Saturday, November 30, 2013

Does big cutback in food coverage serve advertisers?

The old headquarters of North Jersey Media Group and The Record in Hackensack is now used primarily as a parking lot for attorneys, jurors and visitors to the Bergen County Courthouse a few blocks away ($5 per car). Many courthouse visitors are finding free parking elsewhere.


Under Publisher Stephen A. Borg, food coverage in The Record has declined drastically -- only to be replaced by highly promotional stories about the restaurants and chefs that advertise heavily in The Record of Woodland Park.

Eating Out on $50, the so-called budget restaurant review written by freelancer Jeff Page, appears to be the latest casualty, ending its monthly run in Better Living without an announcement.

Less space

The fine-dining restaurant review, written by full-time Staff Writer Elisa Ung, continues to cram photos and text into half the space it once commanded in the Better Living tabloid on Fridays, and Ung is restricted to taking one guest, instead of three, to the two dinners she buys.

Even if she were inclined to, Ung has little room to discuss whether restaurants are serving wild-caught fish and naturally raised or grown food.

Organic, shmorganic

Similarly, The Record's monthly Market Basket survey of supermarket prices continues to ignore the revolution in organic food that began with the opening of Whole Foods Market more than 30 years ago.

Doesn't this serve the majority of supermarket and restaurant advertisers who fatten their bottom lines by selling or serving cheaper conventionally grown food or farmed fish filled with harmful antibiotics and preservatives?

Wasted space

Ung continues to waste space in the data box that appears with every review, listing what the restaurant is "good" or "appropriate for," instead of whether it serves naturally raised or grown food.

And on Friday, she wasted two of the 11 paragraphs in her review of Solaia in Englewood on the lousy desserts, even though the vast majority of her readers don't touch the artery clogging, cloyingly sweet stuff out of concern for their waistline and their health (BL-18). 

Ung said Solaia "would be good for relaxing dining in downtown Englewood," but "less appropriate for big, loud groups."

She must think her readers are morons who can't figure that out on their own, and wouldn't the restaurant owner encourage diners to order wine and spirits from his full bar, rather than try to keep them quiet?

Raw or cooked?

Inexplicably, Ung used "sushi-quality fish" -- a term applied to fish served raw -- to describe a pricey grilled sea bass served at Solaia for $29.

As one of his first acts as publisher, Borg signaled an end to serious food coverage when he killed The Record's weekly Food section, promising daily stories about food that the editors were unable to deliver.

It's been all downhill from there.

Today's paper 

The Record doesn't bother with a full story about the third phase of Port Authority toll hikes that kick in on Sunday -- just four paragraphs on Page 1.

Nor does it report a statement from state Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski.

He called the bitstate agency "dysfunctional" and one that operates with "minimal accountability" -- an indirect slam at Governor Christie, who rubber stamped the toll hikes on the George Washington Bridge and other crossings.

Wisniewski said higher tolls come at a time "of stagnant wages and negligible inflation."

The Record also doesn't mention that the heavily discounted E-ZPass off-peak toll for hybrid cars with a Green Pass is going up on Sunday to $5.50 and the carpool discount, available at all hours, increases to $5 -- both are 75 cents more than before.

High-tech traffic system

The major element on today's front page reports on a high-tech traffic management system in the Meadowlands, but doesn't explain whether it can handle the influx of cars expected when American Dream, a huge entertainment and retail complex, opens (A-1).

In Hackensack news, Staff Writer Hannan Adely reports that more than $9,000 has been raised for James Brady, the former homeless man who was penalized for his honesty (Local front).


  1. Isn't Elisa Ung the first real restaurant reviewer they had? How is that a cutback? Never mind, I really don't want to hear your spin on it. I'm sure it's in every other post here.

    1. Of course not. Past food editors reviewed restaurants, and those reviews were supplemented by several freelancers.

      That was a better system than hiring a single reviewer whose obsessions skew her appraisals.


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