Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Should editors, columnists 'come out,' too?

This sign greets drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians who cross the newly reopened Dillard Memorial Bridge from Bogota.

Objectivity in journalism died a quiet death decades ago.

Now, you have editors, columnists and others developing their "voice" and expressing a strong point of view on the issues of the day, including legalizing gay marriage.

The front page of The Record today reports that by announcing he is gay, Jason Collins has become a hero on and off the basketball court (A-1).

I've never heard of Collins, and could care less about him and his sexual orientation.

But I think it's hilarious how sports columnist Tara Sullivan tries mightily to show readers how "normal" Collins appeared to a coach and other players before his big revelation.

I don't care about Sullivan's sexual orientation, either, but wonder whether editors and columnists who advocate legalizing gay marriage or write about other issues affecting homosexuals should also "come out"?

Christie's agenda

The Record long ago lost any objectivity it might have had about Governor Christie, and today, it continues to promote his re-election agenda with a Page 1 story on $1.3 billion in "publicly funded higher education projects" (A-1).

Little attention is being paid to how he has mismanaged the state's economy since he took office in January 2010, leaving New Jersey with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Page A-2 today carries an embarrassing correction of a photo caption that ran on Sunday with one of Editor Marty Gottlieb's pet stories -- the alleged reverse migration of New Jersey residents to New York City.

Living or dead?

Local-news coverage of the living in Hackensack and other towns continues to decline, but Staff Writer Jay Levin is doing a bang-up job of giving the dead a royal sendoff.

Today, three of his local obituaries appear on L-1 and L-6.

Get a load of the editing in the lead story on the Local front about the Rev. Michael Fugee, a Catholic priest "who served probation on allegations he groped a boy in his Wyckoff home in 2001" (L-1).

The second paragraph refers oddly to "weekend press revelations." How 19th century that sounds.

Then, the paragraph sails on for another 60 or so words before ending. I'm out of breath.

An opponent's alleged crime involving the removal of campaign signs from in front of Hackensack Market on Passaic Street, above, has given hope to some City Council candidates, who are trying to oust the Zisa family regime that has dominated the city for so long.

Honestly, folks

Another forum for candidates in the May 14 Hackensack City Council election was held Monday night at the Camelot, a condominium building on Prospect Avenue.

A resident's question referred to the upcoming trial of retired police Detective Kenneth Martin, who heads the Coalition for Open Government slate, which is backed by city Democratic boss Lynne Hurwitz.

Hurwitz was the power behind former state Assemblyman and Police Chief Ken "I Am the Law" Zisa, who was convicted nearly a year ago of official misconduct and insurance fraud.

Martin didn't respond to allegations that he took four signs put up by the opposing Citizens for Change slate, allowing running-mate Joseph Barreto to defend him.

Barreto said Martin "had a right to be there," but the rest of his answer was incomprehensible.

Independent candidate Victor E. Sasson has faced delays in designing and financing his own lawn signs, which he hopes will be mounted on I-beams and planted deep into the ground with a pile driver to prevent a similar theft.

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13 errors in one Road Warrior column

The Dillard Memorial Bridge on Feb. 5, 2013.

Road Warrior John Cichowski's short attention span for facts has been well-known for years, especially on The Record's copy desk.

Five years ago, copy editors caught a fair number of errors, and fixed them before publication.

However, in recent years, Production Editor Liz Houlton's incompetent leadership of the sleep-deprived copy editors has resulted in mistake after mistake slipping by their cursors, getting into the paper and embarrassing The Record. 

In last Friday's column on the Dillard Memorial Bridge in Hackensack, 13 Cichowski errors were published, according to a concerned reader.

Here is an excerpt from his e-mail to management:

"How does The Record allow the Road Warrior to stumble and bumble through his mistake-ridden columns, and across the bridges of New Jersey in his April 26 column, without any corrections???

"The Road Warrior broke his own record with 13 mistakes in a single column.

"[He] appeared to be more clueless and lost than usual -- unable to read maps and street signs to correctly report where local bridges are located.

"John Cichowski brings dishonor to a Vietnam war hero from Hackensack with misleading, insulting comments and name-calling about the beautifully renovated Dillard Memorial Bridge (also known as the Court Street Bridge), which is named for first Hackensack resident to die in the Vietnam War.

"John owes an apology to friends and family of Lance Corporal Harold J. Dillard for failing to mention the bridge has been renamed in his honor, as every other reputable Record reporter has done in their articles. He owes an apology for maligning the integrity of the renovated bridge by falsely indicating it is a 'pothole-pocked swing span' and insulting Dillard's memory by calling it the 'Good News-Bad News' bridge.

"John continues to frequently employ sick humor that only he thinks is funny, at the expense of others, and continues to embellish already sad, mistake-pocked columns."

The full e-mail can be read on the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers, likely the only Facebook page devoted to tracking the repeated screw-ups of a single reporter:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Readers want less shore coverage, more local news

A former Korean bakery at 479 Main St. in Hackensack, opposite the Sears parking lot, is being converted into Daheen Wang Mandoo, which would be a branch of a popular Korean dumpling restaurant in Manhattan and the Flushing section of Queens. The renovations are being slowed by the owners' inability to get permits from the city's Building Department, and it's unclear what assistance they are receiving from the Upper Main Alliance, a public-private partnership that promotes shopping and dining out on Hackensack's struggling Main Street.

With big headlines, photos and a map, The Record's front page today reports on the slow pace of recovery at the shore from Superstorm Sandy.

But that takeout gets a lot more play than another story on the impact on Hackensack and other towns of a proposed 55-acre retail development in Teterboro being fueled by a $19 million state tax break.

And a third story on Page 1 doesn't even mention Governor Christie might have revenue to pay for new tax cuts, if he wasn't giving away hundreds of millions of dollars in such breaks to wealthy retailers and other businesses. 

This kind of coverage just plays into Christie's hands.

After mismanaging the state's economy for more than 3 years, Christie is trying to revive the shore and throwing tax breaks around like confetti in a desperate bid for a second term.

Shore is expensive 

North Jersey residents love the shore, but high property taxes here and high rents there mean most can only afford an annual two-week vacation by the sea.

And second homes are out of reach for anyone but multimillionaires like the Borgs, with shacks at the shore going for $500,000 or more. 

Give us a break

Why did The Record omit mention of the $19 million state tax break in last Thursday's front-page story on Walmart and, possibly, Costco Wholesale opening stores in the Teterboro development?

Was North Jersey Media Group and the Borg family wooing Walmart for the 20 acres they own along River Street, the former headquarters of The Record, and did they lose out because no such state incentive was offered? 

Today's story is silent on the Walmart rumors that swirled around the Borgs' property, and doesn't differentiate between the low-wage jobs at the low-price retailer and the unionized labor at Costco.

Kids and salad

On the front of today's Local section, a story on a program "aimed at curbing obesity through organic gardening" caught my eye (L-1).

Students in a Teaneck middle school and members of the Hackensack Boys & Girls Club grew lettuce "and learned to make their own sugar-free salad dressing."

Imagine that. Young people eating salad and growing lettuce in a greenhouse, of all places, to escape the vagaries of the weather. 

Why doesn't every Hackensack school have such a program? 

And why isn't the tax-exempt Hackensack University Medical Center offering to help the schools serve healthy meals, in return for not having to pay taxes on $130 million in property?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Are residents fleeing Christie's New Jersey?

Extensive patching of Euclid Avenue, above, and other streets in Hackensack have encouraged some drivers to start speeding and blowing through stop signs again.

Good luck trying to make any sense of today's Page 1 story in The Record on North Jersey allegedly dealing with "reverse migration" to New York City.

This poorly edited story tries to wring meaning from just about anything -- including "The Tonight Show" returning to Manhattan and two sports teams setting up camp in Brooklyn.

It is completely devoid of statistics, and it's so poorly edited, readers are exhausted after the first few paragraphs of back and forth, as the story jumps from one topic to another.

Editor Marty Gottlieb -- a veteran New York Timesman who traded Paris for Paramus -- must have hounded Stephanie Akin, the reporter who wrote this essay, to make numerous changes, including packing the piece with New York City history dating to 1957.

Reverse migration caused by Governor Christie's conservative policies on everything from mass transit to taxing the wealthy doesn't earn a mention.

Defensive lawyer

Readers who turn to Local find a story on courts banning smart-phone photos -- written by Staff Writer Kibret Markos, who covers the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack (L-1).

Markos, a lawyer, has yet to report on what is really cutting down access to the courts -- high legal fees.


You'll find one of the best stories in the paper at the bottom of L-1 -- a local obituary on Rose Fernandez of Wyckoff Florist & Gifts.

This is a real tear-jerker about a generous woman who didn't let family tragedies dampen her spirit

The "CONTACT US" box on BL-2 of the Better Living section no longer lists Susan Leigh Sherrill as food editor, so readers can assume she is history.

No tears are being shed over her departure.

Campaign follies

Victor E. Sasson, the independent candidate in the May 14 Hackensack City Council election, today was approached by a voter, who said, "I see you were caught in the act." 

The man apparently confused Sasson with Kenneth Martin, a retired Hackensack police detective who is charged with removing lawn signs put up by rivals in front of Hackensack Market on Passaic Street.

Martin heads the Coalition for Open Government slate, which is backed by the Zisa family political machine and Lynne Hurwitz, the boss of the city's Democratic Party.

The last I saw of the man he was going home to check the story in The Record on Martin's scheduled trial.  


More shoddy reporting from the Road Warrior

Three of four Toyota Prius hybrids parked on Thursday morning at Jackson Hole on Grand Avenue in Englewood. Only two had a green E-ZPass, which gives hybrid owners toll discounts on the parkway and turnpike and at the Hudson River crossings.

At least Road Warrior John Cichowski is consistent:

Just about every one of his columns in The Record is flawed, according to a reader concerned about all the misinformation being peddled as fact:

"While enduring triple doses of shoddy, misleading and false reports each week, the last thing readers need is the Road Warrior's  malarkey and false report in his April 24 column about the very simple Motor Vehicle Commission policy about waiving the trip to an MVC office for driver-license renewal.

"There was no need [for a reader] to contact the Road Warrior for this type of assistance and worry about being subject to a misleading story about her personal plight.

"A simple call by a person with a debilitating medical condition to their New Jersey state representative would have solved the problem. The state representative would arrange with MVC to get them in and out of an MVC office as quickly as possible without having to wait on long lines.

"Road Warrior and The Record owes an apology to:

"All those 48 years and younger and their families and friends for dismissing their pain and suffering due to debilitating medical conditions as not being worthy for waiving the MVC trip.

"Those born on Dec. 1, 1964, including families and friends, for mistakenly indicating they do not qualify for waiving the MVC trip."

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Best-read paper in Hackensack isn't The Record

A full moon rising over Hackensack on Thursday night. The photo was taken from the parking lot of the Devonshire on Overlook Avenue, where the 11 candidates in the May 14 City Council election introduced themselves to building residents and answered questions. Independent Victor E. Sasson, editor of Eye on The Record, was scheduled last, at 9 p.m., and only a handful of people stayed to hear him speak.

Friday's edition of The Record carried an unusually large amount of news from Hackensack, all of it bad.

Today's paper is what residents have come to expect: no Hackensack news.

But residents may be too busy to notice. Two other papers have grabbed their attention:

The Hackensack Citizen, published by the Citizens for Change slate in the May 14 City Council election; and the weekly Hackensack Chronicle, which leads with the April 16 school board election.

Here are stories from The Hackensack Citizen:

Belly laughs can be heard all over Hackensack from quotes in the Chronicle.

Francis W. Albolino, an incumbent who was elected to his eighth term on the Board of Education said, "We ... would like to thank the voters for coming out."

Albolino was the highest vote-getter with 1,091 -- this in a city with 20,000 registered voters.

He actually meant to say he thanks the voters for not coming out, ensuring victory for the city's political machine.

Critics of Albolino say he falls asleep at meetings, and note the schools win many sports awards, but no academic ones.

Many Hackensack High School students refuse to eat what passes for lunch, and they vote with their feet by walking to a nearby pizzeria, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks.

Mayor Michael R. Melfi, who is a benefactor of the same political machine propping up Albolino, swore in board members on April 22. 

Wrong-way reporter

In Friday's Road Warrior column, Staff Writer John Cichowski reports the Court Street Bridge in Hackensack was scheduled to open today for the first time since Superstorm Sandy (L-5).

But the bridge has been open to traffic in recent months, only to be closed a few days ago. And Hackensack police said the bridge is not reopening today. 

Cichowski likes to exaggerate to get readers' attention, as in describing the Anderson Street  Bridge, which has no moving parts, as "wheezing."

The Salem Street Bridge -- which is under no weight restrictions -- is "rickety."

Of course, anyone who has seen how slowly the burned-out columnist moves realizes those words fit him perfectly.  

Pasta with raw fish?

Friday's restaurant review pans Union Bar, a freakish Japanese-Italian hybrid that serves sushi and pizza in Cliffside Park (BL-18).

But the critic fails to note this is the former Bushido Bar and Restaurant, which was faulted for using inferior raw fish in a review published in June 2012.

Why did The Record review this place again?