Friday, January 10, 2014

The Record's claim of a 'scoop' is ringing hollow

A ramp in Fort Lee gives drivers access to the lower level of the George Washington Bridge. It remained open during the four days of gridlock in September caused by a Christie administration plot to close two of the three access lanes to upper-level tollbooths.


Amid all of Governor Christie's apologies and firings on Thursday, The Record claimed it had scooped other media on obtaining the shocking e-mails at the root of the politically inspired traffic gridlock in Fort Lee. 

The Woodland Park daily sent out an e-mail to subscribers with this title: "A look behind The Record's big scoop."

The e-mail boasts:

"As you may know, The Record broke the big story this week linking Governor Christie's office to the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge."

Tip to Borg

The e-mail also provided a link to a Washington Post blog that relates Publisher Stephen A. Borg got a call in early September from a friend who complained, "It was taking me hours to get into New York," and that Borg told Editor Marty Gottlieb, who passed on the tip to the somnolent assignment desk.

Although The Record may have been first with news of the lane closures -- in an error-filled Road Warrior column -- it didn't come close to scooping other media on the e-mail exchange between a top Christie aide and his Port Authority crony, who set the closures into motion.

Times weighed in

On Wednesday morning, the Web sites of The New York Times and The Record broke the news at about the same time that Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly told David Wildstein, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

And The Times -- Gottlieb's former employer -- was first to report U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman has opened an inquiry into whether any laws were broken by the closures on Sept. 9-13, 2013.

Today, for the second day in a row, The Record devotes its entire front page to the fallout, Christie's 2-hour news conference in Trenton and his pilgrimage to Fort Lee to apologize to his supposed political nemesis, Mark Sokolich, the borough's Democratic mayor.

Looks guilty?

If I didn't know better, the Page 1 photo of Christie parting a sea of news photographers and cameramen looks a lot like a carefully orchestrated "perp walk," when crime suspects are paraded past the media.

But the two state troopers behind the GOP bully are his bodyguards, and I'm wondering if the butch one has trouble separating her duty to Christie and her feelings about his stance against gay marriage (A-1).

From many angles

Today's sidebars include a lame attempt by Columnist Mike Kelly to profile Bridget Anne Kelly, the aide Christie fired (A-7).

Still, the reporter fails to get what everyone wants to read, an interview with the Ramsey native, who was fired and who will forever be called "Bridge" for short.

Is he believable?

The Record even critiques Christie's performance in front of the national and state media (A-8), but nowhere is there a suggestion of what many observers have concluded:

Christie may have been lied to by Kelly and others, as he claims, but isn't it likely he also is lying about what he knew and when he knew it, as he has done so many times since he took office in January 2010?

Recall his lame explanations for breaking his 2009 campaign promise of a property tax cut, dismissing the only African-American on the state's highest court and failing to win $400 million in federal education funds.

Damage control

Today, Columnist Charles Stile, a well-known Christie apologist, traces the damage control evident in the GOP bully's Trenton press conference (A-1).

Stile concludes Christie "failed to come across as someone who is all that eager to get to the bottom of the fiasco."

An A-18 editorial that likely was written or edited by another Christie lover, Alfred P. Doblin, ends this way:

"The longer it takes to get that information [what happened and why], the greater the odds that the governor's apologies will fail to restore the luster of his reputation."


Despite all the coverage of Bridgegate today, The Record missed an obvious angle: 

Street closings and traffic gridlock in Fort Lee caused by Christie's visit to the Art Deco Borough Hall on Main Street, hounded by a media horde.

Today is also the first time we learn anything about Florence Genova, 91, the Fort Lee woman who died on Sept. 9, likely a victim of emergency response delayed by the Christie administration plot to tie up traffic in the borough (A-7).

Readers aren't surprised, being well acquainted with the laziness of Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza, who runs the local-news desk so ineptly.

Staff Writer Melissa Hayes' lead Page 1 story today refers to a traffic jam -- "the most Jersey of life's troubles" -- which has "threatened" Christie's "popularity and clout."

But readers have been disappointed for years by how Gottlieb, Sforza and Road Warrior John Cichowski ignore daily traffic gridlock in North Jersey, and the crying need for better mass transit to relieve it.

The ink wasn't dry on Cichowski's Wednesday column when events overtook him and made him sound like the babbling idiot he is reputed to be in the newsroom:


  1. Thanks for the laugh, Victor. What laugh, you ask? Really, I should be shedding a tear for the commuters of New Jersey, but you have to admit, it will be just a tad ironic when Cichowski wins the Pulitzer Prize for his scoop on the GWB and Gov. Christie.

    1. Cichowski will win the Pull It Sir, as Jerry DeMarco would say.

  2. Replies
    1. What do you base that on? The Times and The Record broke the story on the same day at around the same time.

    2. That's wrong. The Record was not beaten by the New York Times. The nYt even says so.

    3. I saw the same story on the two Web sites at around 10 in the morning. I didn't say The Times beat The Record, though the New York paper did have the U.S. attorney angle first.

    4. On Wednesday, as I was writing my post, I received an e-mail breaking news alert from The New York Times that the U.S. attorney for New Jersey would open an inquiry into the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, and I clicked on the link.

      The Times story said the newspaper has obtained e-mails linking Christie aides to the closure. I looked at The Record's Web site, and saw pretty much the same story with a posting time of 10:04 a.m.

      I continued writing, listened to Christie's news conference on National Public Radio and incorporated his comments into my post.

      That's my recollection.

      If The Record posted its story first, then it would be a "beat" in newspaper parlance, not a "scoop."

  3. Beat, shmeat, scoop, poop, tell that to the editors of Time when they make the Road Warrior its Person of the Year. :)


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