By VICTOR E. SASSON
Newspaper veterans rubbed their tired eyes today as they read of more drastic cuts in the news-gathering staff at The Star-Ledger, the onetime behemoth that once cast a shadow on The Record and every other newspaper in New Jersey.
The Woodland Park daily is reporting that 40 more jobs will be lost in The Star-Ledger's non-unionized newsroom, cutting the staff to 116, down from a high of 350 before the first buyouts in 2008 (A-1 and A-3).
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Star-Ledger, hit by the newspaper industry's nationwide drop in readership and advertising, claims a circulation of 167,600 daily, compared to 473,000 in 1993.
A total of 306 will be laid off at The Star-Ledger and other daily and weekly papers owned by Advance Publications Inc. in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and at the company's NJ.com Web site.
Advance plans to create a new company based in Woodbridge that will provide advertising, marketing and news content to The Star-Ledger, its other newspapers and its Web site.
Outsourcing news gathering is sort of like a school board outsourcing janitorial services:
Both deal with a lot of shit. At New Jersey newspapers, that takes the form of bullshit from Chris Christie, the GOP monster who has turned out to be state's worst governor.
The Star-Ledger has done a better job than most of seeing through Christie's bluster, and in February, the paper called its endorsement of his reelection "regrettable."
"...Yes, we blew this one," wrote Tom Moran, the former Record staffer who is now on The Star-Ledger's editorial board, mentioning both the Bridgegate and Sandy aid debacles.
The Record's story today is strangely silent on how the flagship North Jersey Media Group daily has weathered the downturn in the industry.
The Woodland Park daily has been hiding its circulation decline by issuing numbers that include the Herald News, which is called an "edition" of The Record.
After a major downsizing in 2008 and the abandonment of its Hackensack headquarters in 2009, many new reporters have been added, likely at much lower salaries than newsroom veterans.
But the merger of the NJMG daily papers' newsroom staffs in Woodland Park has resulted in a decline in the quality and quantity of local news; poor writing and editing, and a dramatic increase in errors.
Page 1 profiles
Three of today's Page 1 stories read like profiles:
Virginia Rohan's column on David Letterman, who announced his retirement from late-night TV; a story on Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, called "a mystery" in the headline; and an obituary for Vincent Lamberti, a Lever Bros. researcher who is called the "father of Dove soap," a synthetic compound (A-1).
I just skimmed the headlines and first few paragraphs of the column about Letterman, who will be missed by insomniacs, drunks who live in bars and The Record's long-suffering news and copy editors, who work late into the night putting out the error-filled paper.
Ditto for the long, boring story on Guadagno, a non-entity who was chosen as a running mate by Christie because she was a woman, had a pulse and wouldn't dare challenge the governor in anything.
Christie was already henpecked by his overweight wife, who later got him to kill the Hudson River rail tunnels because the connection to the New York City subway was too far for her to walk.
But I read and enjoyed every word of the Lamberti obituary, saying to myself, Now, that is a life well-lived, something I'm sure I will never say about Letterman, Christie or Guadagno.
The Record's Local section today has a follow-up on Polifly Towing, a Hackensack company that has been using city owned land rent free, but has been paid $20,613 for towing illegally parked vehicles in the past three years (L-1).
The Record has had nothing so far on whether there is a school-board election this month.
But today's edition of the weekly Hackensack Chronicle reports the school board has presented a proposed 2014-15 operating budget that raises taxes $116 for a home assessed at $240,329.
Neither paper has reported the ups and downs of the elevator at Hackensack High School, where the cafeteria is in the basement, and classes are held on upper floors.
The elevator was out of service for more than two months, until a new part was fabricated, but it continues to break down periodically, stranding disabled students and an athlete recovering from a broken leg.
Is any reader eager to dine at The Dog & Cask in Rochelle Park, where a "pathetic" 5.5-ounce burger was "cooked into oblivion," the toast with charcuterie was burnt, and cod and pasta were oversalted (BL-16)?
Elisa Ung, the dessert-obsessed reviewer, even hated three of the four artery clogging treats she sampled.
The poorly edited review describes the pub as "upscale ... with food that veers more fine dining," but a word is missing (data box on BL-16).
Leave it to Ung to find awful places to eat, then neglect to tell readers whether any of the meat served is grass-fed or raised naturally.
The Dog & Cask replaces Bistro 55, where former Food Editor Bill Pitcher was given a send-off several years ago.
If you eat at the new place now, good luck surviving the drunks in the parking lot or the ones racing by on Route 17.