Friday, April 4, 2014

Another sad day for New Jersey journalism

Will The Record's coverage of the Christie administration's politically inspired George Washington Bridge lane closures in Fort Lee, above, win the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize, the highest achievement in journalism? Prizewinners and nominated finalists will be announced April 14 at Columbia University in Manhattan.


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 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.

Second thoughts

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. 

Hackensack news

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. 

Dog food

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.


  1. It is a shame the rail tunnel into NYC was squashed by Christie. There are major bus delays when there are problems with the express bus lane at the Lincoln Tunnel and as you frequently point out, major lines at Port Authority. If Christie has no vision to help solve the region's transportation problems, it is inconceivable how he can be seriously considered a presidential candidate.

  2. I agree. He falls short on so many issues important to our region; who would want someone like that running the country?

  3. Lets not forget the fact that NJMG employees are reading Eye on the Record and are discovering how evel the Borg family is with there corrupt business practices and how they bully there employees. No one is working hard for this family,can you blame them. Mr. Sasson what kind of feedback do you get about how many employees of NJMG read your Blog? Thanks

    1. I am sure it is widely read, but not on company computers, which would unleash the wrath of Jennifer Borg, who has her goons monitoring the use of newsroom phones and computers.

  4. Wow! evel? there?

    let us see: star ledger circling the drain with three pulitzers. the record no so.

    this column is better than the comics, agreed

  5. You might ask about lessons in written English, which you haven't mastered.

  6. You state as fact Jon Hanson is Mac Borg's "best friend" with no way of knowing if this is in fact the situation?

  7. A pest-control company tried to advertise by sending a comment to me. I am waiting for an editor-control company to do the same before I post anything.


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