Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Second look: 9/11 photo, IRS scam, Fidel, climate change

Richard L. Cerbo speaking at a Hackensack City Council meeting on Sept. 1. Cerbo, son of a former mayor, is running in a special Nov. 3 election for an open council seat under the banner of "We can do better." His name appears first on the ballot, which lists three other candidates.


With another front page dominated by Pope Francis' first visit to the United States, I'm taking a second look today at recent photos and stories that made their own big splash in The Record.

The photo on the front page the day after the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America was simple and moving:

A father flanked by his two sons, all wearing first-responder uniforms, bowing their heads as they looked at the name of a relative at the memorial in lower Manhattan (A-1 on Sept. 12).

Tall and short

But another photo from the same staff photographer, Chris Pedota, showed a rare gathering of officials at the ceremony, including Governors Christie and Cuomo and the former and current mayors of New York City (A-8 on Sept. 12).

Cuomo is only a few inches taller than Christie, who stood next to him, but I'm sure I wasn't the only reader who was reminded of how much more he has done for the people and economy of New York than the GOP bully has done for the Garden State.

Christie's regressive policies and unbending conservatism are the principal reasons New Jersey remains in the shadow of New York and so many other states.

Yet Editor Martin Gottlieb continues to assign several reporters and editors to Christie's so-called presidential campaign while largely neglecting the state's downward spiral.

Cars v. buses

At the other end of the photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio towers over his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg may be short, but more than any other previous mayor, he tried and succeeded in taking back the city's streets from cars, and failed only in getting drivers to pay a special toll for entering Midtown.

That story was ignored by The Record, even though tens of thousands of North Jersey residents were affected by the relentless spread of parking meters, red-light cameras, bike lanes, bike-sharing stations and other restrictions.

In New Jersey and at The Record, the car is king, as can be seen from more than a decade of Road Warrior columns examining driving and drivers from every possible angle while ignoring mass transit and related commuting issues.

Mounting traffic congestion at the Hudson River crossings, despite higher tolls, increases pollution and speeds climate change, but the Port Authority hasn't been criticized for refusing to expand rail and bus service into Manhattan.

It's not clear whether that coverage has anything to do with all of the advertising from car dealers and manufacturers in the Woodland Park daily, revenue that is helping to keep the Borg family's North Jersey Media Group afloat.

IRS scams

Kudos to Staff Writer Chris Harris for his riveting expose on IRS scams in New Jersey, including a sidebar recounting his phone call "with a group of IRS scammers," that led the paper on Sept. 18.

I may have missed it, but Harris could have made the point the Internal Revenue Service always sends notices about back taxes or tax underpayments by good, old-fashioned snail mail.

So just hang up if you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS.

Cuba coverage

The coverage of Cuba and Pope Francis' visit to the largest island in the Caribbean was especially weak (last Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday), principally because most of it was handled by long-winded Columnist Mike Kelly, who was sent to Havana.

Much of his reporting sounded like an echo of what The Record published the last time a pope visited Cuba.

However, the photos with his columns were supplied by a freelancer, not a staff photographer, in another sign the Woodland Park daily is cutting corners.

One story Kelly didn't cover was the meeting of Francis and Fidel Castro.

Castro, 89, has often been demonized by the media, especially in the years when The Record assigned two Cuban exiles, Miguel Perez and Liz Llorente, to cover the onetime Cuban leader.

Climate change

I chuckled when I read a Washington Post story on The Record's A-6 on Monday reporting "the two [Francis and Fidel] ... discussed their mutual concerns about climate change."

That same day, the editors gave front-page coverage to owners of gasoline-engine cars who spend many thousands of dollars to lower them.

Yet, I have yet to see equal time on A-1 for owners of purely electric vehicles and others drivers who are trying to help the environment.

Every time the price of gasoline drops, The Record trots out a celebratory story on how much drivers are saving, but ignores the impact of more driving on pollution and climate change.

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