Friday, July 31, 2015

Will prosecutor appeal ruling overturning Zisa convictions?

Waiting on Railroad Avenue in Hackensack for an NJ Transit train to pass on the way to the Anderson Street station.


Former Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa was sentenced to prison in late 2012, but remained under house arrest while he appealed his convictions.

Today, a state appeals court overturned those guilty verdicts on official misconduct and insurance fraud charges surrounding his actions after his girlfriend was involved in a one-vehicle Hackensack accident.

But the Bergen County prosecutor could appeal that ruling, extending the legal saga involving Zisa.

I scanned the 38-page decision, which you can read in full by clicking on following link:

State of New Jersey v. Charles K. Zisa

Today's paper

On the Record's front page today, you'll find only one story worth reading, from Staff Writer Jay Levin.

Agnes Fenton of Englewood will celebrate her 110th birthday today (A-1).

That's unless you want to be bored to tears by another long, tedious 9/11 column from Staff Writer Mike Kelly.

Here is Kelly's scene-setting first paragraph:

"His grave lies just inside the cemetery gates, a few feet from a chain-link fence and the rattle and swoosh of cars, trucks and buses on Totowa's Union Boulevard" (A-1).

The "rattle and swoosh of cars, trucks and buses"? Readers' eyes are rolling. No motorcycles?

Local news?

Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza continue to rely heavily on Law & Order news to fill their thin section today (L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-6).

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Another lame story from editors who ditched Hackensack

The Record's front-page story on the redevelopment of Hackensack doesn't discuss inadequate indoor parking in the 222-unit Meridia Metro apartment building under construction on State Street, and whether this empty lot across the street could be turned into additional parking spaces.


I doubt "the face of the new Hackensack" is an apartment building under construction on State Street, although that's what The Record's front page claims today.

But you could find the new Hackensack a couple of blocks away at the recently completed Atlantic Street Park or in Art of Spice, one of the downtown restaurants that opened in the past few months.

Today's story is about a debate over how to market a redeveloping Hackensack (A-1), but there is so much missing from this account it is hardly worthy of Page 1.

Will it work?

And the biggest question of all isn't even asked: 

Will apartment development in downtown Hackensack revive Main Street, once the shopping and entertainment hub of Bergen County?

In Englewood, which has seen intensive apartment development on its main street, Palisade Avenue, as well as along Route 4, empty storefronts are commonplace, and restaurants come and go.

The story incorrectly calls the Meridia Metro building shown on A-1 and A-8 (five floors of apartments over a parking garage) a "residential tower." 

And it doesn't mention the appeal of its location for people who work in New York -- across the street from an NJ Transit express-bus stop and not far from the Essex Street rail station.

'The Sack'

If you want a good laugh, take a look at marketing themes proposed by two professional firms, Axiom of Secaucus, and Words and Pictures of Park Ridge:

"Hackensack: Bergen County's Main Street."

"The Sack: Not Your Mother's Main Street."

"The Sack"? LOL. 

As a taxpayer, I hope the city doesn't turn out to be a "Sack of Woe."

How about sacking that firm, which isn't identified? 

Left Hackensack

This superficial story comes from the same editors who abandoned Hackensack in 2009 on orders from Publisher Stephen A. Borg.

He closed the River Street headquarters of North Jersey Media Group and its flagship daily paper.

A year before, Borg's newsroom downsizing set off a precipitous slide in accuracy and the quality of local reporting that continues today.

On the the land across the street from the Meridia Metro project, passers-by can see what looks like jet skis on a trailer, above; and shuttered businesses, below.

Does the landlord own the expensive Porsche parked behind this building?

Two sides of Christie

The Record's reporters continue to cover Governor Christie's fading campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, months after the paper's editorial writers started to criticize him in harsh terms.

Today, an editorial says replacement of the antiquated Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan is more important than a new La Guardia Airport (A-16).

"As for Christie, he is more concerned about a few hundred thousand Republican voters in the early presidential primaries and caucuses than he is about the millions of passengers who use the Port Authority Bus Terminal annually.

"A midtown bus terminal is not a Christie priority. Perhaps if the Port Authority were to build it in Iowa, he would come."

Local news?

In Local, Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza relied on nearly two pages of police news and a long Dean's List to fill the municipal-news holes in their thin section (L-2, L-3 and L-6).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Criticized in Paterson, Speziale now called pain at airports

Aboard NJ Transit's No. 165 bus -- a cheap, efficient way to travel to and from Manhattan, as long as you don't do so during the rush hour, when seats are scarce and delays are frequent.


The Record of Woodland Park today carries the third major story about Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale, who claims he and his fiance were "held hostage" by Port Authority police as he was trying to leave for a vacation in Puerto Rico.

Poor guy. Why are fellow law-enforcement officers treating Speziale so shabbily?

Today, the Port Authority responded to Speziale's claim the agency is retaliating against him.

Speziale says he was a whistle-blower who reported "corruption and wasteful spending" when he was deputy police superintendent at the bi-state agency (A-1).

Speziale filed a federal lawsuit last year, alleging the agency targets him at its airports.

In response, the Port Authority accuses Speziale of repeatedly causing trouble at airline terminals, especially when he isn't treated like a VIP and is forced to wait in the same security lines most travelers have to endure (A-6).

Coated with Teflon

You could call Speziale the "Teflon Cop."

I cannot recall The Record every closely examining the job he did as Passaic County sheriff or what has happened under his watch as police director in Paterson, where he seems unable or unwilling to stop the gun violence that has claimed so many innocent lives.

So far, the local editors have assigned three major stories on his problems at John F. Kennedy International Airport last Friday.

Compare that to the zero stories assigned to assess his performance as police director in Silk City, and a complete absence of editorial comment on whether he should be doing more to stop the senseless violence.

Another viewpoint

Today, on a site called, I came across this commentary on a North story, reporting Speziale had resigned as sheriff in 2010 to take the Port Authority job:
"I aint gonna get all into it now but I have always personally hated this guy [Speziale] so much and im really glad to see him gone. he was a power hungry tyrant who was obsessed with buying more and more technology for the police department for the purpose of drug enforcement....puttin more money into the SWAT teams, the drug raids, all that shit, instead of crackin down on violent crime and some of the other shit that is a huge problem in paterson. Shit, last summer the homicides were POPPIN off like every weekend sometimes more than one in a weekend and none of that shit changed but he just kept goin hard on the drugs, puttin all their money into this crazy enforcement shit , like fuckin military grade equipment for their drug raid teams."

Click on this link for the full commentary:

Failed drug war in Paterson

Police news

If it wasn't for police news and drive-by photos of non-fatal accidents, The Record's Local section would literally be filled with blank spaces (see L-3 today).

Unable to inspire their local staff to gather enough municipal news, veteran Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza scramble every day to plug those holes.

That may be the motive for treating Speziale and other law-enforcement officials so gently -- why criticize the golden geese that lay all those Law & Order eggs?

'Lost' money

Today, a follow-up quotes Mahwah police as saying the ATM workers who left a bag filled with $150,000 in cash on a curb are not suspects (L-3).

A white van stopped, and a man wearing shorts and a T-shirt is "seen getting out ... to pick up the bag without looking inside," police say.

Without looking inside?

More questions are unanswered.

Will the ATM workers be keeping their jobs, and will the unnamed company that employs them be able to recover any of the lost money from an insurance policy?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Best editors can do is an all-Trump, all-infrastructure A-1

In a front-page story on Monday, The Record hailed the 25-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act, but didn't discuss the widespread misuse of parking spaces reserved for the handicapped. Spaces at 24 Hour Fitness on Route 4 in Paramus, above, often seem to be filled by drivers who bound out of their vehicles and seem able bodied. Of course, their handicap could be mental.


Even if you ignore today's all-Trump, all-infrastructure front page, you'll find a story about La Guardia Airport on A-3 and another on the federal highway bill on A-4.

All of this infrastructure news helps Editor Martin Gottlieb of The Record reinforce his reputation for long, dull stories.

And even if you read between the lines, it won't be clear that conservative Republicans like Governor Christie and the party's elite in Congress are the ones standing in the way of expanded mass transit, as well as rebuilding roads and bridges (A-1).

The Record's story on Donald Trump's business interests in New Jersey is being upstaged today by a report from Bloomberg that the presidential candidate is worth $2.9 billion -- not the $10 billion he claims.

Scott Garrett

One of those opposing the federal highway bill is Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, the Tea Party idol whose fundraising received more scrutiny on Monday's front page than it has in many years.

In a column, Staff Writer Herb Jackson reported Garrett raised nearly $1 million in both 2012 and 2014 election cycles from "employees and PACs tied to banking, insurance, securities and real estate interests."

Garrett is chairman of the subcommittee that reviews legislation affecting those industries.

Today, a story on the Local front reports protesters at Garrett's Glen Rock district office on Monday called for his resignation (L-1).

They cited Garrett as a co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, "which would offer protections to people and groups who cite their religious beliefs when declining services to same-sex couples seeking to marry."


How believable is this headline on L-1 today?

ATM workers
lose $150,000
left on lawn

The word "lose" should have been written in quotation marks.

And doesn't it sound like police should be exploring whether the ATM workers and a man in a white van who took the bag of cash are working together?

Yet that possibility isn't raised in the story.

Political plum?

Another story in Local has so little information it's pathetic.

The report on retired North Arlington Police Chief Louis Ghione doesn't explain how he got a plum Port Authority job, "security manager at ... One World Trade Center" (L-3).

Ghione, who was chief since 1982, will receive roughly $200,000 in accumulated vacation and sick time from the borough, an annual pension of $131,000 and the Port Authority salary, which is missing from the story.

His age also isn't given, and readers aren't told whether he will be able to get a second pension from the Port Authority when he retires from that job.

'Pending' suit

Editing lapses like that have become commonplace -- fallout from continuing economies in the newsroom that began in 2008, and ineffective, six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton and her minions, including the supervisor of the copy desk.

Is there a difference between a "lawsuit" and "pending lawsuit"?

I'm not a lawyer, but I doubt it.

Yet, in a story leading Monday's Local section, no editor seemed to notice that Staff Writer Minjae Park said a lawsuit is "pending" three times in the first five paragraphs (Monday's L-1).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Christie's bringing-up-the-rear campaign isn't Page 1 news

Employees at the ShopRite in Englewood say expansion of the store, above, is imminent.

The parking lot has already been expanded.


Editor Martin Gottlieb of The Record continues to throw away money by assigning Staff Writer Melissa Hayes to cover Governor Christie's fading campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.

In fact, the "Election 2016" bug on Hayes' Page 1 story from Iowa and New Hampshire is incorrect, since the Republicans won't be picking their candidate until next July. 

Disease of the week

Buddy Cordato is one lucky Parkinson's disease patient, thanks to a brain stimulator (A-1).

And Staff Writer Lindy Washburn is asking readers to share their stories, "if you've had a second chance at life because of extraordinary medical care" (A-8).

The Cordato story is great publicity for doctors and Hackensack University Medical Center.

But when is Gottlieb going to devote half of Page 1 and two full newspaper pages inside to dementia, heart disease and other illnesses that affect far more people, including many of his readers?

Honest mechanic

The best-read story on the Local front today likely is the obituary of an honest Teaneck auto-repair shop owner, known to one and all as Taki (A-1 and L-1).

Taki, 66, who was born in Japan, stood in contrast to all of those greedy auto mechanics and dealers who have exploited car owners since the invention of the internal-combustion engine.

Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza couldn't find much local news for today's section, so they used filler on both L-2 (a long Dean's List) and L-3 (two accident photos).

The caption of one photo, showing a car on its roof, suggests Teaneck police are incompetent: "Police do not know what caused the accident."

Get me rewrite

On the Opinion front today, Columnist Mike Kelly wastes readers' time with a rehash of the clashing portrayals of prisoners of war evident to just about everyone in the July 19 edition of The Record (O-1).

That's when Gottlieb led the front page with Donald Trump questioning the heroism of U.S. Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, on the Local front of the same paper, the editors led with a parade in Washington Township for another prisoner of war, World War II vet Vito Trause, 90.

Today's Margulies cartoon puts Christie's campaign in perspective, in contrast to Hayes' friendly front-page story (O-2).

Rich food

Restaurant customers hoping for coverage of such issues as tipping and naturally raised food are out of luck again today.

None other than Food Editor Esther Davidowitz presents a glowing profile of Kim Costagliola, the wealthy owner of Esty Street in Park Ridge (BL-1).

There is nothing here on the quality of the food he serves or how he treats his employees, only paragraph after paragraph describing his possessions.

Meanwhile, Elisa Ung, the paper's chief restaurant critics, continues to indulge her sweet tooth, listing two desserts among the four best dishes she ate this month (BL-5).

The other two are filled with carbs many people are trying to avoid. Seems strange she couldn't find a great salad or a superior preparation of wild-caught fish.

Half of BL-2 today is devoted to advertisements for restaurants, a bar and a baker that are disguised as "tasty news bites."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Editors, reporters hold themselves apart from you and me

The Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan on Friday. The Record today continues to play catch-up on the sad state of mass transit between northern New Jersey and New York City.

The Eighth Avenue entrance to the bus terminal.


The commute for North Jersey residents who work in Manhattan has been a "nightmare" for many years, not just the "week" you see on the front page of The Record today.

Even in the absence of electrical failures and equipment breakdowns, rush-hour seats on NJ Transit trains have been at a premium for years, and the packed Penn Station waiting room is standing room only and has inadequate air conditioning.

Today's Page 1 story on rail problems doesn't even mention the long list of grievances filed by NJ Transit bus riders stuck with the dysfunctional midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Fare hikes

"Some riders found the delays especially hard to take because NJ Transit's board members voted ... to increase fares by 9 percent and cut service ... to fill a $56 million hole in NJ Transit' budget," writes Christopher Maag, the paper's transportation reporter (A-6).

But Maag omits any mention of Governor Christie's annual cuts in state aid to NJ Transit.

Christie also issued a statement from Iowa "indirectly" blaming President Obama "for failing to bring congressional and state leaders to the table to hammer out financing for a new tunnel under the Hudson River" (A-6).

Of course, Staff Writer Melissa Hayes, who is in Iowa covering the GOP bully's bid for the GOP presidential nomination, was too sheepish to ask him why he didn't call such a summit in 2010 instead of suddenly cancelling new Hudson River rail tunnels.

Instead, Maag again politicizes mass transit by noting, in one of the great understatements of the month, "Democrats and some transit riders found Christie's statement at odds with his own record" [unilateral cancellation of the tunnels in 2010, not 2011, as The Record reports].

No surprise. The reporter is at the beck and call of Editor Martin Gottlieb -- a Christie apologist from across the Hudson -- and assignment editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza.

SUV-loving editors

In decades of assigning reporters, Sykes and Sforza have insisted they cover every board meeting held by NJ Transit, but never to actually ride buses and trains, and assess the service.

Sforza himself covered transportation, but spent most of his time writing about "highways of the future" that will never get built, while ignoring defective NJ Transit buses with screeching rear brakes.

And when he became a local editor, Sforza assigned a reporter to write a number of long stories attacking NJ Transit's proposal to extend light-rail service to Englewood  and Tenafly.

Front-page news?

Is a new policy to close a 24-hour Walmart in Teterboro at midnight really Page 1 news or are the editors again merely pandering to a big advertiser?

Staff Writer Melanie Anzidei drew the short end of the stick, and actually was sent out to interview shoppers at 2 a.m. Friday.

This is a non-story, because the Garfield Walmart -- 4.5 miles away -- will continue to operate 24/7.

Poor George Nwokocha, a Hackensack man who bought bikes for his sons early Friday.

"It will be a longer trip for us," said Nwokocha, as the reporter, no doubt, pleaded for something more dramatic (A-6).

Poor example

Even before Christie set a poor example for a governor, he embodied an unhealthy lifestyle and terrible nutrition, all of which was ignored by the media as he blew up to 400 pounds, as estimated by late-night comedian David Letterman.

Today, Christie is shown in Iowa after trying a bacon-wrapped fried Oreo (A-3). Back in New Jersey, his aides issued a statement ordering residents to eat bread.

Gottlieb is covering the GOP presidential campaign better than he is the fallout from Christie's policies here in the Garden State.

On Friday, Gottlieb ran on A-3 what should have been A-1 news: 

A Senate panel approved a bill that would prohibit the governor from using taxpayer money to pay for his political activities outside New Jersey.

Speziale story

I got a kick out of the story on L-2 today about Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale being pulled off of a flight to Puerto Rico in a dispute "related to oversized carry-on luggage" at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Look at how much sympathetic ink Speziale gets here.

Yet, the editors have refused to comment on his running of the Police Department, which seems unable or unwilling to stop gun violence in Silk City.

How many innocent youngsters have to die in the streets before someone takes a hard look at the job Speziale isn't doing in Paterson?

At least seven stories in today's Local section, including the big photo package on the cover, are from outside Bergen County.

Friday, July 24, 2015

With N.J. going to hell, A-1 pro hockey news is shocking

Today's Hackensack Chronicle reports the Atlantic Street Park is officially open, but on Thursday, workmen were still putting the finishing touches on the space, above and below.

New parking meters on Atlantic Street, right, were covered with plastic bags on Thursday, and an officer in a marked police car ordered me to move after I parked there to take pictures.


New Jersey continues to struggle under an absentee governor, but Editor Martin Gottlieb couldn't care less.

Page 1 of The Record today is dominated by a silly sports column and the 12-year-old photo of Lou Who?

Gottlieb, who once worked at The New York Times and lives in Manhattan, continues to show contempt for the concerns of the vast majority of New Jersey residents as Governor Christie focuses most of his energies on his failing presidential bid.

Also on A-1

Another Page 1 story today -- on the growing number of female funeral directors -- is puzzling given how obituaries of locally prominent people rarely appear on the front page.

I guess Gottlieb knows how many geezers like himself still read the paper, so he's aimed a third A-1 story on hip and knee replacement surgery squarely at them (A-1).

A story on A-3 says that in early September, all NJ Transit bus service "would be consolidated" on the midtown Manhattan bus terminal's third floor.

Why wasn't that done 10 years ago?

End the column

Readers of the Road Warrior column know Staff Writer John Cichowski is so desperate for material he'll print any and every email from readers, whose exaggerations and inaccuracies rival the columnist's own (L-1).

Today, he quotes Dave Mackay of Ringwood as claiming he was "chased from a cellphone lot" at Newark Liberty International Airport while waiting for his wife's plane to land.

"Non-commercial drivers must pay to use these lots that are intended for people who are picking up arriving passengers, he was told," the columnist claims.

Not sure what the veteran reporter means by "these lots," because there is only one at Newark airport, and it's relatively new.

Another cellphone lot is at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Both lots are free, but the signage at Newark makes that lot much harder to find.

Cichowski's column is filled with so many errors readers don't known what is true and what isn't. 

Ending the column would be absolutely no loss to commuters.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Christie fundraiser's ties to the Borg family remain hidden

Passaic Street in Hackensack, Maywood and Rochelle Park is a major thoroughfare, but with only two lanes and few turn lanes, it becomes a major bottleneck during the rush hour and on weekends.


The Record's front page has a strong Jersey focus for a change, but a story on A-3 today raises questions about the influence of the Borg publishing family on the paper's coverage of Governor Christie.

For the first time, The Record identifies Jon Hanson, chairman and founder of Hampshire Real Estate Cos., as a major fundraiser for Christie.

But nowhere in the story by Melissa Hayes will you find any mention of the close friendship between Hanson and Malcolm A. Borg, chairman of North Jersey Media Group, owner of the Woodland Park daily.

Nor does Hayes report that last January, Hanson's Hampshire Cos. helped arrange a sale-leaseback deal on NJMG's Rockaway Township printing plant and land with Publisher Stephen A. Borg.

You can read about Hanson's other ties to the Borgs here:

Borgs rely on Christie ally is sale of Rockaway plant

Friendly coverage

The Record's coverage of Christie has been friendly, to say the least, since he took office in early 2010.

Columnist Charles Stile often wrote about Christie's so-called Reform Agenda, and never challenged the GOP bully's claim to be a compromiser who could work with the majority Democrats in the state Legislature.

Stile also began reporting on whether Christie would run for president in 2016 two or more years ago.

350 and counting

In fact, it wasn't until March of this year that another reporter in Trenton wrote a story for The Record, noting for the first time how many vetoes Christie used to get his way with the Legislature.

He exercised his veto power "at least 350 times," the story reported. How's that for "compromise"?


Christie vetoes set a record for a N.J. governor

Has Hanson's close friendship with the Borgs influenced the friendly coverage of Christie, who has turned out to be the worst governor in New Jersey history?

What motive would The Record's editors have to continually hide the Hanson-Borg relationship -- unless they were ordered to?

More corrections

A-2 today carries two major corrections, including one in which the local editors admit they didn't know the identity of the mayor of Carlstadt.

Local news?

Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza couldn't find enough local news for today's section.

So, readers find another large, gee-whiz, filler photo on L-3.

A four-vehicle chain reaction accident on Route 208 in Fair Lawn was precipitated by a BMW driver who was speeding or following too closely and rammed the rear of a Toyota sedan (L-3).

No names appear in the photo caption, and readers don't know whether the BMW driver was issued any summonses.

As this and hundreds of other drive-by accident images have demonstrated in recent years, the L-3 photo is intended as filler, not as information.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trump, world's richest racist, brings out worst in media

A Honda Accord with an "OP ED" license plate was parked in a reserved space at an upscale residence for seniors in Teaneck on Tuesday. In The Record today, you'll find the op-ed page on A-11, opposite the editorial page, filled as it always is with commentary on the news.


Is U.S. Sen. John McCain's Vietnam War record an issue in the 2016 presidential race?

Of course not, but that doesn't stop The Record of Woodland Park from putting Donald Trump's irrelevant and outrageous comments all over Page 1 today and Sunday.

The Borgs are actually wasting a ton of money on sending Staff Writer Charles Stile to South Carolina to assess Trump's impact on Governor Christie's long-shot campaign for the GOP nomination (A-1).

Political Stile is a column only politicians read; North Jersey readers are bored to tears with it, and their eyes roll every time Editor Martin Gottlieb puts it on the front page.

Failed reporters

Stile is a weak reporter because he completely missed the signs that Christie's White House bid was doomed to failure after all the years the GOP bully mismanaged New Jersey.

Instead of a serious discussion on immigration, Trump denounced Mexicans who come to the United States as rapists, drug dealers and criminals.

What I am sure followed were Mexican-American cooks and other Latino workers in expensive restaurants spitting in Trump's food every chance they got. 

Garrett v. Jackson

Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson is another incompetent reporter.

For years, he's been relaying one "no comment" after another from Rep. Scott Garrett, the Tea Party idol and conservative crackpot who is so completely out of step with his Bergen County constituency.

Today, he reports the Wantage Republican cast two votes in Washington, "but ... continued to avoid public comment about his own controversial opposition to financing gay Republican candidates" (A-1).

Garrett "has not responded in any way to numerous requests to his office for comment," the exasperated reporter says on Page 1 today, as he has done in so many previous stories.

Yet, every time Garrett runs for another term, Jackson seems to forget what a cowardly politician he is and heaps praise on his fund-raising ability, completely ignoring his stance on issues or on making himself accessible to the media and by extension the public.

Doesn't The Record's editorial board have any leverage with Garrett's stone-walling staff in D.C.?

Jackson certainly doesn't.

No horse race

The Record and other media are bored with the issues that engage many voters.

Yet, they are desperate for a horse race in the 2016 presidential race, and if it doesn't materialize, they will manufacture one, as they are trying to do now.

When the Republicans put up Mitt Romney against incumbent Barack Obama in 2012, the media were reporting one poll after another that showed the elitist clown was a serious threat.

But the president won a second term by wide margins in both the popular vote and in the Electoral College.

It was, as they say, no contest. The irresponsible media let us down once again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

More reporting of news, views from everywhere but here

The Fort Lee street they never finished. That's the impression residents and visitors get from all of the digging, jack-hammering, patching and tearing up of Main Street in the past couple of years. On Monday, the block of Main Street with the post office, restaurants and a bakery was completely closed.


I get it. Even a minor victory over Governor Christie's regressive policies is front-page news.

That's why a deal with Senate leaders to scrap the controversial Return Home New Jersey program is on Page 1 of The Record today.

But this A-1 story involves only a few hundred developmentally disabled adults living in other states, and leading the paper with it is inappropriate.

Meanwhile, with so many better food-shopping options available in North Jersey, the bankruptcy of A&P means little to anyone who doesn't work at the 25 stores that may close (A-1).

So, why is this story on A-1?

Two corrections

A correction on A-2 today notes The Record, in a story on Sunday's Local front, "misidentified the location of a birthday celebration for 90-year-old veteran Vito Trause."

The story also misidentified one of Trause's longtime friends, Bobby Keane.

On Sunday's L-1, Staff Writer Colleen Diskin, a newsroom veteran, reported the party was at the "local Knights of Columbus Hall," a reference to Washington Township.

But on L-6, Diskin reported "the parade was followed by a party on the back lawn of the American Legion Hall."

The correction says Knights of Columbus Hall is correct, and longtime friend Bobby Keane -- who arranged "a siren-blasting escort" by police and firefighters -- was referred to incorrectly as "Danny Keane."

Just goes to show that even when Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza focus on local news, six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton's lax standards and lack of oversight can really screw things up.

Trump editorial

The story on Vito Trause, a prisoner of war, appeared on the same day the media went bananas over Donald Trump's derogatory comments about another POW, U.S. Sen. John McCain (Sunday's A-1).

Today, an editorial slams Trump's inane comments as an "insult to all POWs" (A-8).

And what about two big factual errors in the 90th birthday story about Vito Trause? Aren't they insulting, too?

Local crash news

If you're looking for local news today, check out the L-1 photo of a two-car accident in Fair Lawn and the photo by Tariq Zehawi, the staffer who has been ordered to chase ambulances for more years than I care to remember.

Zehawi got everything in the photo -- it almost looks posed -- but overworked police reporter Stefanie Dazio couldn't find out any details on the collision involving an Elmwood Park police cruiser.

On L-3 today, the local editors, Sykes and Sforza, show readers that orange is the new black and white -- three color photos of defendants in orange jail jumpsuits against an ocean of back headlines and type.

I see nothing in today's Local section on Monday night's scheduled meeting of the Hackensack City Council.

Greece again

Why are the media so fascinated with Greece?

Two more stories appear on the first Business page today (L-8), one bemoaning the 22 cents extra Greeks now have to pay to get onions on their souvlaki.

New Jersey's economy is just limping along, and Puerto Rico is facing bankruptcy, yet all we see in The Record is an endless stream of stories about Greece.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that at the end of 2014, "Greeks owed their government about $86 billion in unpaid taxes accrued over decades, but mostly since 2009."

"Billions more in taxes are owed on never-reported revenue from Greece's vast underground economy," the paper reported.

If that holds lessons for New Jersey, where Christie has repeatedly vetoed a tax surcharge on millionaires, The Record has yet to draw any parallels.

And readers don't even know whether the many wealthy Greek restaurant owners in North Jersey, many of whom own homes and other property in their native country, are among those who have traditionally refused to pay taxes there, precipitating the crisis.

Monday, July 20, 2015

If Christie drops out of race, no need for friendly columnist

Hudson Street in Hackensack is one of many streets showing the signs of utility work, but the patching is much smoother than on River Street, especially near the old headquarters of The Record.


A day after The Record declared that many view Governor Christie's White House bid as a "long shot," the paper's political columnist doesn't miss a beat.

Since the GOP bully took office in early 2010, Staff Writer Charles Stile has stuck by Christie in his Political Stile column, never bothering to report on whether the conservative's policies have been good for New Jersey.

Today, he's back on Page 1, analyzing whether Donald Trump's foot-in-mouth disease can help boost Christie's anemic showing in the race for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

His column is never labeled "Opinion" or "Analysis," as many papers would with similar partisan reporting.

With Stile in his corner, Christie doesn't even need spin doctors.

The veteran Trenton reporter does a good imitation of a journalist who is angling for a job in what he hopes will be a Christie administration in Washington.

Stile's chief weakness is that he continues to completely ignore all of the New Jersey baggage and failed policies Christie brought to the race -- from Superstorm Sandy recovery to mass transit to "pension reform" to the Bridgegate scandal.

It's a weakness shared with Editor Martin Gottlieb, who puts Stile's boring column on the front page once or twice a week.

Stile's next and last column should be on the sentiment for Christie to drop out of the race, return to New Jersey and finish out his term, fixing the mess he's made as the state's worst governor ever.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Editors go from mindless P.R. to calling Christie 'long shot'

Only one side of the Route 46 bridge in Little Ferry has been rebuilt, including a new sidewalk and  guardrail to protect pedestrians, above. And the accident-plagued former Little Ferry Circle still has the look of a construction zone, below. The work began in June 2014.


If you thought Saturday's front page was boring, Page 1 of the Sunday edition delivers a tedious retrospective on home foreclosures and an "Analysis" on spending at public colleges.

Even today's bright headline and story on lawyers who wear bow ties can't lift Editor Martin Gottlieb's front page out of the doldrums.

I would have liked to see Stephanie Akin's story at least mention the exorbitantly high legal fees that allow bow-tied lawyers to exhibit such sartorial splendor (A-1).

GOP clowns

And why did Gottlieb lead with that clown, Donald Trump, questioning the war heroism of Arizona Sen. John McCain (A-1), and not Governor Christie's defense?

Then, the real "news" in today's paper would have been on Page 1, not on A-8, a declaration by The Record that Christie's presidential campaign "is viewed by many as a long shot."

That's fortified by an Opinion column (O-2) noting Christie is a "third-tier GOP presidential candidate who was tied with Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum, each of whom netted 2 percent in a nationwide survey of GOP voters ...."

Next step

Of course, The Record's editorial board needs to really put an end to more than five years of shameless public relations for the GOP bully from Columnist Charles Stile, Staff Writer Melissa Hayes and others.

The Woodland Park daily must call on Christie to give up his so-called campaign and try to repair all the damage he has done in New Jersey since he took office in early 2010.

Local hero?

The editors of Page 1 and the Local front don't seem to talk to each other.

On the front page, Trump slams McCain, but L-1 is dominated by a parade for another prisoner of war, Vito Trause of Washington Township, celebrating his 90th birthday.

Neither story refers to the other, as is common newspaper practice.


Today's column from the dessert-obsessed Elisa Ung may be her first acknowledgement in more than eight years of food reporting at The Record that many people have dietary restrictions that prevent them from eating anything and everything under the sun, as she does (BL-1).

But she interviews only chefs who are diabetic or have celiac disease.

Surely, she must know -- or doesn't want to know -- that many thousands of her readers are following a heart-healthy diet or, unlike her, just watching their weight and cholesterol.

Good, bad work

Staff Writer Richard Newman, whose byline is on the Page 1 foreclosure story, did a great job on the profile of Capt. Mike Bowers, United Airlines' chief pilot at Newark Liberty International Airport (B-1).

But the upbeat Real Estate front on a developer who is converting a Paterson ribbon mill into apartments (R-1) clashes with The Record's usual portrayal of Silk City -- gun violence, drug dealers and corrupt politicians.

The story by veteran Staff Writer Kathleen Lynn doesn't even answer such typical questions as how close tenants are to food shopping and other businesses, and how does a Paterson landlord justify renting a one-bedroom apartment with a loft for $1,200 a month?

Second look

We may pay some of the highest municipal and county taxes in the nation, but town and Bergen County officials continue to disappoint residents when it comes to repaving streets.

For the last couple of years, utility work has torn up streets from Hackensack to Hackettstown, and most of them remain roughly patched and bumpy going for anything smaller than a Sherman Tank.

Except for an annual column or two on potholes, Road Warrior John Cichowski ignores the abysmal condition of streets, some of which haven't been paved in decades.

In fact, when Oradell officials approved the milling and paving of five streets, the story landed on the Local news front on Saturday.

Staff Writer Nicholas Pugliese reported the borough's capital budget of more than $1 million included "aggressive spending on road improvements."

In Hackensack, officials have announced the repaving of two major streets, Grand and Prospect avenues, but the latter project won't provide smoother going for residents who live on several blocks between Passaic Street and Ross Avenue.