page 1 stories under the inept supervision of Production Editor Liz Houlton.

Houlton was promoted to the six-figure job, despite all the years she ran the features copy desk and allowed numerous errors to get past her cursor, only to appear in Food and other sections.

No laughing matter

With the departure of Jimmy Margulies, fans of his often brilliant editorial page cartoons will no longer see a New Jersey focus, as demonstrated today by the Las Vegas Sun's lame effort (A-8).

I don't know what's worse: Sunday's headline on A-4, "Police shoot man with knife," or the heading on today's letter to the editor pointing it out: "Convertible cutting device?"

2 more staffers leave

The lifer who wrote those headings for years, Charles Saydah, editor of letters to the editor, is giving up his cushy job, according to another staffer's Facebook page.

A third staffer who is leaving, Justo Bautista, is one of the hardest working reporters in the Woodland Park newsroom.

Bautista, who is in his 60s, is a police reporter who also wrote numerous stories about war veterans in North Jersey.

His hustle and legwork will be hard to replace, and his departure further reduces newsroom diversity.

Local snooze

In place of news from Hackensack and other towns, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, throw readers a few bones:

-- A story and photo on the crash of a FedEx van leads Local (L-1).

-- A photo and caption on the crash of a delivery truck (L-3), with the imaginative overline, "CRASH IN FORT LEE."

-- A filler on a bank robbery (L-2) has a photo showing investigators standing around and bullshitting. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cartoonist Jimmy Margulies is discarded

The Record's old headquarters in Hackensack have become an eyesore.

Publisher Stephen A. Borg -- the marketing whiz who has been running The Record since 2007 -- has fired Jimmy Margulies, the award-winning cartoonist who joined the staff more than 22 years ago.

Readers of Blue Jersey got the news in an item posted Sunday evening. It included a message from Margulies:

"After almost 22 and 1/2 years at The Record in northern New Jersey, I became the latest editorial cartoonist to lose a full time staff job at a daily newspaper. Despite having won a few national awards,  syndication and frequent appearances in some high profile places like USA Today, as well as being a popular local speaker and using social media to become one of the most popular features on the paper's Web site, it was not enough to save me from the paper's decision to trim expenses."

The Record recently offered buyouts to editorial staffers who are at least 60 years old, but it's not known whether Margulies qualified.

Here is a link to the item on Blue Jersey, which calls itself "All the news that slips from print":

'A true Jersey treasure' 

Not long after the young publisher took over, he asked Margulies to focus his cartoons on New Jersey topics.

The buyouts and firing of the cartoonist follow cuts in the news hole that apparently are linked to a lack of advertising support, including the folding of the Signature section and less space devoted to Travel and the weekly restaurant review.

Borg is the spoiled rich kid, also known as a Silver Spoon, who puts his own welfare above that of the newspaper's staff.

2008 downsizing

Recall the 2008 staff downsizing that followed by several months his use of a company mortgage to buy a $3.65 million mansion in Tenafly

Apparently, Borg felt his growing family didn't have enough space in his $2 million mansion.

One staffer who left in that bloodletting was Nancy Cherry, a supervisor of the news copy desk, who single-handedly upheld standards of accuracy, grammar and good news writing.

'Queen of Errors'

With her departure, the number of errors, inaccurate and clunky headlines, and flawed photo captions has soared under the inept supervision of Production Editor Liz Houlton.

Another one of Borg's boneheaded moves was to fold The Record's Food section.

Houlton, known as the "Queen of Errors" from all the years she ran the features copy desk, is paid six figures.

If Borg wanted to cut expenses, he should have shit-canned Houlton or another six-figure staffer, Deirdre Sykes, the supremely lazy head assignment editor who is directly responsible for the drastic decline in news coverage of Hackensack and so many other towns. 

It's a sad day when talented staffer like Margulies are let go and incompetents like Houlton and Sykes stay on to continue wreaking havoc.


More news of animals than inner-city kids

The Record of Woodland Park went unread last Monday, when Hackensack City Hall was closed for a federal holiday. The paper thrived in the city for more than 110 years.

Did you enjoy all those photos of beaming inner-city schoolchildren with books on Page 1 and A-8 of The Record on Sunday?

More minority children appeared on Sunday's Local front with a local obit for Kathleen Barbetta,  who taught first-graders in the city of Passaic for 24 years.

Minority schoolchildren in Passaic, Englewood, Paterson and other communities appear so infrequently in The Record you'd think they're an endangered species instead of being in the majority.

But head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, seem to knock themselves out covering animal news.

Hibernating editors

Last Monday, a huge patch of Page 1 was devoted to birds and the humans who stalk them with binoculars.

Then, the Local front of the same newspaper had a story about local bird-watchers taking part in a bird count in wealthy Englewood, where nearly all of the public schoolchildren are black and Hispanic.

This past Thursday, two photos of a Shih Tzu (SHITS-ooo) appeared on L-2, but Englewood and Hackensack readers couldn't find any news of their communities. 

And on the Local front today, Orthodox Jewish children in Passaic city -- not minority school kids -- are shown dressed as pandas, though the photo caption doesn't explain what that has to do with the Purim holiday (L-1).

Idiotic sports news

Editor Marty Gottlieb and sports Columnist Tara Sullivan again wasted readers time with Sunday's front page musings on how little we supposedly know about our "idols," a reference to athletes who kill or cheat.

Did anybody with a shred of intelligence ever "idolize" O.J. Simpson, Lance Armstrong or Oscar Pistorius?

P.R. ploy

The only reason the story of Paterson minority kids led the Sunday paper is that the book-drive sponsors were North Jersey Media Group, The Record and Herald News.

Even with that, The Record published an incorrect "end date" for the collection of books at the Ridgewood Library on A-1 both Thursday and Friday, according to an L-2 notice to readers on Sunday.

Maybe six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton can't read.

Mind on vacation

Also on Sunday, Road Warrior John Cichowski, the so-called commuting columnist, continued to ignore North Jersey's crowded highways and dysfunctional mass transit to focus on car dealers in California (L-1).

Next week, he'll be reporting on the practices of dealers in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the biggest news in Hackensack on Sunday was a photo of a pedestrian who was struck by a "vehicle" the day before (L-2).

Today's paper

The Record's Sunday night deadline apparently was too early to get a photo of Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence on the front page today (A-1).

Another correction appears on L-2 today.

If anyone found anything of interest in the A-section, Local or Better Living, please e-mail me. Sports went straight to recycling.