Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Editors prefer to wait for a crisis to cover news


A little after noon on Monday, only one clerk was available at the Hackensack Post Office on State Street (Zip Code: 07601). Later, a second clerk came on duty, but the total wait before I got to a window was about 25 minutes. I made sure I had plenty of time on the parking meter.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The leaders of New Jersey and New York have been treating the Port Authority as their political cookie jar for decades.

But The Record has been reporting on insider deals and exorbitant payments by the Port Authority only since last September.

That's when members of Governor Christie's inner circle closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge as a form of political retribution.

Sunday's Page 1 opus on a $500,000 Port Authority payment to Santiago Calatrava for architectural plans no one asked for or used describes events dating to mid-2011.

Similarly, another front-page report on Sunday discussed the tradition of drinking at firehouses, but it took an allegedly drunk volunteer crashing a fire truck this month to get the editors' attention.

Today's lead story, reporting an $800 million New Jersey budget shortfall, can be traced to Christie's repeated vetoes of a tax surcharge on millionaires during his first term in office.

Long overdue is an examination by The Record of fiscal mismanagemt dating to the Republican admininistrations of Christine Whitman and Tom Kean.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Reporting that doesn't speak to most readers

The NY Waterway Ferry Terminal on the West Side of Manhattan.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Why does The Record run a Page 1 column today on what causes a tiny fraction of every 100 motor vehicle accidents?

Road Warrior John Cichowski notes the number of crashes tied to "automobile mechanical failure" declined slightly through 2012, but nearly five months into 2014, he doesn't provide any numbers for last year (A-1).

And even though he is rested from a vacation, he ignores a higher percentage of crashes tied to mechanical problems in 2012, compared to 2008.

Most accidents are caused by speeding and aggressive driving, and their number likely has risen as state police enforcement has declined.

Isn't that front-page news?

Missing information

The A-6 story on "New Jersey pilgrims" focuses on a Catholic man who lives in Bucks County, Pa.  

The reporter should have found a North Jersey resident for her lead anecdote.

Why didn't Record sports Columnist Tara Sullivan tell us something about the bimbo who is dating racist Donald Sterling, the geezer owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team (A-6)?

The young woman, identified in a photo caption as "V. Stiviano," must throw up every time Sterling touches her.

Taxing chief

Why are the Local editors so upbeat about the retirement at 45 of Fairview Police Chief Frank Del Vecchio, who was paid more than Governor Christie and who -- in an affront to taxpayers -- is cashing out $50,931 in unused sick and vacation days (L-1)? 

The Record's Better Living cover today continues the lopsided coverage of restaurants from inside the kitchen, instead of focusing on issues customers face inside the dining room, such as high prices for wine and low-quality food (BL-1).

What's the point of interviewing chefs about morels, an ingredient that is so expensive few North Jersey restaurants actually serve it?


Sunday, April 27, 2014

I'll pass on today's ho-hum Sunday edition

Ramsey has one-third the population of Hackensack, but commuters in the affluent community are getting treated much better by NJ Transit, which beautifully restored the train station in 2005, above and below.


You can even borrow a paperback at the station.

The station as seen from Starbucks Coffee.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The closest thing to a train station in Hackensack is a new NJ Transit building on Anderson Street.

But it doesn't have any doors, and it may more accurate to call it a train shelter.

Compare the Hackensack building to Ramsey's beautifully restored station, originally built in 1864, during the Civil War.

Although the Hackensack building opened at the end of March, The Record has ignored it.

Another NJ Transit stop in Hackensack, at Essex Street, has more parking than Anderson Street, but nothing like the new structure to shelter commuters.



The new NJ Transit structure on Anderson Street in Hackensack.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

These editors again fail to deliver hometown news

The quality of life in North Jersey -- including aircraft noise over Hackensack and other towns near Teterboro and Newark airports, above, or gaping potholes that damage car tires and wheels -- are of no interest to the editors of The Record's Local news section who appear to spend most of their time reading tabloids in the newsroom toilet.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I'm shocked by the amount of Law & Order news in The Record's Local section today and Friday.

Police, fire, accident and court news and photos dominate almost every page.

But readers also find stories about the police, including Friday's report on raises for the Pal Park chief and today's solemn piece on a vigil for Daniel Breslin, the hospitalized Bergen County police officer who was severely injured by an allegedly drunk driver (A-1 and L-1).

Sforza stumbles

Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza was so desperate to fill his pages today he ran a freelance shot of a Route 80 accident in Hackensack from inside the photographer's car (L-3).

Now that's chintzy hometown news coverage. Still, Sforza stands proud, shouting, Who says we don't cover Hackensack? 

Sforza's stumbling around for the last several months would seem to call for the return of head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes after a prolonged convalescence.

On vacation?

When is the last time readers saw Hannan Adely's byline on a Hackensack story? Has she been reassigned, sent to cover the Syrian civil war or what?

On Friday, the weekly Hackensack Chronicle reported the City Council on Monday night approved a $760,000 bond ordinance to repave streets and perform related work.

After the meeting, resident Steven Gelber's Hackensack Scoop blog reported that Mayor John Labrosse announced former campaign manager Thom Ammirato will no longer be writing press releases for the mayor or Deputy Mayor Katherine Canestrino.

But Labrosse said Ammirato's salary of $6,500 a month wouldn't be adjusted at this time, Gelber reported.

Following Gelber's lead, Adely of The Record has reported that Ammirato also has a full-time position with Bergen County, and serves as public relations consultant to at least three Republicans in the state Legislature.

But the Woodland Park daily hasn't reported on this latest wrinkle in the Ammirato story or approval of the street-paving bond ordinance.

The woefully short list of streets listed in the Chronicle story continues to omit Euclid Avenue, between Prospect and Summit avenues, a potholed block that hasn't been repaved for decades. 



Euclid Avenue potholes, above and below.



Friday's Record

Editor Marty Gottlieb led Friday's paper with a long report on the incredible mess Governor Christie has made of road, highway and mass-transit improvements by refusing to hike the low gasoline tax to fund them.

This is basically a four-year-old story The Record has ignored until now, especially increasingly congested traffic, and crowded trains and buses.

Barf bags

In Better Living, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung pans Port of Call American Fusion Buffet and Sushi in Hackensack.

Still, she feels it necessary to tell readers the all-you-can eat format "would be good for people with big appetites."

The data box on Friday's BL-18 lists only four recommended dishes, two of them desserts, but omits other dishes Ung praised in the text. 

Did anyone edit the piece?

Today's paper

Gottlieb's Page 1 today includes another story on the agonizingly slow investigative and legal process in the wake of January's explosive revelations in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Since members of the GOP bully's inner circle in Trenton and at the Port Authority admitted they orchestrated four days of gridlock in Democratic Fort Lee, all readers have seen are firings and resignations, and targets lawyering up and taking the Fifth.

Christie himself hired a friendly law firm at taxpayers' expense to produce a whitewash declaring the governor had no knowledge or involvement in the lane closures.

Other stories and columns appear designed to help Christie repair his battered image (A-3).

The slow legal process is designed to ensure greedy lawyers who charge exorbitant hourly rates will walk away with literally millions of dollars in fees no matter who is found to be at fault for an apparent pattern of political retribution.

Paramus woes

Today's front page also includes a story on a "big change for Paramus," which has eased rules on retail signs along Routes 4 and 17.


This piece continues The Record's ad-fueled focus on major retail chains over Main Street merchants.

The last story on local merchants reported on a few record stores, as in those selling vinyl recordings, and continued to ignore struggling downtowns in Hackensack, Englewood, Teaneck and other towns.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bergen's Keystone Kops are alive and well

More than 50 years after the invention of the turn lane, none exist on Passaic Street at Summit Avenue in Hackensack, meaning drivers behind a turning vehicle feel lucky if they can squeeze through on the right, above. Often, they can't.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Two days after an undercover cop was shot in a Garfield pot sting that went awry, a big photo of plainclothes officers at the suspects' court hearing appears on the front page of The Record today.

Let's hope none of the cops in the photo are actually working undercover or the photo makes their future effectiveness questionable (A-1 and A-6).

Only four days earlier, Page 1 reported that a Bergen County police officer was hospitalized in critical condition after an allegedly drunk driver crashed into the back of his marked vehicle, which was stopped in the right travel lane of Route 46 in Lodi.

Good police work?

Are these two examples of misplaced police priorities, and a cop who didn't know enough to pull his vehicle onto the shoulder to avoid a drunk who used the vehicles flashing emergency lights as a target?

Even civilians know enough to pull ahead of a vehicle stopped on the shoulder of a highway to avoid just such an eventuality. 

So far, The Record hasn't reported whether the cop was following procedure.

Heroin, not pot

The Woodland Park daily also conveniently ignores its own series of stories in 2013 on a heroin epidemic in Bergen County, and four dramatic ads paid for by Prosecutor John L. Molinelli, sounding an alarm in March over the rise of opiate addiction and heroin overdoses, and announcing stepped-up enforcement.

But the undercover operation at the center of Tuesday's shooting in Garfield was a $400 purchase of marijuana, not heroin.

Is stopping the distribution of marijuana really worth endangering the lives of an undercover police officer and Walmart shoppers?

Wasting tax dollars

Boy. If you wonder why our property taxes are so high, just look at Wednesday's Page 1 photo, showing at least 18 police officers, standing around and bullshitting in the shopping center parking lot in the aftermath of the shooting.

Don't they have anything else to do, like chase the suspects? 


And I'll bet all of their marked and unmarked gas guzzlers are running, wasting precious tax dollars and polluting the air. 

Maybe some of those idle officers could be used to boost DWI patrols and catch allegedly repeat drunk drivers like Michael Ettz, the high school teacher who slammed into the county police car.


No father figure

Wednesday's front page also carried a hilarious story on Governor Christie being named "a Father of the Year by the National Father's Day Committee," whatever that is.

Melissa Hayes, the adoring reporter who is assigned to cover the GOP bully, doesn't mention the contradiction of a doting father who treats middle- and working-class state residents like dirt.


Also on Wednesday, the Better Living cover promoted the expansion of Stickey's BBQ to Hillsdale, where sauces mask the taste of mystery meat and poultry pumped full of harmful animal antibiotics.


Today's paper

Today's coverage of the court hearing for two of the three suspects in the shooting of the undercover cop includes:
  • An awkwardly written caption noting that Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg is "addressing the press," using an improper catch-all for print and electronic media (A-6). 

Dissing Hackensack

A brief on Wednesday's Hackensack school board election doesn't say how many residents voted in the election, which was ignored by The Record (L-1).

Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza couldn't rouse himself to actually ask a reporter to do a story on who was running and what they stood for, and Hackensack residents received no mailings from the candidates.

Today's brief notes the $140 million operating budget was approved, and reports for the first time a budget reduction of a half-million dollars will still result in a tax hike.

Zisa allies win

A total of 601 residents voted on the budget, less than half the number that cast votes in last year's school board election.

The four seats were won by allies of the city's former Zisa administration, including Joseph Barreto, a guidance counselor who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last May.

The highest vote-getter received 490 votes in a city with more than 19,000 registered voters.

Tabloid editor

It's clear municipal news isn't a priority for Sforza, the lazy editor who has taken over for boss Deirdre Sykes during her prolonged sick leave.

Today's Local section is filled with tabloid news, starting with the lead story on a Paterson man imprisoned for raping his daughter and fathering four children with her.

A road-rage story also appears on L-1.

And L-2 carries another sensational account, this one about a Hawthorne cardiologist accused of fondling patients.

Of course, cardiologists assigned to North Jersey heart-surgery units are cheering the news of Stickey's BBQ opening in Hillsdale, and a potential increase in patients.




Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Local obit writer expands beat to the living

On Monday afternoon, the light was green at Passaic Street and Summit Avenue, a busy intersection in Hackensack without turn lanes, but no one moved, because they were stuck behind a turning vehicle. Good luck trying to reach the Bergen County department that could do something to fix the notorious bottleneck.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The New York World's Fair opened 50 years ago today in Queens? Who cares?

In a testament to how much newspapers love anniversaries as a way of ignoring current events, The Record's front page today carries a story about a New Milford man who is called  "a prominent collector of memorabilia from the 1964-65 exposition" (A-1).

But there's more: A long editorial on A-8 that waxes nostalgic over the smell of Belgian waffles.

The story is written by Jay Levin, whose regular beat is crafting obituaries -- life stories of local residents who have died.

Mayor for the birds

Another front-page story quotes Fair Lawn Mayor John Cosgrove complaining it will cost $20,000 to delay painting an aging water tower until "baby ravens hatch and fly away" (A-1).

But the story makes no attempt to explain why the job "already has been put off for more than two years" or say how much that cost taxpayers.

Sounds like Fair Lawn is another town that raises and collects property taxes and then shortchanges residents on services, whether it is repainting a water tower or repairing potholes.

If you car hasn't hit any potholes, you must be a shut-in like Road Warrior John Cichowski, whose premature pothole columns ran several weeks ago with no follow-up.

Big Hackensack news

Don't miss today's big local news -- a photo of a three-vehicle accident on Route 4 west in Hackensack that injured four, including a baby -- on the front of Local (L-1).

Two SUVs and a car were involved, but the caption doesn't say whether drivers of the gas guzzlers were speeding or tailgating or both.

The accident photo gets better play than a group of mayors pushing for extension of NJ Transit light-rail service to Englewood (L-1).



Streets in Fort Lee, above, and Leonia were closed Monday, but none of the work was to repair numerous potholes on Fort Lee's Main Street or Fort Lee Road in Leonia. See L-3 in The Record today. Other potholes have drivers cursing on Routes 4 and 17, and just about everywhere else.

Anti-light rail editors

The Record has run anti-light rail coverage for years, and the paper rolled over and played dead when Tenafly officials killed a plan to extend the electrified line to the borough, where wealthy residents believe they have a constitutional right to drive wasteful SUVs into the city. 

It's unclear whether Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who lives in a $3.65 million Tenafly McMansion, had anything to do with The Record's lukewarm support for light rail.

Even though Englewood officials say they will build new parking garages for light-rail users, the plan might be doomed by a required 50% state match for the $1 billion project.

As commuters know, Governor Christie hates mass transit, but he may be out of office when the extension from Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen is ready to be built (L-7). 

Greed isn't good

Hackensack residents who lived under the yoke of the Zisa family for decades might get a kick out of another Zisa, this one an author.

The Better Living cover reports Mike Zisa will sign his book, "The Early Investor: How Teens & Young Adults Can Become Wealthy," at the Ramsey Public Library on Wednesday night (BL-1).

That's refreshing: A Zisa who wants to help others become wealthy.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Ex-boxer 'battled' cancer -- and more newspaper fiction

Two of the unrepaired potholes on Hackensack's Euclid Avenue, near Summit Avenue, above and below, part of a veritable minefield left over from our brutal winter that slows drivers to 10 mph, but unleashes a stream of curses directed at city officials and The Record's local-news editors.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Today's front-page headline on The Record's story about ex-boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter is confusing.

The trite main headline says Carter "loses his final bout," but the sub-headline notes he "fought years to clear his name and died a free man."

The writer assumes readers knew Carter had prostate cancer, which apparently was "his final bout."

Still, "final bout" is too close to "fought years to clear his name," and the headline writer failed to communicate Carter's death clearly.

Even more disturbing is The Record and other media always reporting that a subject "lost his/her battle" with the disease that killed them.

Judging from John Artis, Carter's friend and co-defendant in a triple-murder trial, it wasn't much of a battle.

"I'm sad he is gone, but relieved that the pain and suffering is over. There will be no more pain," Artis says (A-6).

More problems

This story has other problems of sloppy caption writing and lazy reporting.

On the continuation page, a caption notes, "Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter knocking out Italian Fabio Bettini in Paris in 1965 (A-6).

Yet the photo show both men in the ring, and no contact, hardly what you'd describe as "knocking out."

Even worse is the silly sidebar by Staff Writer Jim Norman, who was assigned to see what had changed at the Lafayette Grill nearly 50 years after the murders that led to the wrongful conviction of Carter and Artis (A-6).

Dissing Paterson

In keeping with The Record's slanted coverage of Paterson as a hell on earth, Norman claims "the neighborhood has changed over the nearly half-century that has left much of Paterson crumbling into dust."

Where has this reporter been? 

Hasn't he ever visited the Eastside's glorious mansions; the city's Great Falls or the bustling Middle Eastern bazaar known as South Paterson?

Shame on Norman and shame on the Woodland Park daily for continuing to mine all of Paterson's negativity while ignoring the Silk City's many attractions.

Other questions

Another front-page story today -- on the death of 76-year-old Dolores Bellina in a Carlstadt house fire -- never asks or answers a natural question:

Did the woman, who lived alone, smoke (A-1)?

Governor Christie's decision on whether to keep New Jersey Chief Justice Stewart Rabner is still about five weeks away, according to Staff Writer Charles Stile's column on Page 1 today.

Stile has written this column about Christie's image numerous times by just changing names and situations, but fails to deliver what every reader wants from a columnist: 

A strong opinion.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

More old ground in disappointing Sunday edition

On the ferry to Manhattan. Crossing the Hudson this way is a lot more civilized -- and far more expensive -- than taking a crowded NJ Transit bus or train.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

My car is still hitting big potholes on streets and highways, even in the parking lot of the Weehawken ferry.

But The Record's Sunday edition today is nearly devoid of municipal news or even any attempt to explain why towns and the state can't afford to repair hundreds of these driving hazards.

Instead, Editor Marty Gottlieb cedes precious front-page space to two burned-out columnists and a second-day story that elevates the suffering of dogs above that of humans in Paterson (A-1).

Many questions

The main element on Page 1 -- "County cop fights for life after crash" -- doesn't discuss whether Officer Daniel Breslin was following procedure when he stopped his marked SUV in a travel lane of Route 46.

Breslin was in critical condition after a car driven by an allegedly drunk driver slammed into his police vehicle around 1:50 a.m. Saturday.

Columnist Mike Kelly wonders whether local police departments are prepared to deal with domestic terrorism (A-1).

He mentions the Teaneck department, which is best known for a Cedar Lane speed trap that catches unsuspecting drivers crossing the Anderson Street Bridge from Hackensack.

Media fog

Columnist Charles Stile claims the George Washington Bridge scandal has exposed Governor Christie "as a bully who attacks opponents in unmercifully harsh, dismissive language" (A-1 and A-8).

But only Stile and other Record reporters and columnists have ignored the GOP bully's mean-spirited policies, dating to 2010, as they fell all over themselves to promote him as a presidential contender.

Ignoring towns

In Local, a brief on this week's school board election in Hackensack doesn't tell readers anything about the two incumbents and two challengers who are seeking two vacancies beyond listing their names (L-2). 

Business continues to ignore Main Street and lavish coverage on such chain retailers as Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond (B-1).

Somehow, a food truck serving naturally raised, grass-fed beef short ribs and organic polenta has broken through all the publicity in Better Living for low-quality, drug- and hormone-filled meat (BL-2).

Margulies, Oxford

The only thing worth looking at in Opinion is the Margulies cartoon, which lampoons all the work Christie has given to lawyers while New Jerseyans join growing unemployment lines (O-2).

Oxford, England, has never been on my must-see list.

But today's thin Travel section contains nearly two pages about the university city, thanks to a story by former Record reporter Tatiana Schlossberg, daughter of Caroline Kennedy.

Schlossberg informs readers she is studying history at Oxford (T-1).


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Editors are exploiting every misery in Paterson

As commuters streamed by on a chilly spring day this week, homeless men and women warmed themselves with coffee inside the main NJ Transit entrance of Penn Station in Manhattan.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I pity readers who rely on The Record of Woodland Park for their knowledge of Paterson, a pioneering industrial center that harnessed the power of the Great Falls and immigrant workers to earn the title of "Silk City."

Under former Editor Francis "Frank" Scandale, Paterson was most often portrayed as a drug bazaar that lured white suburbanites, many of whom overdosed and met untimely deaths.

In a boneheaded decision, Scandale even ran a map showing readers where they could find drug dealers, and never put the city's Police Department on the spot for lax enforcement.

Editor Marty Gottlieb exploited that same Paterson theme in a 2013 series on North Jersey's heroin epidemic, and the stories were among the finalists in this year's Pulitzer Prize competition.

Drive-by shootings and murders, spectacular and often deadly fires in slum dwellings, failing schools, greedy public officials, South Paterson as the neighborhood that harbored 9/11 hijackers -- every negative has been exploited by The Record's editors to sell papers.

Today, Page 1 screams about "shocking ... blood and cruelty" after two people were arrested for running a dog-fighting ring and 21 pit bulls were rescued by Paterson's John DeCando, North Jersey's most-visible animal control officer (A-1).

Race based?

Another front-page story today doesn't discuss the racial makeup of Ramapo, N.Y., where Ford Motor Co. has been ordered to remove "almost all of the toxic paint sludge" the automaker dumped there decades ago, in contrast to a plan to cap much more Ford waste a few miles away in Ringwood. (A-1).

Readers have no way of knowing whether the Rockland County, N.Y., town is being treated differently than the Upper Ringwood neighborhood, because of discrimination against mixed-race Ramapoughs who live in the North Jersey community.

GWB scandal

Readers who have called on The Record and other media "to move on" and stop writing about the George Washington Bridge scandal were greeted by another front-page story today that explores for the first time lawyer David Samson's influence in the Christie administration (A-1).

Samson has been called a mentor and father figure to Governor Christie, who named the lawyer chairman of the Port Authority, where he ran interference for clients of his law firm, Wolff & Samson.

The powerful lawyer is among members of Christie's inner circle who resigned in the wake of allegations of political retribution against Democrats in the months before last November's election.

Christ and potholes

The Local section today manages to wrap up in a single story Easter, the suffering of Christ and how an actor injured himself on a Paterson pothole that hasn't been repaired weeks after the end of a brutal winter (L-1).

Why does it take a Good Friday procession to get the editors to dramatize the danger of all of those still-gaping potholes on streets and highways in North Jersey? 

Second looks

The Record's lazy local-news editors ran a Page 1 story on Thursday, praising Hackensack Police Officer Victor Vazquez for saving the life of an elderly woman, arresting a suspect in a violent robbery and assisting in the arrest of two drug suspects on Route 80.

But the story wasn't based on original reporting. 

Jerry DeMarco's CliffviewPilot.com ran a piece on the cop's exploits two days earlier. 

Meanwhile, a concerned reader e-mailed managers and editors of The Record, reporting that Road Warrior John Cichowski "confused and misled readers in his Sunday and Tuesday columns about the dangers, state regulations and a recent crackdown on driving while talking or texting on handheld cellphones."

See the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers, which chronicles all of the befuddled reporter's many errors in these and past columns:

More errors on a familiar Road Warrior theme

Facts can't curb out-of-control Road Warrior


Friday, April 18, 2014

When you add up the numbers, we're screwed

NJ Transit says you cannot take a bus from Hackensack to the ferry terminal off of River Road (Port Imperial Boulevard) in Weehawken, above. Parking in a lot near the terminal is $13 or $15 in a garage, and the round-trip senior fare is $16.50. 

The ferry approaching the Manhattan terminal.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

One of the funniest things I've read in The Record appears on Page 1 today.

Jane Huang of Alpine says of the parcel she sold for $5 million -- more than doubling what she paid in 2002:

"Where can you find 2 acres 15 minutes from midtown Manhattan?" 

Doesn't add up

Let's hope she didn't use that bit of fiction as a selling point, because the sad state of mass transit and growing traffic congestion makes that trip possible only in the middle of the night.

Why is this gee-whiz real estate story out front when readers find only a few paragraphs on Page 1 about the sad state of New Jersey's economy under Governor Christie?

New Jersey has lost 1,900 jobs so far this year (A-1 and B-1).

"New Jersey's labor market is going nowhere slowly," said one researcher. "Nothing stands out as a reason to be optimistic about where we are going."

Lazy editors

Other numbers could lift our spirits, but The Record's lazy editors didn't bother localizing the lead Page 1 story on the Affordable Care Act signing up 8 million people (A-1).

So, The Associated Press story tells readers California's state-run insurance exchange signed up 1.4 million, outpacing estimates.

But there are no numbers for New Jersey, where Christie sabotaged the roll-out by refusing to set up a state exchange or even use more than $7 million in federal funds to market federal health insurance.

Christie, Zisa

In a letter to the editor, Paula Rogovin of Teaneck says she and other taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for the whitewash report clearing Christie of any wrongdoing in the George Washington Bridge lane closures (A-12).

Christie hired the lawyers that wrote the report, and their firm donated money to the Republican Governors Association, which the GOP bully chairs.

"Instead," she wrote, "let's use the $1 million to pay for health and mental health services, jobs, education and housing for ... veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan."

In a second letter, this one reacting to an editorial about the corrupt Ken Zisa, Hackensack City Councilman Leo Battaglia notes:

 "The city was was too tightly controlled by the political machine headed by Zisa and his circle of powerful political cronies for anyone to challenge their power."

Battaglia, a member of the reform slate that took office last July, says, "The abuse of power and the intimidation of employees and citizens will not be tolerated by this council."

Editors on vacation

Today's Local section is filled mostly with Law & Order news.

Does the hanging of a portrait of Fair Lawn Officer Mary Ann Collura 11 years after her death really merit all of that coverage on L-1 today?

A story on vacant retail highway sites (B-1) has many readers wondering why Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza continues to ignore all of the empty storefronts in Englewood, Hackensack and other downtowns.

Bridge crowd

Fort Lee's mayor eats there, and you can read the resumes of the owner and chef in Staff Writer Elisa Ung's lukewarm review (BL-16). 

Who cares? G.W. Grill sounds like it is still finding its way as a restaurant:

"Chewy" salmon, "rather resilient rings of calamari," "heavy fusilli," "searing hot" desserts and a cocktail served with "a dirty straw."

Really disgusting.

Ung notes the owner believed Fort Lee, now dominated by Asian restaurants, needed "more of a neighborhood watering hole with American and Italian favorites."

This ain't it. I'll stick with ramen, sashimi, soft tofu and fiery kimchi.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Christie the bully ensures his survival, not ours

After a breather on Monday and Tuesday, the first two days of Passover, the New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel was as congested as ever this morning.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

As New Jersey goes down the tubes, Governor Christie is spending more and more time raising money to ensure his political future.

Today and Wednesday, The Record's front page reports about contributions to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads and which he credits with electing him in 2009 to his first term.

On Wednesday, the Woodland Park daily reported that the law firm of Gibson Dunn gave $10,000 to the group, nine days before its lawyers issued a reporting clearing Christie of any wrongdoing in the George Washington Bridge lane closures (A-1).

That self-serving whitewash will cost taxpayers as much as $1 million, according to media reports.

Drug deal

Today, the paper reports the GOP bully appeared at a groundbreaking for Celgene, a drug company that donated $26,00o last year to the RGA (A-1).

The year before, the drug company hired Rich Bagger, a former Christie chief of staff, as senior vice president.

Then, Christie named Bagger to the Port Authority's board of commissioners. And in 2013, Bagger gave $10,000 to the RGA.

All of this really stinks.

Where's the fire?

Why does anybody move into Elmwood Park, where liquor is served at the borough's firehouses and where a reportedly intoxicated fireman crashed a ladder truck into utility poles (A-1)?

Today's Page 1 story doesn't say whether the borough has a volunteer or professional fire department, but it mentions that River Edge ended and Lodi restricts firehouse drinking (A-8).

I'm a pretty close reader of the Local news section, and have been for years, and can't recall every reading a story about firehouses that serve liquor.

What exactly are the local-news editors doing?

Horsing around

As the onetime owner of a 1966 Ford Mustang GT, I enjoyed the Better Living cover story on the iconic car's 50th anniversary (BL-1).

But what was the point of running two photos of owner John Pestrichelli of River Edge and his 1973 Mustang, especially the shocking shot of the grossly overweight man behind the wheel on BL-3?

Two other photos of a second Mustang owner also run with the story. Couldn't the editors find four different Mustang owners?

And the story deserves a less-amateurish headline then: 



"A PONY WITH
 GIDDYUP"


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Page 1 errors, bird shit and drug-filled ham

Hackensack residents awoke on Wednesday morning to find a crusty layer of snow covering their solar panels, above, and car windshields.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Page 1 is often considered the most important in a newspaper, but at The Record, you're as likely to find serious errors there as on any other page.

Today, a front-page photo caption contains a boneheaded mistake, and Mike Kelly's Page 1 column on the Boston Marathon bombing brings a dead cop back to life. (A-1 and A-7).

Wrecking a story

The A-1 photo caption claims "demolition began Tuesday on LG Electronics buildings in Englewood Cliffs" (A-1).

That's ridiculous. 

The demolition -- to make way for a new, taller headquarters on the east side of Sylvan Avenue, atop the Palisades -- was of vacant buildings "where LG plans to build its new North American headquarters," as the story on L-1 reports in the first paragraph.

The Record's reporters and editors have written so many stories about LG's controversial plan they don't even bother to say precisely where the new building will be located or what was there before, leading to the kind of serious error that appears on Page 1 today.

And, it appears, six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton no longer has her staff proof Page 1 before it goes to press or after the paper is printed.  

Readers' marathon

Readers can only hope Kelly stays in Boston after covering the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing (A-1).

Forget about his monotonous first paragraph, where he uses the verb "gaze" for perhaps the thousandth time.

On the continuation page, Kelly reports "relatives of the three spectators who perished ... and a police officer who was fatally shot later in a confrontation with the alleged bombers visited the finish line" (A-7).

Of course, the dead cop is still in his grave. 

But no one caught this mistake -- not the assignment editor who read it first or the news editor who made up the page or the copy editor who supposedly edited the story or the supervisor of the copy desk who supposedly went over his or her work, and approved it for publication.

Parking-lot news

What are two photos showing a man with homing pigeons, all from Stony Point, N.Y., doing on L-3 today, in the Local news section?

They happen to be in the parking lot of 1 Garret Mountain Plaza, and in the background, readers can see the nondescript office building the Woodland Park daily has called home since leaving Hackensack in 2009.

Gee whiz. I guess Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza didn't have any legitimate municipal news for his section today. 

Did that lazy editor send a photographer to the parking lot for a shitty "story" about flying birds?

Shameless plug

A day after Better Living editors debuted a "health page" with a strong focus on food, a story on Easter Brunch today recommends readers buy a smoked ham that is apparently filled with harmful preservatives and animal antibiotics (BL-1).

The piece, by a free-lancer, is a shameless plug for a single pork store in Fair Lawn, and doesn't mention readers can buy uncured, naturally raised hams at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's and other stores that would be a lot better for them.