Friday, February 28, 2014

To Christie and pals, we're all a bunch of outsiders

Today's Hackensack Chronicle reports that on Feb. 18, the mayor and council discussed forming a "snow committee," presumably to address buried bus stops, such as the one on Anderson Street, above, and two-way streets that allow only one car to pass, such as Euclid Avenue, near Main Street, below.


There's been a lull in the action since the explosive e-mail -- "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" -- blew open the investigation of George Washington Bridge lane closures and the resulting gridlock in early September.

Now, The Record reports on Page 1 today, newly released messages between Governor Christie's aide and his crony on the Port Authority make a New Jersey rabbi the butt of jokes.

No closer to truth

In August, Bridget Anne Kelly, then-Christie's deputy chief of staff, joked with then-Port Authority executive David Wildstein about causing "traffic problems" at the home of the rabbi, who is the Port Authority's police chaplain, and delaying flights to Tel Aviv.

Readers can plow through thousands of words in today's paper and come no closer to an understanding of whether Christie was aware members of his inner circle were using traffic and Sandy aide as tools to exact political revenge against Democrats.

Brigid Harrison, a political science professor and opinion columnist for The Record, is quoted today as saying the jokes again highlight "a culture of arrogance" that "reflects poorly on the Christie administration" (A-1).

We're outsiders

But the messages also reveal that everyone -- from Democratic mayors to middle-class property taxpayers in New Jersey -- have been treated as mere pawns in Christie's grand conservative scheme to wage class warfare.

In a letter to the editor on A-10 today, retired Paterson teacher Patricia Montalto of Little Falls decries Christie's continuing attacks on the pensions of public employees (A-1).

An editorial on A-10 today again demands that Christie call for the resignation of Port Authority Chairman David Samson -- a father figure to the GOP bully -- and all New Jersey commissioners.

"Christie needs to vent the same anger on ... people he put into power that he has at ordinary citizens who have done nothing more than to disagree with him at public forums," the editorial says.

Black church goers

Another Page 1 story today on a dramatic increase in the number of black church parishioners from Africa and the Caribbean is really old news.

The Church of God of Prophecy, a Jamaican-American congregation in Englewood, recently purchased the West Side Presbyterian Church on Demarest Avenue and other buildings, including one housing the Center for Food Action.

Hackensack news

In Hackensack news, The Record continues to report on the arrest during drug sweeps of Charles T. Williams, a convicted child rapist and murderer who may be linked to unsolved killings (L-1).

But at the Hackensack Chronicle, the big news is the possible formation of a "snow committee" in Hackensack.

The story quotes Mayor John Labrosse and interim City Manager Anthony Rotino, but both try mightily to avoid any suggestion the city's Department of Public Works did an awful job removing snow after a series of storms.

Barricaded bus shelters on Summit Avenue in Hackensack.

Euclid Avenue and Main Street in Hackensack after the nor'easter.

Blocked crosswalk at Anderson and Main streets (Sears).

How Hackensack talks

Rottino apparently was rewarded for his loyalty to the Citizens for Change reform slate that was swept into office last year, not for his command of the English language.

Rottino suggests snow removal could be "a little more organized."

But Labross takes the cake for dancing around the need to assess blame:

"When the storm is over and everything has calmed down, you go back and you do an evaluation of how you handled everything -- not to beat anybody up or to back breath down anybody, but to see what we can do better."

Come to think of it, the editors, reporters and the Road Warrior columnist at The Record also were reluctant to assign blame for sloppy snow removal and slow pothole repairs throughout North Jersey.

Ruining seafood

The Oceanaire Seafood Room, a glitzy mall restaurant in Hackensack, inexplicably gets a "Good" rating today from Staff Writer Elisa Ung, even though she calls a $54.95 steak "the biggest rip-off" (BL-16).

Scallops were "stringy," she says, not criticizing the addition of artery clogging cream and "huge chunks of heavenly bacon" ($41.95).

She found the colossal Thai shrimp "rigid," but doesn't say whether they were previously frozen ($38.95)

In another restaurant appraisal filled with poorly prepared food and mixed messages, Ung ends on an upbeat note, giving in to her obsession and praising the desserts.

In all the years she has been reviewing restaurants, the woman has learned nothing about how beef is raised.

She says the 20-ounce rib-eye she calls a rip-off had little flavor and loses points for not being aged or prime -- the fattiest cut.

Of course, it loses the most points for apparently not being raised completely on grass and without harmful animal antibiotics and growth hormones. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reporter wins Black Hole in Journalism Award

On Wednesday, Englewood police chose to close North Dean Street during the afternoon rush hour, above, further aggravating the city's well-known traffic congestion. Officials have refused to install turn lanes on North Dean at Palisade Avenue, arguing the city can't afford to lose revenue from the half-dozen downtown parking meters that would have to be removed or the paint needed to mark the pavement with lines and arrows.

In Hackensack, officials have decided to wait for the spring thaw to melt this snowbank, which prevents two cars from passing on two-way Euclid Avenue.


In Road Warrior John Cichowski's warped mind, the George Washington Bridge, state highways and shopping centers are "landmarks."

The slalom competition at the Olympics is a "ride," and cars can be seen "bobbing up and down as they approached highway queues."

Readers find all of this odd language today on Page 1 of The Record, which presents the addled reporter's annual "Black Hole Awards" for the worst potholes in North Jersey (A-1 and A-8).

The columnist who is famous for assembling his rantings and ravings from reader e-mails, state police surveys and reports tells readers in the second paragraph that he actually left the office for "first-hand ... observations."

The Black Hole in Journalism Award again goes to Cichowski for allowing facts to get swallowed up by his need to exaggerate, and for giving a pass to most municipal crews for all of the destructive potholes that haven't been filled.

Actually, the Tyson Trish photo with his column today should get an award for its nearly pavement-level perspective of potholes on Route 4, near Route 17 (A-1).

They both suck

If you think Cichowski's column sucks, check out Political Stile next to it on the front page (A-1).

It took Trenton reporter Charles Stile a full 24 hours to realize Governor Christie couldn't be more different than Mahatma Gandhi, whom the GOP bully quoted in his budget address on Tuesday.

Stile actually tracked down Gandhi's grandson, Arun Gandhi, who said, "Sometimes we refer to New Jersey as India's 29th province" (A-5).

Fender benders

For years, the local assignment editors used photos of fender benders to fill space that would otherwise remain empty.

Now, it seems, to make the paper the photo must show that a vehicle door was removed to free the driver, as in today's photo on L-3 and Wednesday's image on L-6, both by Staff Photographer Tariq Zehawi. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Christie plan freezes out commuters, taxpayers

A packed NJ Transit train heading for New York's Penn Station on Tuesday morning. Governor Christie isn't moving to improve or expand mass transit this year.

Property taxes keep going up in Hackensack and every other North Jersey community, but such services as the routine filling of potholes are seemingly neglected. Above, Euclid Avenue in Hackensack, near Summit Avenue.


A columnist and editorial writer for The Record are so busy interpreting and analyzing what Governor Christie said in his budget address on Tuesday that they completely lost sight of what he didn't say about property taxes, tolls and mass transit (A-1 and A-8).

For the fifth year in a row, Christie won't be lowering local property taxes, as he promised to do in his 2009 campaign.

Nor will he do anything about rising tolls, increasing traffic congestion and packed mass transit.

The economy, stupid

Job creation? Boosting tax revenue and funding the state Transportation Trust Fund? They are not on the GOP bully's agenda.

Today's coverage of the Christie budget plan is superficial at best (A-1, A-6, A-7 and L-3).

The biggest laugh line is Columnist Charles Stile noting that Christie is an "admirer of Ghandi" (A-6).

And Stile continues to struggle with his writing and standard cliches, as in:

"[Christie] didn't call for a broad-based tax cut -- a recognition, perhaps, that the proposal would probably get laughed out of the room."

Not the proposal. Christie would probably be laughed out of room, given the sad state of the New Jersey economy.

Hackensack news

The lead story on Page 1 today is Hackensack Police Director Mike Mordaga's continuing crackdown on quality of life crimes and violations, in this case, drug dealing (A-1).

Tara Sullivan's column at the bottom of the front page shows the media are intent on covering every athlete who declares he or she is gay, no matter how obscure.

These so-called journalists should ask themselves why fellow staffers who are gay fear coming out, lest they encounter employment discrimination, in Woodland Park and elsewhere.

Locals are yokels

The Record's Local news report today includes a dramatic photo of one truck rear ending another in Fort Lee that injured "at least one person" (L-6).

Congratulations to Staff Photographer Tariq Zehawi for this award-winning shot.

In his Sunday column, Road Warrior John Cichowski insisted on calling an obscure traffic circle in sleepy Franklin Lakes a "roundabout."

He also claimed a homeowner backing out of his driveway could see through shrubbery and trees and report on whether other drivers were stopping at a stop sign.

A concerned reader notes the homeowner could drive forward out of his driveway, but insists on the more dangerous maneuver of backing out:

"Unless this person has X-ray vision from his driveway entrance to the High Mountain Road stop line, which is blocked with multiple trees and dense shrubbery, he is not able to see whether cars stop while he is pulling out.
"What is even more outrageous is that his driveway is set up to allow him to turn around so he can more safely exit going forward. Yet, he has chosen for 50 years to back out, which is a much more dangerous maneuver."

See a link to a corrective e-mail to management and the editors on the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers: 

Road Warrior's exaggerations go round and round

Monday, February 24, 2014

Christie pal David Samson is the wolf at the door

The Record says Port Authority Chairman David Samson "has faced scrutiny in the wake of the scandal involving the September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge," above, in what is being called Bridgegate for short.


The Record publishes a detailed story today on the boom in public lobbying and legal work at David Samson's law firm after Governor Christie named him to the powerful post of Port Authority chairman.

The Page 1 account goes over a lot of the same ground as earlier reporting by New Jersey Public Radio (WNYC-FM).

Samson is head of Wolff & Samson, the West Orange law firm whose clients have included some of the biggest corporate names in New Jersey, plus NJ Transit, PSE&G and South Jersey Gas.

Samson, a former state attorney general, also was legal counsel to Christie's 2009 campaign and led the GOP bully's transition team.

Political arm

Now, he is helping turn the bi-state patronage mill known as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey into a political arm of the Christie administration.

If closing two of three local-access lanes to the bridge was payback to Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for reelection last year, the resulting gridlock sheds light on other administration decisions.

Middle-class commuters suffered when Christie killed the Hudson River rail tunnels, which would have been the biggest expansion of transit service in decades.

Christie grabbed leftover federal money held by NJ Transit and the Port Authority to repair roads in New Jersey, allowing him to keep his conservative pledge not to raise taxes, in this case the low gasoline tax.

Tolls and fees

And not only did Christie rubber-stamp huge toll hikes at the Port Authority's Hudson River crossings, he hasn't brought any pressure on the agency to expand its PATH commuter rail system or bus operations (A-11), despite increasing traffic congestion.

Expanding mass transit would ease traffic, but deny the Port Authority some of the crucial toll revenue that sustains the transportation behemoth, along with port and airport fees.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cowardly columnists, sloppy editing and potholes

A pothole on Euclid Avenue in Hackensack, where I haven't seen any crews repairing pockmarked streets that bend car wheels and blow out tires, and have drivers cursing their public officials.


Why is Columnist Charles Stile wasting readers' time today by examining what Governor Christie said as long ago as 2011, but never saying whether he thinks the GOP bully is lying about his role in the Bridgegate scandal?

That's what readers want from a columnist for The Record -- an opinion, a point of view, an accusation based on the seasoned Trenton reporter's experience dealing with public officials.

Instead, the best Stile can do is say "Christie's credibility -- and his career -- are in the shadow of a scandal" (A-1).

This "scandal" thing is a variation of what he wrote in his boring column on Friday: 

"Recast by scandal as a bully whose aides closed off part of the George Washington Bridge as a political revenge plot...." 

He's no Breslin

Of course, it's Stile's credibility that is on the line, along with the credibility of the paper's other columnists, including Road Warrior John Cichowski and Mike Kelly, who can't muster any strong opinions, either.

Instead of condemning municipal crews' half-assed job of snow removal and pothole repair in the region, Cichowski's column on Thursday delved into fantasy, based on a single driver's comment:

“'It seems like every street corner has snow piles up to the heavens, making it impossible to turn onto any street.'
"Yet," a concerned reader noted, "there were no reports of regionwide or local traffic gridlock, if it really was 'impossible to turn onto any street.'
"The Road Warrior’s column predicted that 'current accumulations are likely to keep streets narrow and dangerous for weeks' due to freezing temperatures, even though four straight days of temperatures in the 50s and three days of rain would melt a lot of the snow."

See the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers by clicking on the following link:

Road Warrior puts up factual roadblocks 

Good for transit

What is the big deal about leasing a North Bergen park-and-ride lot to NJ Transit for $1 a year, even if the agency was a client of lawyer David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority (A-1 on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and today)?

NJ Transit is the state's mass-transit agency -- not a profit-making company -- and in giving up $900,000 in revenue from the lot in 2012, the Port Authority was, in effect, making a contribution to the viability of public transit and helping to ease traffic congestion.

The bi-state agency is supported by fees and tolls, not taxes, and operates the PATH commuter rail system, owns hundreds of buses used by NJ Transit and others, and runs the reverse express bus lane into the Lincoln Tunnel.

No question

Today's Page 1 story by Staff Writer Shawn Boburg actually reports Samson "has been the focus of questions about whether clients of his law firm benefited from his public position."


Weeks ago, National Public Radio (WNYC-FM) reported lobbying and legal work boomed at Samson's law firm after Christie named him chairman of the Port Authority.

Those clients know a good thing when they see it -- their lawyer at the pinnacle of power.  

Wasting our time

The front of Local today carries another Road Warrior column -- this one about drivers who run  stop signs at a traffic circle in the Bergen County backwater of Franklin Lakes (L-1).

Drivers run stop signs everywhere. Why waste an entire column on this spot? 

What about an epidemic of speeding and aggressive driving, and the dramatic decline in the enforcement of traffic laws on highways and in many towns.

Why not report on Hackensack Police Director Mike Mordaga's crackdown on traffic violations? 

Sloppy editing

Also on the Local front today is a beautifully written local obituary for Sidney Kronish, who lived to 101, with an inexplicable flaw in the first paragraph:

"Rozanne Zweig addressed the mourners as she stood aside [italics added] her boyfriend's simple pine coffin."

Shouldn't that be "beside" or "next to" the coffin? Where were the assignment, news and copy editors who went over this obituary? Were they asleep at their computers?

Silence is golden

On the Opinion front, Carl Golden, a former Record reporter who was press secretary to two Republican governors, discusses the stresses of a job now held by Mike Drewniak, Governor Christie's discredited chief spokesman (O-1).

Golden doesn't explain why Drewniak, a former Star-Ledger reporter in Trenton, has such a foul mouth or why he cursed and belittled former colleagues who were looking into the Bridgegate scandal.

Drewniak has laid low in the weeks since his expletive-filled e-mails emerged, and no one has reported whether it is a coincidence his last name rhymes with "maniac."

Jets v. residents

The Business front cover story on increased private-jet activity at Teterboro Airport is a royal F.U. to residents of Teaneck, Hackensack and other towns who are kept awake by all of those noisy planes (B-1).

Nor does it report that Chairman Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg is the filthy rich co-owner of one of the unregulated private jets that seem to be screaming overhead day and night. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Are Trenton reporter, columnist covering same event?

The NJ Transit transfer station in Secaucus is a pleasant place to wait for a train, but it loses points for not having one of those grand railroad clocks. Instead, small, hard-to-read digital time displays appear in the corners of four boards displaying train schedules and tracks.


Readers who plowed through two versions of Governor Christie's first town meeting in a while may have thought they were at two different events.

Staff Writer Melissa Hayes and Columnist Charles Stile of The Record were assigned to "a town-hall-style" meeting in Middletown, where Christie was blasted by residents who have so far been screwed out of Superstorm Sandy aid.

Sloppy editing

But Friday's news story and column clashed on important details and left out the best Christie quote -- on his seemingly slow weight loss since lap-band surgery a year ago (A-1 and A-6). 

Hayes' news stories on Christie read like columns -- where a reporter is encouraged to express a point of view -- and she has shown herself to be an unabashed admirer of the GOP bully.

Her Page 1 story on Friday begins like a column, and in the third paragraph, she asserts Christie was welcomed in Middletown "with a standing ovation and applause."

Stile, the columnist, sounds more like a reporter writing a news story, always careful to put criticism of Christie in someone else's mouth, beginning his report this way:

"Recast by scandal as a bully whose aides closed off part of the George Washington Bridge as a political revenge plot...." 

Recast by scandal, not by Stile (Friday's A-6).

Hearing problems

But later Stile completely contradicts fellow staffer Hayes, reporting:

"Christie was given a warm applause, but not the rousing ovations he normally receives."

"A warm applause"???

Earlier, Stile said, "The crowd lustily applauded" a Sea Bright man who confronted Christie about his use of private contractors to handle storm recovery, "not Christie."

Do we attribute this factual contradiction to The Record's famously inept editing -- on the assignment, news and copy desks?

If you are going to assign a reporter and columnist to the same event, make sure the same set of editors go over the results, if for no other reason than to get the two staffers to at least agree on basic facts.

Assignment problem?

And maybe Editor Marty Gottlieb should rethink his practice of sending columnists to cover news stories and spin endless pieces on Christie's image, presidential potential and politics, while ignoring the impact of his policies on state residents.

The GOP governor's corrosive politics reach into high places, including the Port Authority and NJ Transit, and hurt residents in myriad ways; Christie's politics shouldn't intrude into the Woodland Park newsroom.

And what's the explanation for Friday's news story and column omitting Christie's answer to why he doesn't seem to be losing that much weight:

"Rome wasn't unbuilt in a day," the governor answered, according to HBO satirist Bill Maher.

Christie comparing himself to Rome? That's rich.

Silver Spoon factor

You know multimillionaire Publisher Stephen A. Borg is running things on the Editorial  Page when the paper reacts to the state's record $40 billion debt by calling on legislators and Christie "to put away the credit card."

There is no mention in Friday's editorial on A-18 about a tax surcharge on millionaires -- which Christie has vetoed time and again -- or raising the state's low gasoline tax to pay for road repairs and mass transit.

The editorial notes Christie has borrowed "about $875 million" for transportation projects.

More snow jobs

A letter to the editor Friday praised Tenafly Mayor Peter Rustin for operating a plow and clearing a resident's driveway after last week's nor'easter.

Residents of Hackensack and many other North Jersey communities could have used the help of their mayors, but instead were left at the mercy of incompetent Departments of Public Works.

The editors, who have short attention spans, quickly ended their focus on uncleared sidewalks, crosswalks, bus stops, streets and highways -- which endanger drivers and pedestrians.

Today's paper carries a Page 1 story on uncleared fire hydrants.

Today's front page also is dominated by Ukrainians in North Jersey (A-1) -- hardly a local story, when compared to residents who pay high property taxes and get such shoddy service from their so-called public servants during snowstorms.

Wrong editor

On Friday's A-2, the correction of a wrong phone number published in the paper shows six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton has failed to drill a basic lesson into her copy editors:

If a story includes a phone number -- such as the Wednesday's elaborate Better Living piece on the Institute for Learning in Retirement at Bergen Community College -- the copy editor should call the number to make sure it is correct.

When I worked as a copy editor at The Record, I caught a wrong phone number in a restaurant review filed by a freelancer, and she was fired by the food editor.

Given the hundreds of errors that have appeared in The Record under Houlton's watch -- including in the famously flawed Road Warrior column -- she should be the one fired now.


Dhoom in Secaucus, an Indian restaurant on that speedway called Route 3, is, well, doomed to failure.

I continue to wonder how Staff Writer Elisa Ung can give a "good" rating to a kitchen that prepared a $36 order of tandoori lamb chops and served them "mushy" and "almost unrecognizable as meat," or a $36 lobster dish that "emerged tough and stringy" (Friday's BL-14).

She also accomplishes nothing by telling readers the lamb chops are from Colorado, when she should be saying whether they were naturally raised.

And you'll forgive me for noting that photos of two dishes she liked, cooked spinach with cheese and lentil stew, look more like something you'd encounter in a public toilet, not at a pricey restaurant.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

For commuters, no real change at NJ Transit

A bus broke down this morning in the Route 495 express lane to the Lincoln Tunnel, delaying commuters aboard hundreds of Manhattan-bound buses, above, including NJ Transit riders standing in the aisles. The Port Authority has ignored calls to add a second express bus lane into the city, and The Record's lazy editors and reporters have taken no notice.


Dozens of commuters who couldn't find a seat on an NJ Transit train between Secaucus and New York's Penn Station were probably cursing Jim Weinstein on Wednesday morning.

Weinstein announced he will be leaving his job as executive director of NJ Transit on March 2, The Record reported on Wednesday (A-1).

But Weinstein, who is another of Governor Christie's many cronies, failed in his job long before Superstorm Sandy, when hundreds of rail cars and locomotives were destroyed, and the Super Bowl, when thousands of fans waited hours for trains.

Ignoring commuters

For years -- in a story The Record has never bothered to tell -- NJ Transit has been unable to provide a rush-hour seat for every commuter or guarantee their on-time arrival.

Why The Record's editors and reporters immediately went to bat for Super Bowl fans after years of ignoring North Jersey commuters is a question only the Woodland Park newsroom can answer.

The assignment editors and reporters don't seem to think they have anything in common with their readers who commute by bus or train.

In fact, Editor Marty Gottlieb and his many underlings appear to have contempt for readers who use mass transit, judging by the lack of coverage in the paper, especially in the Road Warrior column.

Drivers engage in the daily ritual of crawling down Route 495 to the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel. This morning, a trip by car from Clifton to lower Manhattan took an agonizing 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Sky high salaries

Weinstein is being paid "upward of $261,000 a year," compared to Christie's $175,000, The Record reported.

He will be replaced at NJ Transit by Ronnie Hakim, another one of the governor's many cronies, who is in line for a $90,00o raise when she leaves the New Jersey Turnpike Authority -- by far the most expensive toll road in the tri-state area.

She now gets $174,000-a-year as executive director of the authority, which also runs the Garden State Parkway.

Early Alzheimer's

Meanwhile, Road Warrior John Cichowski finally emerges from hibernation to report on the challenges in the wake of last Thursday's nor'easter, which dropped 12 inches to 18 inches of snow on North Jersey (A-1 today).

The befuddled Cichowski doesn't have the courage to criticize state and municipal snow-removal crews for the half-assed job they did of clearing streets and highway ramps, and repairing potholes.

I also don't see any mention in his column today of pedestrians forced to put themselves in harm's way by walking in the street because of sidewalks and crosswalks still buried under snow.

The idiotic editors run a Page 1 photo today that tells readers nothing about the dangers of merging into high-speed traffic on highways when a mound of snow blocks the driver's vision or the acceleration lane suddenly disappears.

The mound of snow in the image blocks the view of the photographer (!!!), not the driver of the van shown merging onto Route 17 north in Upper Saddle River (A-1). 

Asylum's inmates

A news story and column on Page 1 today are about David Samson, the head of a powerful law firm who Christie named chairman of the patronage mill also known as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Check out the dated, unflattering column photo of Mike Kelly, whose shit-eating grin seems to undermine just about anything he has to say (A-1).

Burned-out Columnists Kelly and Cichowski appear to be just two of the patients in the newsroom's asylum.

A homeless man on the No. 2 train in Manhattan today had two hand trucks loaded with his belongings.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cheering our Olympians, booing Christie the bully

Hackensack's Department of Public Works removed tons of snow from city streets, above and below, but left a lot behind, covering travel lanes and burying bus stops.


Governor Christie's old chums are coming out of the woodwork, though there isn't much of that at the Fort Lee end of the George Washington Bridge.

Text messages apparently leaked by state investigators reveal that Port Authority police Lt. Thomas "Chip" Michaels, who grew up with Christie, gave agency bigwig, David Wildstein, a tour of "the traffic" during early September lane closures, The Record reports today.

Wildstein, who went to high school with Christie, is the onetime Port Authority crony who ordered the politically inspired access-lane closures after getting an e-mail from the governor's deputy chief of staff, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

The latest report on the Bridgegate probe appears on Page 1 today, alongside all of the flag waving for the first Americans to win gold in Olympics ice dancing (A-1).

More wasted space

Boy, look at all of that wasted space on Christie's $650-an-hour lawyer, Randy Mastro, walking "a fine line" (A-1) 

Mastro is conducting an "internal" probe of the Governor's Office, as well as defending Christie against charges of political retribution in Fort Lee and Hoboken, both with Democratic mayors.

It's fitting Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer told Mastro to go to hell. 

Taxpayers are footing Mastro's inflated hourly rate, and readers are paying for Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson's ponderous discussion, which is more suited for a law school class.

At Euclid Avenue and Main Street in Hackensack, half a lane is better than none.

Holly Golightly

At least one Republican on the panel probing the lane closures is engaging in unfortunate hyperbole.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi of River Vale claims, "We are starting to reach grassy-knoll type of conspiracy theories" (A-6).

Why invoke the Kennedy assassination?

Delayed report 

The lead story on the Local front -- "Hospital begins $90M expansion" -- is appearing months after construction started at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, as the photo of extensive steel work shows (L-1).

To fill out the pathetically thin local report, Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza ordered his layout editor to blow up a chimney fire photo from Mahwah (L-3).

Holes in head

Sforza could have assigned a reporter to find out whether towns in Bergen and Passaic counties are repairing potholes. 

No such repairs have taken place in Hackensack, which is playing catch-up with snow removal, and traffic is slowed by potholes and streets narrowed by mounds of ice and snow, including such major thoroughfares as Essex Street.

Instead, Editor Marty Gottlieb ran a pothole-repair story from The Star-Ledger that doesn't discuss a single town in The Record's circulation area (A-3).

On Anderson Street, snow buries a bus stop.

More head holes

In his Friday and Sunday columns, Road Warrior John Cichowski wildly exaggerated the prevalence of "roof snow," and questioned why police are issuing so few summonses. 

A concerned reader notes in an e-mail to editors and managers at The Record:
"The Road Warrior repeatedly lamented the low amount of police ticketing of the supposed widespread problem with vehicles carrying snow and ice, even though I and many others that I have spoken to generally see maybe 1% of vehicles carrying snow a day after a storm.
"Maybe one of the major reasons why police are issuing so few tickets for snow/ice on vehicles in comparison to other violations is because there are much, much fewer violators of that statute in comparison to daily violators for other New Jersey road statutes."

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

More snow jobs from the Road Warrior

A real yawner

If you read the debut story carefully, you'll learn that Jimmy Fallon of "The Tonight Show" tapes his farce early, meaning only insomniacs, drunks and the poor schmucks stuck working nights in The Record's newsroom actually stay up to watch, as was the case for David Letterman and Jay Leno (A-1 and BL-1).

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sloppy writing, editing drag down daily report

The Modern, a 47-story residential building under construction in Fort Lee, overlooks three local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge at the center of the Bridgegate scandal. 


Stories on Page 1 of The Record continue to be poorly written and edited.

You'd think the front-page would get the most attention from assignment and news editors, copy editors and proofreaders, but A-1 today exhibits more sloppy journalism.

And it's not just the Monday editions, which are put out by a relatively smaller newsroom staff.

In today's story on the possible replacement of NJ Transit chief Jim Weinstein, he is described as "a low talker" in the first paragraph or "lede" in newspaper parlance (A-1).

The lede of a news story or column should sparkle, but this one is just puzzling.


Later in the same paragraph, we learn Weinstein "had been steeped in nearly two decades of political and public service" -- like tea, I guess.

Then, the reporter tells us, Governor Christie "hoisted" Weinstein "to the helm of NJ Transit."

You'd hoist a dead body with ropes and pulleys, but I imagine Weinstein was elevated to or appointed executive director of the state mass-transit agency.

In the second paragraph, the word "tunnel" was dropped: "... constructing a commuter rail under the Hudson River."

Two tunnels

Once you plow through all of these errors (actually, the project was to build two tunnels), the reporter gets to the point: 

Weinstein backed Christie's decision to kill the Hudson River rail tunnels as a "loyal foot soldier, laying aside his own interests to deliver the orders of his boss."

This story, as well as all of the accounts about the Port Authority and the Bridgegate scandal, are nibbling at a single theme, which WNYC-FM (New Jersey Public Radio) has been exploring in recent weeks:

NJ Transit and the Port Authority have become political arms of the Christie administration.

Syrian refugees

In a second Page 1 story today, the reporter says Syrian refugees in North Jersey hear "horror stories" about "sons executed before their fathers" (A-8).

Does she mean "in front of" their fathers? 

The Port

Today and Sunday, The Record has been reporting on the possible involvement of Port Authority police officers in the George Washington Bridge lane closures (A-1).

Two news reports on Sunday raised "new questions about whether some officers at the bridge knew of the political motivations behind the lane closures" -- to punish Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for not endorsing the GOP bully for reelection, the paper reports today (A-1).

But on Jan. 17, I spoke to an employee of Babe's Taxi in Fort Lee who said he complained to a Port Authority police officer about the resulting gridlock and was told to send "a letter to Governor Christie."

The exit for the taxi company's garage is on Hudson Street, which provides three access lanes to the bridge's upper- level toll plaza. 

On A-8, a story on a journalism award to Staff Writer Shawn Boburg for his GWB stories ignores how little reporting he has done on the Port Authority's refusal to expand mass transit amid increasing traffic congestion.

Harvy Lipman

Non-profit news appears in the Local section today (L-3), but the reporter who covered the beat since 
2006 died "last week" at 63, the Woodland Park daily reported on Feb. 12 (L-6).

Harvy Lipman was hired after Publisher Stephen A. Borg directed the editors to create a beat to cover charities and news of non-profits.

If Lipman accomplished nothing else, he will be remembered for his June 2012 article, "Hardship Grows Amid Wealth" -- about how the recession "had left pockets of poverty in wealthy communities in North Jersey."

Lipman recounted "the experiences of people who made good livings and had risen through the middle class to obtain enough wealth to live in such communities as Mahwah and Ramsey, only to find themselves jobless, with depleted retirement accounts and living on food stamps," his obituary noted.

The article is all the more remarkable because it was written for The Record, where the editors have seemed completely undisturbed by Christie's assault on New Jersey's middle class or no-tax policies that have wrecked the state's economy.