Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Editors manage to find bright side of high N.J. jobless rate

On North Woodland Street in Englewood, drivers doing an end run on Monday morning around one of the city's new automated garbage trucks. Later, when the truck moved over to pass a jogger on the right side of the street, a car traveling in the opposite direction nearly hit it.


"U.S.," "New York" and "Cuba" are just three of the headline words on Page 1 of The Record, supposedly a local daily newspaper.

The funeral of a police officer who died in an ATV accident and shore taffy are promoted in front-page briefs, but an editorial on A-8 is the first word readers find on the death of a corruption-fighting former mayor.

Neither today's editorial or the L-1 obituary on Margie Semler, 92, refer to the other piece, as is common newspaper practice.

And in yet another major error, Monday's Page 1 story on the death of Joseph Robinson Jr., oldest son of the founders of Sugar Hill Records in Englewood, misreported the date of his wake and funeral by an entire week (A-2).

That comes just when readers thought a local black resident doesn't have to commit a heinous crime to get on the front page of the Woodland Park daily.

Wrong focus

The lead A-1 headline today focuses on a national increase in traffic deaths, not on the decline in New Jersey that concerns readers most.

And in what could be viewed as more gentle handling of Governor Christie, the story reports the state's high unemployment rate may be reducing both driving and fatal crashes.

In nearly a dozen years of writing the Road Warrior column, Staff Writer John Cichowski has largely ignored the antiquated road and street network in Bergen and Passaic counties.

The lack of turn lanes on such major thoroughfares as Passaic Street, Teaneck Road and Forest Avenue; streets like Cedar Lane that go from two lanes to one lane and back again, and other traffic bottlenecks increase driver frustration, aggravate air pollution and cause accidents.

Margie Semler

If you read between the lines, the editorial on former Passaic Mayor Margie Semler makes clear she had little in common with politicians in such towns as Cliffside Park and Englewood Cliffs, long ruled by family dynasties, and Hackensack, which threw off the yoke of the Zisa family in 2013 (A-8).

"Semler's backbone was evident to anyone who knew her," the editorial states. "She spoke her mind when she saw something wrong. She spoke out against nepotism in city government, and against deal-making that she perceived as harming the overall health of the city she loved so much."

Christopher Birch

The lavish coverage of the funeral of a Midland Park police officer who contributed to his own off-duty death is an insult to readers looking for municipal news (A-1 and L-1).

According to Pennsylvania State Police, Christopher Birch, 31, was driving too fast on July 6, failed to negotiate a turn, left the road and crashed into a large boulder.

He was pronounced dead at the scene of the ATV crash.

Many readers suspect Birch's funeral is getting such big play, because Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza hope that will lead to better relations with police departments in Midland Park and elsewhere.

Sykes and Sforza, who rely so heavily on Law & Order news to fill their thin Local section, need the continuing cooperation of those departments. 

Another error

Typical of the police filler Sykes and Sforza seek so desperately is the photo on L-2 today of a car that crashed into an Englewood laundromat.

The photo caption incorrectly identifies the car as a Toyota Prius, and the street where the crash occurred isn't given.

Seven other Law & Order stories appear in Local today (L-2 and L-3).

Francis Scandale

Former Record Editor Francis "Frank" Scandale is now investigative editor for The Journal News Media Group in White Plains.

Scandale also continues as the founder and editor of The Daily Payoff, "the only U.S.-based site dedicated to coverage of gaming and gambling in the U.S. and abroad," according to his Linked In profile.

In November 2011, Scandale left as editor and executive vice president of The Record after 10 years and 11 months.

He was shown the door by Publisher Stephen A. Borg in response to the paper's pathetically poor coverage of a surprise Halloween snowstorm.

Early in his career as one of The Record's worst editors ever, Scandale caved into the bean counters on 9/11, and didn't remake the front page for Tom Franklin's photo of firefighters raising the American flag over the rubble of the Twin Towers.

Putting a photo no other paper had on a back page to save money certainly put the kabosh on Franklin's bid for a Pulitzer Prize.

And journalism's biggest award continued to elude Scandale, as it has his successor, former New York Times editor and reporter Martin Gottlieb.

Scandale also helped implement a major Borg-inspired downsizing in the old newsroom in 2008, followed by the 2009 closure of North Jersey Media Group headquarters in Hackensack.

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