Sunday, November 30, 2014

Readers search in vain for opinion on Christie nastiness

Peace banners in downtown Teaneck are signed "Cedar Lane Management Group," an entity I haven't seen discussed in The Record's comprehensive Local news section. The longstanding eyesore at Cedar Lane and River Road -- an abandoned gas station joined recently by a shuttered diner -- could use some "management."


Does Husni Mubarak run an Egyptian grocery store in Paterson's Middle Eastern bazaar? 

If not, what is his photo doing on the front page of a North Jersey daily newspaper? 

Friction between President Obama and the Defense Department (A-1)? 

How does that explain why my taxes are so high in Hackensack, where hundreds of millions of dollars in property owned by non-profits generates nothing.

Even the seemingly local story on an "immigrant" involves a school in Lahore, Pakistan, and a wealthy supporter of Governor Christie's (A-1).

Welcome to the Sunday suburban edition of The New York Times, where onetime cub reporter Marty Gottlieb made his mark before returning to The Record as editor nearly three years ago.

Chief word pusher

At first glance, Mike Kelly's Page 1 piece today appears to promise a strong opinion on Christie's bluster and nasty behavior when confronted by critics -- the kind of opinion readers seek from a columnist (A-1).

But readers are disappointed, and many are wondering why this column is displayed so prominently, if it's nothing more than the usual he said/she said any reporter could assemble.

Today's column goes a long way toward explaining why Kelly has spent more than 20 years merely pushing words around.

He could have said the GOP bully's "Jersey style" and channeling Tony Soprano are two big negatives the Garden State tries to live down, not promote.

Kelly could have said Christie is far from presidential, and his attacks on Democrats and liberal use of vetoes give a lie to his claim of being a compromiser.

No backbone

Readers find a second Kelly column, this one on "the lessons" of Ferguson, that seems to be the reporter's subtle way of promoting a book he wrote on the shooting of a black teenager by a white Teaneck police officer "more than two decades ago" (O-1).

But this column is poorly edited, and I can't find the actual date on which then-Police Officer Gary S. Spath shot Phillip Pannell, or whether Spath was tried on a charge of reckless manslaughter mentioned in a photo caption.

Also, you'd expect Kelly to say little progress has been made on holding white police officers accountable for using lethal force against black teenagers.

But, again, he's just pushing words around, this time on the front of the Opinion section.

'Local' wedding

The Local front today devotes more space to Snooki's wedding than to demonstrations seeking justice in Ferguson (L-1).

There is also a really boring Road Warrior column on blocked intersections in Little Ferry that are easily avoid by using Grand Avenue to reach Ridgefield (L-1).

You won't find any stories about Hackensack, Teaneck or Englewood.

A house fire that killed two cats in Ridgewood has more information in it than did a photo caption on Jennifer Pechko, 43, a Kinnelon woman killed in a two-car accident on Thanksgiving (L-3).

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Clueless editors ignore dark side of low gasoline prices

Low gasoline prices may seem like a great development, but they bring with them many negatives, such as discouraging commuters from using mass transit and encouraging some drivers to hold onto their gas guzzlers.


Today's upbeat Page 1 story on low gasoline prices could have been written by the automobile dealers who advertise so heavily in The Record.

There is nothing here on how cheap fuel encourages more driving and aggravates air pollution and traffic congestion. 

There is nothing on how low gas prices discourage drivers from trading in their gas guzzlers for a more fuel-efficient car, as Joseph Christ did (A-1).

Sales of hybrid and emissions-free electric cars fall with falling gasoline prices, and bus and rail commuters may decide to start driving again and fight those colossal traffic jams.

Piecemeal correction

On A-2 today, the editors finally got around to correcting a second error in Thursday's A-12 photo caption.

A drowsy copy editor misreported on which hand Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr. wore bracelets from a cancer patient and used to make his celebrated touchdown catch.

"It was his right hand," the correction notes, stating what was plainly visible to readers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Correction fixes only one of three errors in Page 1 story

This store on Main Street in Hackensack may have been called "Young Forever," but it didn't manage to stay in business forever.


The Page 1 story focused on what "many called the greatest catch they had ever seen," but in newspaper parlance, no one "caught" three glaring editing errors.

The headline over Thursday's front-page story by sports writer Art Stapleton was missing a coma:

'The Catch' a moment they'll share forever
Giant's bracelets from a friend fighting cancer

The other errors were on the continuation page, both in the caption under the photo of Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr. (A-12).

Beckham was misidentified, and the caption writer said the bracelets were on his left hand, when readers could see clearly they were on the athlete's right hand.

Today, on A-2 of The Record, a correction fixes only one of those screw-ups, the one that called the pro football player "David Beckham Jr."

'Good catch'?

"Good catch" is a phrase that once was heard frequently in The Record newsroom, where a supervisor would commend a copy editor or other staffer for catching an error before it got into the paper.

I doubt that phrase is even uttered any more since Liz Houlton has proven so inadequate in the six-figure job of production editor and supervisor of the news and layout editors, copy editors and page proofers -- the staffers who see stories before they go to press and write headlines and captions.

'Stop the presses'

The Record's presses are in Rockaway and the newsroom is in Woodland Park.

So, I'm guessing from the seemingly endless stream of errors, inaccurate headlines and other screw-ups in recent years, no one in the newsroom actually reads the first copies, shouts "Stop the presses!" and tries to make corrections.

If they do, what is the explanation for this latest example of sloppy editing in yet another story on the paper's most important page?

No distractions

And when errors like the ones in the Odell Beckham story are made, it doesn't help that readers see them immediately, because the rest of the front page is so dreadful.

Look at Thursday's tedious column from the pompous Mike Kelly, whose lame writing about Thanksgiving could put you to sleep even before you ate turkey.

Believe it or not, this was his second paragraph in a column that led the paper:

"Yes. Thanksgiving is generally a food-focused holiday, with countless tables crammed with turkey and all manner of vegetables and pies, and relatives and friends flocking to our front doors."

"Countless" and "all manner"? Kelly sounds like a blithering idiot.

Money talks

Thanksgiving shoppers at the malls dominate the front page today -- payback to the paper's biggest advertisers (A-1).

I noticed that the majority of the bargain hunters in photos on A-1 are white and Asian, and the majority of needy people enjoying free holiday meals on L-1 are black.

Drive-by journalism

In the Local-news section, L-3 is dominated by a large photo of a two-car crash on Route 287 south that killed one of the drivers, a 43-year-old woman from Kinnelon.

Was Jennifer Pechko a mother, daughter, aunt? Was she on her way to a Thanksgiving dinner? What caused the accident? Was the other driver charged?

You won't find any of the answers, because no one who worked the holiday -- from the photographer to the assignment editor to the supervisor of the copy desk -- gave a shit that this woman died unexpectedly on the highway.

To them, her death is merely a photo op.

The photo caption at the bottom of the same page doesn't say whether the turkey a Paramus homeowner was deep frying before his house caught fire ended up at the local food bank (L-3).

Pricey restaurant

Reading Staff Writer Elisa Ung's review of Houston's, an upscale restaurant in Hackensack's premier mall, I finally realize why I never ate there in all the years I've worked and lived in that city (BL-16).

Two crab cakes go for $37, and really don't look better than the half-dozen we buy at Costco Wholesale for $21.99.

"A flagrantly high $16" for spinach dip. A veggie burger for $19. Filet mignon for $49. 

She has been doing this cushy gig for seven or eight years, with all of her meals paid for by The Record.

Ung seems to be saying the only reason she tried Houston's is that the name came up most "when I talk to people in the restaurant business about where they eat out or the places they admire."

Maybe next week she'll write about a restaurant that isn't patronized by wealthy restaurant owners and chefs who have money to burn.

Or, she could have told readers they could assemble a reasonably priced dinner, if they stuck to the $7 kale salad, which she called "addictive," and one or two of the potato and vegetable side dishes.

And if you can persuade the restaurant to serve you the whole br0nzino, the $27 fish could be shared by two easily. 


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Big Turkey awards from 'Eye on The Record'

Construction or reconstruction continued on Tuesday in front of Starbucks Coffee in Hackensack, which is on the ground floor of the Alfred N. Sazari Medical Arts Building at 360 Essex St. Let's hope the doctors in the building have a better record than the company that built the sidewalks and parking lot, which seem to need repair every couple of years. The garage in another Sanzari medical building across Summit Avenue was closed for more than a year while repairs were made.

Editor's note: My copy of The Record was delivered about three hours late this morning, and weighed more than 4 pounds. Most of that was advertising, and the news, features and sports sections weighed only about 7 ounces. Today, I present Big Turkey awards to the paper's staff. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers.


The first Big Turkey award goes to the biggest tom in the newsroom, Editor Marty Gottlieb, who seems intent on putting out a suburban edition of The New York Times, where he had a long, successful career.

That can be seen almost every day in front pages that mix soft and hard news; and international, national, state and local stories.

Page 1 stories and columns also have gotten longer in the style of The Times -- way too long, in many cases -- but the quality of the editing has declined dramatically

Gottlieb gets a second Big Turkey award for not cleaning house after he took over in January 2012 nor taking away column-writing duties from burned-out Staff Writers Mike Kelly, John Cichowski, Charles Stile, Bill Ervolino and other toms, each of whom get their own award.

Haggard hen

Production Editor Liz Houlton also gets a Big Turkey award for all of the serious errors that routinely appear in Cichowski's Road Warrior column -- and are never corrected -- as well as all of the corrections published on Page A-2.

The news editors, copy editors and page proofers under her supervision miss too many screw-ups to be taken seriously, and the paper's credibility suffers as a result.

Houlton also can be faulted for continuing to use outdated thumbnail photos for some of the columnists, including Kelly, whose unflattering shit-eating grin can be seen on Page 1 today.

Assignment turkeys

Head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, get Big Turkey awards for using the police blotter, court news and non-fatal accident and fire photos as crutches to fill pages that should have more local news on them.

The Record of Woodland Park is doing a better job of covering Hackensack, but not in identifying many critics of the current City Council as those who were thrown out of power and lost patronage in 2013.

Trenton turkeys

Stile, Staff Writer Melissa Hayes and other members of the Trenton staff each get Big Turkey awards for channeling Governor Christie, including his Reform Agenda, Jersey Comeback and Stronger Than the Storm public relations campaigns.

How many stories and columns on Christie's politics and his chances to win the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 are readers expected to stomach? 

In the process, these reporters and their editors have irresponsibly ignored how Christie rules by vetoes and bullying, not by the compromise he claims, and how he has wrecked the state economy. 

Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin also gets a Big Turkey award for using mass transit, but not blasting Christie for policies that have increased traffic congestion and tolls, and hurt train and bus service. 

Plump food hen

Staff Writer Elisa Ung gets a Big Turkey award -- this one pumped full of the harmful animal antibiotics she routinely ignores -- for her split personality.

As chief restaurant reviewer, her Friday columns are supposed to critically evaluate restaurants, but she devotes too many of her Sunday columns to promote wealthy owners and chefs who advertise in the paper.

(The Record's 2015 Dine Out Guide to local restaurants was produced by the advertising department, and the 72 glossy pages included only advertisers.)

The Corner Table column Ung writes should be renamed, if she isn't going to get serious about fighting for consumers on such issues as tipping, low food quality and high wine markup. 

Food Editor Esther Davidowitz and freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson each get a Big Turkey award for unhealthy weekly recipes that recommend large quantities of artery clogging butter and heavy cream.

Stephen A. Borg

Publisher Stephen A. Borg gets a Big Turkey award for allowing news coverage that promotes the fortunes of his biggest advertisers, including mall and highway retailers.

In the process, North Jersey Media Group and The Record abandoned Hackensack in 2009 and virutally ended coverage of that city's downtown, as well as other struggling Main Streets in Teaneck and Englewood.

The year before, Borg also enriched himself at the expense of employees, who were hit by the biggest downsizing in company history only months after he used an NJMG mortgage to buy a $3.65 million McMansion in Tenafly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Breaking news: Columnist reveals pigs are 'child-bearing'

One of the liveliest streets in downtown Hackensack is Banta Place, above and below, a single block between State and Main streets. On Main Street, opposite Banta Place, a developer plans to turn an old bank building into apartments.


Did Columnist Charles Stile actually write on the front page of The Record today that breeding pigs are confined to metal gestation crates for most of "their child-bearing lives"?

Yes, as unbelievable as that might seem.

The phrase is in the very first paragraph of his column about Governor Christie's expected veto of a bill that would ban the practice in New Jersey.

With his sights set on the White House, the GOP bully already vetoed the bill once before, so what is the point of today's column (A-1)?

Since 2010, Christie has shown as much regard for the middle and working classes in New Jersey as he has for pregnant pigs.

First Family

Maybe, Christie's piggish behavior and his overweight wife remind Stile of breeding pigs, given that their children are overweight, too.

Did nobody at the newspaper notice the words "child-bearing lives" in Stile's lead paragraph? 

Did anyone proof the front page before the paper went to press in far-off Rockaway Township?

Do Editor Martin Gottlieb, Stile's assignment editor, a copy editor and the copy editor's supervisor -- all of whom presumably read and edited the column -- think pigs have children?

Of course, Stile is not about to tell readers anything about the brutal practice of confining pigs to gestation crates.

For that you'll have to look at this video:

Crammed into gestation crates

Road hog

The editors put another pig on the front page today -- a 1962 Chrysler Newport, a shining example of the unsafe behemoths America produced when gas was really cheap.

In view of the climate-change crisis, you'd think The Record would praise a student who walked or biked to his high school or drove a gas-electric hybrid or all-electric car there.

Why haven't any of those students been on Page 1?

Here, Anthony Di Liberto, 17, of New Milford gets a lot of ink for driving a 2-ton car that probably doesn't get 10 mpg on premium and pollutes like crazy (A-1).

Hackensack news

Staff Writer Todd South, the reporter assigned to cover Hackensack, actually attended Tuesday night's City Council meeting, and makes a reference to the Nov. 10 meeting he didn't report (L-2).

But South is still keeping readers in the dark on the identity of "members of the public" whose repeated attacks have prompted officials to propose an ordinance to foster "civility and respect between the governing body and its very vocal critics."

Surely, South knows Richard Salkin, who is quoted extensively in today's story, is the attorney for the city's Board of Education, but he doesn't identify him as such.

Nor does South tell readers Salkin has a very sharp ax to grind: 

The former double dipper is an ally of the losing slate in the May 2013 election, and he was fired as municipal prosecutor by the new City Council.

Officers praised

South did a second story, reporting on the restraint shown by Hackensack Police Officers Edmund Meneses and Allan DeLeon when confronted by John Wolf, a suspect described in the story as "a 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound black man with a knife" who wanted police to kill him (L-2).

With Ferguson all over the front page and other recent instances of New York City police killing black suspects, why wasn't this story on Page 1 today?

Oh, that's right, there wouldn't have been room for another column boosting the White House aspirations of our piggish governor.

The Zigelmans

A joint obituary for Rabbi Abraham Zigelman, 94, and his son, Dr. David Zigelman, 66, both of Fort Lee, suggests The Record missed or ignored the Nov. 7 death of the younger man (L-1).

According to Staff Writer Jay Levin, the doctor "died unexpectedly Nov. 7, possibly of a heart attack, his wife said."

Why "possibly"? No one knows for sure how a doctor died? Why was it unexpected, because the doctor led a healthy lifestyle and possibly was done in by stress?

Here is another example of how The Record continues to ignore heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women.

Loves animal fats

Just in time for Thanksgiving, freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson has just the recipe for turning leftover turkey into an unhealthy dish (BL-2).

Her Turkey Pot Pie needs only 10 tablespoons of artery clogging butter, 1 cup of whole milk and three-quarters of a cup of heavy cream.

Make sure you serve this with the telephone number of the local ambulance corps.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How did the oil-train editor miss this huge development?

Growing traffic congestion on local roads and at the Hudson River crossings -- and the lack of mass-transit alternatives -- is among the untold stories of 2014 as Road Warrior John Cichowski continues to shoot himself in the foot with one inaccurate column after another. In his Sunday column, he identified the wrong group of drivers as being the second most vulnerable to crashes, and gave the wrong advice on how to position your hands on the steering wheel in the event you have to steer out of an accident.


Since July at least, The Record has published a steady stream of stories, opinion pieces and editorials on trains carrying potentially explosive crude oil through Bergen County towns.

But the assignment editors and environmental reporters missed a huge development a few weeks ago.

On Nov. 6, a front-page story reports today, the Christie administration "quietly approved" a permit that allows rail lines to carry billions of gallons of Canadian tar-sands oil "through densely populated towns, past thousands of homes and businesses" (A-1).

This is the same type of oil that would be transported in the Keystone XL pipeline. 

A bill to approve construction of the controversial project was defeated in the U.S. Senate a week ago.

Today's story doesn't mention the trains pass through Teaneck, where residents have demonstrated against the danger and the endless noise from engineers' horn blowing.

On Christie's train

Governor Christie has been dismantling the state's environmental protections since he took office in 2010, but the editors have been so busy grooming the GOP bully for a White House run they missed the DEP action on the tar-sands oil trains just two days after the Nov. 4 election.

Instead, in the days after the election, The Record published at least two stories by Staff Writer Melissa Hayes and a Charles Stile column on what a great job Christie did raising money for conservative Republican candidates in other states.

The Record's editors and reporters have been so giddy over the prospects that Christie might get the Republican presidential nomination they have neglected reporting, until very recently, what an awful job he is doing in New Jersey.

Second look

When you see a Road Warrior column in the paper, you can safely assume much of the information in it is incorrect.

The normal journalistic checks and balances are dispensed with in the editing of anything written by Staff Writer John Cichowski, and his many errors are rarely subject to published corrections.

In his Sunday column, for example, he incorrectly reported "baby boomer grandparents" are the second most vulnerable group of drivers on the road.

In fact, according to the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers, drivers 65 and older, including those in their 70s, 80s and even 90s, are more likely to be involved in road crashes and fatalities.

"In his Sunday column, the Road Warrior provides a very dim-witted and mistake-filled report about how young drivers (under 21) and older drivers (over 64) are more susceptible to road crashes and fatalities, along with advice and resources that these drivers should heed.
"The worst thing the Road Warrior did was to report that AAA suggests that drivers should hold the steering wheel at the 7 and 4 o'clock positions instead of 10 and 2.
"AAA recommends that drivers should hold the steering wheel at 9 and 3 o'clock positions for safe road driving.
"They state that drivers may prefer a slightly lower hand position, closer to 8 and 4 o'clock, depending on personal preference and position of the steering wheel spokes.
"In fact, the AAA and so many traffic safety experts indicate that it is downright dangerous to hold the steering wheel at the 7 o'clock position since it does not give the driver full control of the steering wheel during any type of evasive maneuver to avoid an accident."

Click on the following link for more corrections:

Road Warrior accuracy continues to take a holiday

Monday, November 24, 2014

Editors want you to fret over $219,000 conference table

The Empire State Building in Manhattan as seen through the window of NJ Transit's 165 Local on Boulevard East.


Boy, I would have loved to hear the Sunday night newsroom discussion on what to put on the front page of The Record today.

One of the poor schmucks who gets stuck working Sundays probably had Editor Marty Gottlieb, a veteran of The New York Times, on the phone.

OK. We know Sundays are slow-news days, and there is only a skeleton staff on hand.

Still, why should readers of The Record care about what Kean University in Union spent on a custom-made conference table?

I just don't get it.

The story might belong somewhere in the paper, but not on the premium page of a North Jersey daily.

And the other stories on the front page seem to be there only to provide "the balance" of soft and hard news Gottlieb has insisted on since he took over nearly three years ago, turning The Record into a suburban edition of The Times.

Wild turkeys

The three wild turkeys shown on the front of Local today -- "IN A FOUL MOOD BEFORE THE HOLIDAY" -- have nothing in common with the millions of domestic birds that have been slaughtered for Thanksgiving (L-1).

Wild turkeys can fly over trees, and their flesh is probably a lot tougher and gamier than the bland white breast meat so many Americans seem to prefer.

So, there is no danger anyone would want to kill them. 

Pisses away $4M

The lead story on the Local-news front is about a new science building on the Dwight-Englewood campus, an expensive private school on the city's East Hill.

A urologist is donating $4 million of the $20 million cost, and will get his name on the building.

Dwight-Englewood has nothing in common with Dwight Morrow, the public high school that has been desegregated in recent years. 

But the smaller Dwight-Englewood gets far more ink in The Record than the public schools, including the city's still-segregated elementary and middle schools.

News blinders

In a Sunday story about a gift of books to the Englewood public school district, there is no mention of the schools' dramatic racial imbalance.

Another Sunday story about Englewood -- this one on the expansion of free Wi-Fi downtown -- continues to ignore the large number of empty storefronts and failed businesses.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Editors' one-two punch: Sports and two long corrections

Two-lane Passaic Street is a major thoroughfare through Hackensack, Maywood and Rochelle Park, but it hasn't changed much since the 1950s. On Saturday, the street was packed with a long line of cars heading toward Rochelle Park, above. 

With no turn lane on Passaic Street at Summit Avenue, a turning car, left, will bring trailing vehicles to a dead stop. The SUV, right, is too big to squeeze through.


One glance at Page 1 of The Record's Sunday edition shows a strong focus on sports above the fold.

The editors consider victims of sexual assault important enough to put on the front page (A-1).

But not more important than a football team at a Catholic high school or the prospects of sports betting in New Jersey -- a subject even more boring than the story on Governor Christie's chief financial booster (A-1).

On A-2, two long corrections are like a slap in the face to readers.

This is what we have been getting for years after Liz Houlton, who earned the sobriquet of "Queen of Errors" when she ran the features copy desk, was promoted to the six-figure job of production editor, whose job it is to keep such embarrassing screw-ups out of the paper.

Local news?

The Local-news section carries stories on Teaneck, Fort Lee and Englewood (two), but nothing about Hackensack, the most populous community in Bergen.

The Road Warrior column claims this week's holiday will have everybody focusing on how to "drive on North Jersey's angst-ridden roads without killing or maiming themselves" (L-1).

Speak for yourself, John.

Isn't that what we do all year around after a dramatic decline in the enforcement of speeding and aggressive driving -- a story you have ignored for more than a decade?

Uncharitable chef

Some chefs give away leftovers to charities that help feed the hungry and homeless, but Staff Writer Elisa Ung is celebrating one who turns them into "popular dishes" (BL-1).

Or, as the chief restaurant reviewer puts it in The Corner Table column, "turning trash into cash."

How appetizing. 

Frugal Chef Al Scazafave's restaurant is called The Twisted Elm. That's not the only thing that's "twisted."

Child abuse?

Given the low quality of the food served to students in public schools, are Garfield school employees committing child abuse when they falsify their income to qualify their kids for free lunches (O-1)?

The great Mike Kelly might want to investigate the crap served at Hackensack High and other schools instead of rewriting news stories and asking a million rhetorical questions.

In my rush to recycle Sports, Real Estate, Travel and other useless sections today, did I also discard Business?

I can't find it. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

President Obama affirms we are a nation of immigrants

A noisy propeller-driven airplane, above, and a business jet, below, passing low over South Hackensack buildings on Thursday as they headed for Teterboro Airport. The noise and the proximity of the aircraft are enough to send chills down your spine.


With his sweeping action to protect 5 million people from deportation -- a move that dominates Page 1 of The Record today -- President Obama has reminded us we live in a nation of immigrants.

As for Governor Christie, he refuses to be pinned down to his own reform plan in the unlikely event he gets the Republican presidential nomination (A-1).

Of course, the GOP bully and do-nothing Republicans in Congress likely are racists whose only desire is to close U.S. borders.

If Obama can be faulted, it is in waiting until after the November elections to take action, fearing it would hurt Democrats' chances.

If the candidates could be faulted, it was in distancing themselves from Obama and the Affordable Care Act.

Nothing could have saved those candidates from voter apathy and Republican attack ads, and The Record and other media didn't bother to expose the lies in those ads.

Better timing

Also on Page 1 today, Staff Writer Bill Ervolino shows unusual restraint in writing the obituary of the incredibly talented Mike Nichols, and doesn't mention himself until deep into the continuation page (A-1 and A-4).

I'm waiting for the day when newspaper editors like the great Martin Gottlieb ask one of their medical writers to do a sidebar on the cause of death -- cardiac arrest in Nichols' case.

Local crime news

There are at least 10 crime stories and accident photos in today's Local news section (L-1, L-2 and L-3). 

Two other stories are about the police.

What would head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, run if they couldn't use the police blotter as their crutch?

Our misfortune

Staff Writer Elisa Ung admits Imperial Dynasty in Mahwah serves "generally average versions of Chinese-American dishes" (BL-18).

So why does she bother wasting our time with this lukewarm, 2-star review of a restaurant in far-off Mahwah?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Editors promote Kelly book, gas guzzlers, unhealthy food

An office building on Union Street in Hackensack, opposite John A. Earl Inc., has been torn down, and some residents believe apartments will be built there.


You'll have to read and read and read today's Page 1 column to find out what The Record's Mike Kelly means by "a new reality" in Israel, where four Jews were killed while praying in a synagogue.
In fact, the column is so poorly written and edited you'll have to turn to the continuation page and chose between two new realities he mentions:

The broken "trust" between Jews and Palestinians or "murders [that] seemed all too close and personal" (A-6).

The entire, murkily written column seems designed to promote a book Kelly wrote about a 1996 suicide bus bombing, which he mentions at the end of his overlong piece.

The book has been promoted by both (201) magazine and

More Christie P.R.

Governor Christie's chances of getting the Republican presidential nomination get better play today (A-1) than the resignation of one of his closest advisers from a council that invests the state's $80 billion public employee pension fund (A-3).

An ethics complaint alleges Robert Grady allowed political contributions to Republican groups to influence investments.

Press hysteria

Instead of encouraging readers to take mass transit, The Record continues to scandalize the $1 lease between the Port Authority and NJ Transit, two public transportation agencies, for a commuter parking lot (A-1).

If NJ Transit had to pay $1.2 million a year for the land, the agency might have to raise fares.

Similarly, the business editors run a wire-service report noting "green cars" are the focus at the L.A, Auto Show, but no photos of Toyota's and Honda's emission-free cars are used on L-8.

Instead, an Audi with a 605-horsepower V-8 engine is featured.

Unhealthy recipes

Better Living editors continue to run the recipes of freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson, who specializes in turning healthy food like carrots and butternut squash into unhealthy dishes (BL-1).

All of her Thanksgiving recipes contain artery clogging butter or bacon (BL-3).

Second look

On Sunday, Road Warrior John Cichowski's column on a future form of mass transit was filled with errors, according to the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

"In his Sunday column, the Road Warrior provides a very dim-witted and mistake-filled report about the first ever, potential use by JPod Inc. of its privately funded, personal rapid-transit system with small overhead passenger pods in Secaucus.
"Road Warrior tried to convince readers that a JPod system designed to handle up to 1,000 passengers, at best, could have easily handled the crowds leaving MetLife stadium from the last Super Bowl.
"It would not have handled the large crowds since he forgot that he previously reported that there were 33,000 passengers that were trying to utilize the train system that day.
"Road Warrior claimed that construction for a JPod system would start no later than early next year since it would be easily approved by the Secaucus City Council.
"Secaucus administrators dispute his wild guess since no formal plans -- which are subject to reviews, delays and rejection by local, Meadowlands and state officials -- have been submitted.

Cichowski also described the system inaccurately as a "monorail." 

See: Road Warrior buries accuracy in Meadowlands

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why are these columnists wasting their time and ours?

On the upper level of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan, you can get your shoes shined for $5 while waiting for your overdue NJ Transit bus.

A week ago, I gave the man who shined my shoes a $2 tip, and he seemed miffed.


The Record's Road Warrior column is supposed to focus on commuting issues.

But that would take real legwork, including riding trains and buses, and reporting on the quality of service.

Or, challenging the Port Authority on why it doesn't add a second bus lane to the Lincoln Tunnel, and run the two lanes mornings and afternoons.

Instead, Staff Writer John Cichowski has ranged far afield in the more than 11 years he's written the column, often taking the lead from readers who pepper him with emails in hopes of seeing their names in print.

Transit's present

On Sunday, the veteran reporter devoted an entire column to a solar-powered monorail system in the Meadowlands that may not be built for another five, 10 or 15 years -- or ever (L-1 on Sunday).

I guess it's OK to write about "transit's future," as the headline put it, but what are commuters supposed to do now when they can't find a seat on a train or bus or they get home an hour or two late because of Manhattan gridlock?

Cichowski's Sunday column reminded me of the stories on "highways of the future" that Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza wrote when he covered transportation for The Record.

Sforza could have looked into why new NJ Transit cruiser buses, the ones that ply routes to Manhattan, had defective rear brakes and were much noisier than their predecessors -- to the consternation of people who live on such bus routes as Grand Avenue in Englewood. 

But that would have taken a lot more work than writing about highways that would never get built.

Out of touch

If Sforza and Cichowski are out of touch with the needs of their readers, what can you say about Staff Writer Mike Kelly, whose Sunday column sounded like he had assumed the mantle of Road Warrior (O-1 on Sunday)?

Kelly filled his column with potholes and ruts in the road, dented and bent guard rails, and aging bridges.

Sounds like he ran out of ideas again, and found himself in another writing rut. 

Overfed and boring

Meanwhile, Staff Writer Elisa Ung's The Corner Table column took on an issue that really put me to sleep on Sunday.

The headline says it all: "Why do waiters automatically give the check to the man?"

As the paper's chief restaurant reviewer, Ung routinely ignores the universally hated tipping system, slave wages paid to servers, how those aged steaks she loves are raised on harmful antibiotics and growth hormones, the outrageous restaurant markup on wine and other far more compelling issues. 

Today's paper

One of the stories on today's front page takes on the "financial and political drawbacks" of raising the gasoline tax to revive the bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund -- the same subject Kelly tackled on Sunday.

The Sunday column and today's takeout by Staff Writer Christopher Maag never ask this question:

If drivers don't pay for road and bridge repairs and mass-transit improvements through higher gasoline taxes, who should pay for them?

Gagging on Gaga

What was Staff Writer Jim Norman going for with the bewildering first paragraph of his story on the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the woman who discovered Lady Gaga (A-1)? 

And with all such stories that dazzle readers with multimillion dollar legal settlements, why not put the windfall into perspective and report that up to a third or more will be going to the lawyer?

Violence against women

The main story on Page 1 today is about an Englewood high school football coach who encourages male athletes "to become advocates in the fight against violence toward women" (A-1).

With women facing brutality, lower wages than men and other forms of discrimination and inequality, is who gets the restaurant check really that big of a deal?