Sunday, March 31, 2013

What does any of this have to do with us?

The Record's abandoned headquarters at 150 River St. in Hackensack, above, and the adjacent U.S.S. Ling and naval museum, below, seemed to be in a state of suspended animation on Saturday afternoon.

If you've looked at today's edition of The Record and wondered what most of the stories and columns have to do with you, you're in good company.

On Page 1, only a stand-alone photo about an Easter Vigil in Teaneck is related to life in North Jersey.

Most of the front page is covered by more on sand dunes at the shore -- the third day in a row the controversy has appeared in the Woodland Park daily. 

And then there is a story about some moron with a Yankees shrine.

Driving school

On the front of Local, in his first Road Warrior column in a week, Staff Writer John Cichowski reminds readers of driving fundamentals they learned decades ago.

Cichowski's first suggestion is to keep both hands on the steering wheel, thwarting the impulse to masturbate as a way of killing time when caught in North Jersey's massive traffic jams.

Thin Local section

The entire Local-news section today offers only nine -- count them -- nine stories, columns or stand-alone photos to readers in the 90 or so towns in the circulation area.

Business of food

The Business section's coverage of food and restaurants has trumped Better Living for years.

Today, Your Money's Worth Columnist Kevin DeMarrais reports on misleading food-package labels (B-1).

However, DeMarrais still hasn't acknowledged the popularity of organic food and naturally raised meat and poultry in his monthly Market Basket survey of supermarket prices.

And many readers may just shrug at today's column, which is filled with products they never buy.

Readers squawk

Readers also are yawning at the latest Mike Kelly column on the front of Opinion (O-1).

Who cares about a woman who spends $350 a week on the Powerball lottery -- especially after all of the coverage of the Powerball and the Passaic city winner last week?

Enough, already.

Put readers first

Instead of reporting on restaurant goers and their unending quest for good food at reasonable prices, Better Living continues to bow down to restaurant owners and their business problems (BL-1).

Even Real Estate has a shore story today, about North Jersey couples hoping to have repairs on their vacation homes finished by summer.

Sadly, most people in North Jersey can't afford to own vacation homes at the shore.

Now, I'd love to read a story that tried to explain why that is.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Finally, editors rate our lousy transportation system

Commuters muscle their way through doors at Penn Station in Manhattan.
One Friday night in September, the line at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan stretched to the level below where commuters board NJ Transit buses.
Rush-hour traffic comes to a dead stop on the Garden State Parkway.


Today's front-page story on prospects for a higher gasoline tax is the first in many years to rate the state's transportation system as "among the worst in the country with little money for repairs and improvement."

Typically, the editors of The Record have responded to increasing road, bus and rail congestion by assigning reporters to cover transit-agency meetings.

Today's Page 1 story is tricked out with photos and a graphic, but not a single quote from a commuter experiencing the crush of rush-hour travel.

Christie apologists

Much more is missing. 

Soon after he took office, Governor Christie launched his war against the middle class by pulling the plug on the Hudson River rail tunnels, the first major expansion in decades.

Christie also has shied away from pressuring the Port Authority to expand the bus system by adding a second, reverse lane into the Lincoln Tunnel.

Commuters' viewpoint?

Instead of running inane photos of fender benders to fill the Local news section, the editors could run photos of commuter hell, and actually quote drivers and rail and bus riders on what they experience.

Then, officials may finally be able to muster the political will to pass a higher gas tax, fix our roads and expand our transit system.

Good, bad reporting

Last year, Staff Writer Karen Rouse did tackle the reasons for the big crowds at Penn Station in Manhattan, but that followed a number of anti-light rail takeouts from Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza and his then-pet transporation reporter, Tom Davis.

Turn the page 

One glance at the unflattering photo of Mike Kelly, complete with shit-eating grin, and just a few words like "chortle" and "beery" are enough to turn off readers to whatever he is writing about, as in today's A-1 column on a state song.

Three corrections stand out on A-2 today, two of them from the thin Travel section and the idiotic Readers on the Road feature.

Hackensack news

On the Local front today, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes presents the first Hackensack news since March 22, a story on plans for a new Anderson Street rail station.

The story makes no attempt to explain why it has taken more than four years for NJ Transit to unveil plans for a new station, which was destroyed by a fire and explosion on Jan. 10, 2009.

And the story fails to note that in its final years, the station's waiting room was closed, and ticket machines were outside, where sun often prevented commuters from reading their screens and buying tickets.  

That meant they had to pay a surcharge to buy a ticket on board the train.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Obese editors have nothing to worry about

You've probably seen the Megabus on the New Jersey Turnpike, but did you know its journey  starts on West 34th Street in Manhattan, between 11th and 12th avenues, where frugal travelers line up rain or shine, below? On Wednesday, one young woman said you'd have to reserve months in advance to get a $1 ticket. She paid $17 one-way to Boston, saving $6 off the cost of a seat on Greyhound, but the cab she took to the bus stop was $9. Most of the passengers appeared to be college students -- our future leaders. God help us.

Editors Deirdre Sykes and Tim Nostrand of The Record are both obese, but they have nothing to worry about -- compared to Robert Sulitzer, who is suing a Carlstadt company, claiming it fired him "because of his weight" (L-6).

Sykes and Nostrand have kept their jobs as local editors despite their weight-related laziness and the terrible job they have been doing for readers in Hackensack and many other towns.

If it wasn't for Law & Order news or stories from The Star-Ledger, like the one about Sulitzer, there would have been big holes to fill on the local news pages today and Thursday.

At what other newspaper would today's blown-up photo and long Star-Ledger story about Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany be presented as "local news" (L-3)?

Gottlieb flops

Editor Marty Gottlieb took over the Woodland Park newsroom 14 months ago, but never cleaned house or cut the fat.

He fired cartoonist Jimmy Margulies to trim expenses, though his prize-winning work continues to appear on Sundays.

With his world view and sports obsession, Gottlie has proven to a bigger enemy to Bergen County readers than Sykes and Nostrand, if you can imagine that.

Beside presiding over an unprecedented decline in local news, Sykes and Nostrand have blocked any newsroom projects on the obesity epidemic, and have left questions about Governor Christie's weight to the national media or TV comedians and satirists.

With North Jersey Media Group devoting three-quarters of every dollar to First Amendment cases and other litigation, The Record's health plan doesn't have the funds to cover bariatric surgery for for the elephant-like editors.  

Giving us a break

Readers may be getting a break from all of the over-written, inaccurate columns from Staff Writer John Cichowski, who took over as the Road Warrior in September 2003.

Cichowski's usual Friday column didn't appear today, and his Wednesday column also was missing.

That suggests he may have been cut back to one day a week -- Sunday -- instead of three.

Cichowski's March 20 column about overhead message signs was one of his flawed efforts, according to a concerned reader, who sent another e-mail to management:

"It is bad enough that readers have to repeatedly endure flagrant mistaken reporting and unsubstantiated bad advice, but when the Road Warrior tries to whip up fantasy conspiracies -- as he did in his March 20 column about fictitious speed traps based on message signs that report traffic times -- he does a disservice to The Record and its readers.

"Concerned readers and flabbergasted state officials have to restrain themselves when responding to the Road Warrior's unnecessary investigation into an unsubstantiated "devilish conspiracy," "sinister meaning" and secret agenda to "generate revenue" through these traffic message signs.

"As always, in order to dedicate an entire column to junk conspiracy theories, the Road Warrior has to make up his own delusional theories or statements to try and give all of these theories some questionable credibility.

Sadly, the Road Warrior has repeatedly raised these false conspiracies without any substantiated facts or acknowledgements from traffic officials or police about New Jersey using E-ZPass or traffic message signs to generate revenues from speeding tickets."

See the full e-mail on the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

'Quality' meat

Readers hoping to avoid harmful animal antibiotics and growth hormones will have to read between the lines of today's restaurant review in Better Living -- Fink's BBQ in Dumont (BL-14).

Free-lancer Bob Probert throws around the word "quality," but doesn't back it up with any information about the beef, pork and chicken served there.

You can assume the worst. And, if you go, order the shrimp.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Did editors file missing columnist report?

The official schedule of the Hackensack Board of Education continues to list a meeting this past Monday, the first night of Passover, but the board actually met the previous Thursday. The Record didn't cover the meeting, and at least one resident went to the high school on Monday, only to be told no meeting was being held.

Staff Writer John Cichowski has written a Road Warrior column every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday since he took over the beat from the original, Jeff Page, in late 2003.

Two things soon became apparent: Cichowski is no Jeff Page, and a large number of columns by the new writer contained serious errors that were never corrected.

Today, his Wednesday column is missing, a bit strange considering that Cichowski even wrote ahead so his column would appear during vacations.

Did the editors file a missing columnist report or are they hoping Cichowski got lost somewhere between his home and the office?

Cichowski's last column was flawed, according to a concerned reader, who fired off another e-mail to management:

"In his March 24 column, the Road Warrior strikes out with his third misleading and mistaken report this year about the Yellow Dot (Medical Alert) Program legislation that Governor Christie sent back to the Legislature with a conditional veto.

"Road Warrior is still in denial and unable to comprehend the financing that the Legislature clearly planned for in this bill, and also completely misreported it in his Jan. 30 column.

"Road Warrior mistakenly reported the legislation was conditionally vetoed by Christie because there was 'no money' included in the bill, even though he conditionally vetoed it for the exact opposite reason: He didn't want New Jersey to spend state funds needed for this legislation."

Read the complete e-mail on the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

Road Warrior is off his rocker again 

Isn't it rich?

For the third day in a row, today's front page carries lavish coverage of the $338 Powerball prize and the winner, Pedro Quezada, a Dominican who ran a bodega in Passaic city.

Minorities usually don't land on Page 1 unless they've killed somebody, and you can expect that any time now, Editor Marty Gottlieb and the rest of geniuses running the media will forget about Quezada and his impoverished neighborhood.

Fender-bender news

The big local news today is another accident, this one on Route 17 (L-1).

The big Hackensack news is an Easter egg hunt (L-6 photo), though there are full stories from Teaneck (L-2) and Englewood (L-3).

That kind of coverage is no accident, but can be traced to the sheer incompetence of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her lazy deputy, Dan Sforza, who day after day fail to find enough news to fill Local.

Today, they need an overlong wire-service obituary of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Anthony Lewis, who no doubt was a pal of Gottlieb's when they were both crusading journalists at The New York Times (L-5).   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Who needs another white male columnist?

An ambulance from Hackensack University Medical Center responded this morning to a home on Summit Avenue, near Spring Valley Avenue. The transfer of the ambulance service to the hospital from the city's Fire Department has proven to be a bad financial deal for Hackensack's property tax payers.

I blinked twice, but couldn't avoid the reality of seeing Herb Jackson's byline on a Page 1 column in The Record on Monday.

In one foolhardy move, Editor Marty Gottlieb ignored North Jersey's incredible diversity and named another white male to join the paper's four incompetent news and feature columnists -- all white males.

Jackson is the paper's so-called Washington correspondent, but readers recall his weak reporting on a variety of stories -- from Tea Party demonstrations in the capitol to last year's congressional races in North Jersey.

Lame reporting

Before the November election,  Jackson commanded so little respect he tried and failed to get an interview with Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, the subject of Monday's NJ/DC column.

Jackson blew it again, as today's A-2 correction of his amateurish reporting demonstrates.

It's bad enough the new column is written by a white male, ignoring all the talented women in the Woodland Park newsroom.

This from a newspaper that once had an African-American, a Hispanic and a woman writing news columns.

More politics? 

But why did Gottlieb think readers needed another column about politics after suffering through years of Charles Stile's incredibly boring Political Stile?

The rest of Monday's paper is all downhill from Jackson's nonsense, including a correction on A-2, a story about long commutes that belongs in the Road Warrior column, not on the Business page; and a Local section with Hackensack news lifted from a weekly paper (L-2).

Monday's Local also had two stories on major road closures (L-2 and L-3), but not a word about the detour at Passaic Street and Rochelle Avenue that caused major problems this afternoon.

What diversity?

You know Gottlieb is having problems appreciating  North Jersey's diversity when the first front-page story he's had about a resident from the Dominican Republic is today's A-1 report about Pedro Quezada of Passaic city, winner of the $338 million Powerball prize. 

Crossing readers again

On Friday, not Sunday, as I wrote earlier, Road Warrior John Cichowski had another column about the three-year-old crosswalk law, but he still is unable to accurately report on just what drivers are supposed to do when they encounter a pedestrian crossing the street.

A reader, concerned about Cichowski's flawed reporting on a range of issues, sent another e-mail to management, referring to the columnist as the "decoy Road Warrior":

"How sad is it that once again the decoy Road Warrior is unable to comprehend or report accurately on pedestrian fatality statistics and N.J. crosswalk statutes in his column of March 22, while also reporting about decoy cops that would be used in Teaneck to try and snare drivers who might be violating these statutes.

"What is most embarrassing is that The Record's management continually allows the decoy Road Warrior to mistakenly misrepresent the crosswalk statutes in a completely different way each time that he has unsuccessfully tried to explain these statutes to his readers in the past 3 years, even though I have repeatedly corrected the Road Warrior about his misinterpretations in various columns.

"It is interesting to note that the Road Warrior's confused reporting and advice about these crosswalk laws has definitely increased confusion about these crosswalk laws among drivers, pedestrians and readers of The Record. Who knows if this increased confusion has led to any of the increases in pedestrian deaths over the past 3 years?"

The full e-mail can be found on the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

Road Warrior crosses readers again