Sunday, January 19, 2014

Editors' well-crafted Christie image is unraveling

For the 11th straight day, The Record is devoting a large part of the front page to the fallout from closure of two of the three lanes (right of the double-yellow lines) leading to upper-level George Washington Bridge tollbooths in Fort Lee.


A third Democratic mayor in North Jersey is complaining about bullying by the Christie administration, The Record reports on Page 1 today.

Faced with the unraveling of Governor Christie's "bipartisan compromise" image -- as crafted by the paper's editors -- chief apologist Charles Stile's column traces the birth of the monster to campus politics 30 years ago (A-1).

How boringly irrelevant can you get? 

Photos of a thin Christie as the University of Delaware student government president bear no resemblance to the GOP bully whose weight and eating habits are lampooned by comedians.

Bridgegate jokes

On HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," the comedian addressed the Bridgegate scandal:

He noted that Christie needed to shed an unwanted 150 pounds -- a reference to Bridget Anne Kelly, the aide who was fired for her involvement in tying up traffic at the Fort Lee end of the George Washington Bridge in early September.

The lane closures on the bridge showed Christie is really good at "clogging major arteries," Maher said on Friday night. 

As for his 2-hour apology in front of the national media 10 days ago, when he claimed his staff lied to him about the plot, Christie was saying, "I'm large, but not in charge."

Ties that bind

The allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer show how the Christie team allegedly used federal Sandy aid as leverage to gain an advantage for a development tied to one of the governor's cronies -- lawyer David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (A-1).

Samson was one of three Christie appointees to the bi-state agency, and the only one who has kept his influential patronage position in the wake of the scandal. 

Two of Christie's Trenton aides were fired.

More Bridgegate coverage appears today on front of the otherwise thin Local section (L-1), and on the Opinion front (O-1).

More error

The befuddled Road Warrior ties the politically inspired lane closures to 2013 pedestrian fatalities in Bergen County, Christie's terrible driving record before he became governor and bridge-related gridlock in Fort Lee dating to 2010.

The rambling column, by Staff Writer John Cichowski, reports the lane closures caused huge traffic problems from Sept. 9-13, even though the paper has consistently reported gridlock occurred on only four days, Sept. 9-12 (L-1).

Although Cichowski claims to have broken the story in a Sept. 13 column, The Record has acknowledged the tip came from Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who got a complaining call from a friend trying to drive into Manhattan.

Among the letters to the editor today (O-3), Ann Mancuso of Dumont appears to believe Christie, who said he was kept in the dark by his staff and Port Authority appointees:

"I voted for Christie twice, but I will never again vote for someone who doesn't know what's going on in his own office. At the least, it's annoying and at the most, it's darn dangerous."

View from Fort Lee

Mark Sokolich, Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, has called "the scheme to wreak havoc on Fort Lee's citizens 'absolute power corruption,'" The Record reported on Jan. 9.

E-mails and text messages between Christie loyalists that were revealed on Jan. 8 "suggested there was a calculated plot to cause mayhem in Fort Lee," the paper said.

One e-mail exchange referred to Sokolich as the "little Serbian," even though he is of Croatian descent, and "an idiot."

Lawyers always win

In Fort Lee, the mayor is said to own or have an interest in GW Car Service LLC, one of the cab companies that filed suit against Christie's staff, alleging they lost business during the lane closures, as reported by The Record on Tuesday.

Staff Writer Kibret Markos incorrectly called the suit a "class action," a designation that can be granted only by the judge hearing the case.

The Record still hasn't reported how much taxpayers will have to shell out for all of the high-priced legal talent being pressed into service by state legislators investigating the GWB scandal and by the Christie administration defending its actions (A-1 on Saturday).

More chopped liver

The death of a "person" in a collision on Route 20 is treated as a photo-op on Saturday's L-1 -- with no identity provided -- as is typical of the filler Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza relies on in the absence of legitimate news.

Food coverage on the Better Living cover Saturday appeared to be based on press releases, which were handled by her eminences, Food Editor Esther Davidowitz and Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung.

The free publicity ranged from the sublime (a $130 cocktail served at Grissini Restaurant in Englewood Cliffs) to the ridiculous (the crappy White Castle beef "slider," which costs 74 cents). 

Wasting readers' time is nothing new for Ung, who reviewed the mediocre Haven Riverfront Restaurant & Bar in Edgewater in Friday's Better Living tabloid (BL-14).

Today, in a column that is supposed to deal with consumer issues, she purports to explain "why certain locations spell doom for restaurants" (BL-1).

In Travel, there is little more than a seemingly endless account of a honeymoon trip by two staffers, Stephanie Akin and Shawn Boburg, both of whom are involved in Bridgegate coverage (T-1).

Akin and Boburg were an item in the old Hackensack newsroom, but she appeared to be a fashionista while he dressed like a country bumpkin.

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