Monday, October 12, 2015

Drivers took commuting columnist hostage 12 years ago

An NJ Transit bus on Main Street in Hackensack. In a dozen years of writing the Road Warrior column for The Record, Staff Writer John Cichowski has largely ignored bus and train riders, and in the process, racked up more errors than any reporter past or present at the Woodland Park daily.


In a front-page headline today, The Record's editors admit that drivers have been allowed to hijack a column that was aimed at all commuters when it was launched 25 years ago:

"Keeping drivers in the loop"

And John Cichowski, the reporter who turned his back on bus and rail users, is still writing the column today, a dozen years after he took over from the original Road Warrior, Jeffrey Page.

This Page 1 anniversary column also is flawed by the photo of a highway project that was completed about 15 years ago, and an awkward sub-headline.

I'm sure the drowsy copy editor who write the sub-headline was looking for "delays" instead of "holdups," which was two meanings (A-1).

Dissing seniors

Besides ignoring mass-transit users, Cichowski has spent little time reporting on the challenges facing his contemporaries, older drivers who mistake the gas pedal for the brake pedal with often fatal consequences.

If there is retraining available to seniors or other programs to improve their driving skills, readers haven't seen it in the Road Warrior column.

Shaky reporting

Chichowski made so many errors he inspired one Record reader to set up a Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers in an attempt to correct what the newspaper refused to set right.

And because Cichowski's reporting has been so shaky readers are questioning some of what he says today:

"It took nearly a decade to get E-ZPass to work correctly," the reporter claims, without ever elaborating anywhere in his overlong column (A-1 and A-10).

He also takes credit for a column that stopped "four mornings of horrific traffic jams" at the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 (A-10).

But Cichowski, a lazy reporter who rarely leaves the office, doesn't tell readers that he was tipped off by Publisher Stephen A. Borg, whose friend called from the bridge to complain about being stuck in traffic.


Cichowski's chief weakness is relying on the eyes and ears of his readers, and publishing hundreds of their emails as the basis for many of his columns.

Their only motive is to see their names in print, and their observations and knowledge of driving laws and regulations are even shakier than Cichowski's.

Among his other failures as a journalist is his refusal to embrace mass transit as a way of cutting traffic congestion and reducing air pollution.

EV charging

A story on the Local front today doesn't tell owners of plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars how much they will have to pay to gain access to chargers in Englewood's municipal garage (L-1).

Nor does the story report on the rate of charge or whether the electricity is free. 

With employees of a Mercedes-Benz dealer using the spaces from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, public access will be limited.

Guessing game

A caption on L-1 identifies only one of the four people whose faces are clearly visible in the photo, which runs with a story on Englewood's hometown sports heroes.

Stories or photos from Closter, Mahwah, Tenafly, Maywood, Clifton and Woodland Park also appear today.

But there is nothing from two of the biggest towns in the circulation area, Hackensack and Teaneck.

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