Sunday, January 31, 2016

Incompetent local editors are now running the newsroom

Behold a colorful mural by local artists on Main and Bridge streets in Hackensack, above and below, where Choripan Rodizio, an Argentinian grill restaurant, and upper-floor apartments burned down on April 26, 2015. The fire originated in the restaurant.

The mural has upset some residents, who say city codes only allow a chain-link fence around vacant land, like the one across Bridge Street, below.


There were two cakes at a farewell party on Thursday for Martin Gottlieb, the veteran head-in-the-clouds editor who ran The Record's Woodland Park newsroom for the last four years.

One was to wish bon voyage to Gottlieb, who is retiring to Paris, and the other was to celebrate the birthday of Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg of Englewood, the North Jersey Media Group chairman who hired him twice -- in 1971 and 2011 -- 40 years apart.

Mac, who didn't give his age, is believed to be in his late 70s, and many noticed how the already overweight senior had added more unwanted pounds.

Cub to editor

Marty, who celebrated his 68th birthday on Jan. 10, began his long journalism career in 1971 as a cub reporter covering Bergen County towns for The Record, and ended it as top editor of a newspaper once known for its comprehensive local coverage.

At the party, Publisher Stephen A. Borg, Mac's son, had his cellphone glued to his ear, as usual.

And on Friday -- in a decision that had everything to do with money and nothing to do with journalism -- the younger Borg put the paper's failed local assignment editors in charge of the entire newsroom (Saturday's A-3).

Neither had strong  journalism credentials when they came to the paper.

Local yokels

Former head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes worked on a weekly before she was hired in 1987 as a night copy editor, one of the most thankless jobs in the current newsroom.

And Dan Sforza, who was her deputy, began as a lowly clerk in the old Hackensack newsroom right out of college in 1994.

Stephen Borg named Sykes as editor and Sforza as managing editor, and there is disagreement over whether either will be getting a raise.

The younger Borg imposed a freeze on raises for editorial assistants, reporters, copy editors and editors more than five years ago, when Francis "Frank" Scandale was the top editor.

Scandale was fired in late 2011, and Gottlieb arrived in January 2012 after taking a buyout at The New York Times, where he had risen to editor of editions in Paris and Hong Kong.

Always had Paris

That international experience proved to be a really poor fit at a local daily newspaper.

Readers in Hackensack and many other towns have seen coverage of their communities and schools decline drastically under Gottlieb, Sykes and Sforza.

The local editors scrambled every day to fill their thin, misnamed section, Local (see today's pathetic effort), as Gottlieb ran sports, politics and international news on A-1.

Searching in vain for municipal news, readers eyes rolled at all of the filler -- long Dean's Lists, sensational crime and court news, and gee-whiz photo after of gee-whiz photo of non-fatal accidents and fires.

Then, they were pelted with mindless blather from that moron, Road Warrior John Cichowski, who refused to cover commuting issues, as demonstrated by his statistics-filled L-1 column today.

Sykes was known to keep a shit list, and to form bonds with Jean Rimbach and other women on the reporting staff whose bylines are few and far between, and that isn't expected to change.

A good front

On today's Opinion front, Gottlieb's farewell column explores the fantasy world of journalism he inhabits.

Gottlieb ignores the major newsroom downsizing imposed by Stephen Borg in 2008, the move out of Hackensack in 2009; and the decline in the quantity, quality and accuracy of local news under Borg's watch (O-1).

The biggest laugh line is Gottlieb comparing The Record's Mike Kelly to streetwise, big-city columnists Jimmy Breslin and Mike Royko, as shown by Kelly's exceedingly boring take on Atlantic City (A-1 today).

He praises many newsroom staffers by name, but offends just as many by not acknowledging their hard work during his reign.

The photo with Gottlieb's column shows him on Thursday with Mac Borg and two of his children, Stephen and NJMG General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg.

Typical A-1

Gottlieb's last front page on Saturday is typical of his reliance on sensational crime news and politics to sell the paper to an apathetic readership.

Gottlieb has been hitting readers over the head with coverage of the GOP candidates, including Governor Christie, even though Iowa voters have failed to choose the party's nominee in the last two tries.

Every story in the past year or two on the so-called presidential campaign has meant one less on the mess Christie has made in New Jersey, where he has ruled by executing more than 500 vetoes.

What did local readers get on Saturday?

Another long story, this time on the Local front, about a 6-year-old boy bitten by a rabid raccoon, and lots of news about crime or the courts.

The standing photo of a minor house fire appears on L-3.

Today's paper

"Deirdre Sykes, Editor" appears for the first time on today's editorial page, and her first Page 1 is a real snoozer. 

The package on Atlantic City's future couldn't be more irrelevant to North Jersey readers, who know all too well what a disaster casino gambling has been (A-1).

They will be sure to vote down any attempt to bring casino gambling to the Meadowlands, a desperate move The Record seems to be behind.

Yet another crappy Christie column from Charles Stile, the governor's chief apologist, also appears on Page 1 today.

The veteran Trenton reporter was sent to Iowa at great expense despite the newsroom-wide wage freeze, and I'll bet that is pissing off a lot of staffers. 

Local news?

The alleged husband-wife murder that led Saturday's front page is the biggest news on the Local front today (L-1).

Just below that is the burial of Messiah, 1; and Saniyah, 4, who died of carbon-monoxide poisoning, as did their 23-year-old mother, Sashalynn Rosa.

In a Thursday story, which reported Saniyah's death, the girl was said to be 3 years old. 

The exhaust pipe of their idling car, with the mother and children trying to keep warm inside, was blocked by snow on Jan. 23 as father Felix Bonilla Jr. tried to clear the vehicle after the blizzard.

Unfortunately, the story appears next to today's Road Warrior column, reminding readers how the inept Cichowski failed to warn about that common danger as readers tried to dig out their parked cars after the storm.

Today, Cichowski, as he has done many times before, begins his column with a bewildering non sequitur:

"It's cheap enough to fill a car's tank with gas these days, but the cost of road crashes remains higher than ever" (L-1).

And the Monthly News Quiz on L-3 today shows just how desperate Sykes and Sforza still are to fill the pages of Local.

Fat face?

The best dishes Elisa Ung ate this month show the reporter doesn't flinch from sampling mystery meat and a "chocolate-covered strawberry milk shake" in the name of food criticism (BL-5).

Her contemporaries also may eat such unhealthy fare, but she is out of step with most of her readers, who are far older and watching their weight, and their cholesterol and sugar intake.

That thumbnail of her chin poised over a wine glass is close to 10 years old, and many readers are speculating that her presumably fatter face wouldn't fit into an update photo.


  1. From a reader in Hackensack:

    Victor -- Read your post today -- I knew that you would go apoplectic about the developments at The Record. The Borgs should be ashamed to have their picture in the paper.

    After reading your blog, I could not believe Gottlieb's column. Stile is the worst. he has been at it for 10 years and gets worse all the time.

    On another point, you can really make The Record look like a bunch of jackasses with a simple car ride and photo.

    In the Better Living section they have a plug for chocolate cranberry ice cream at Mike's ice Cream Shop, which is at about 165 Main Street or so-- right across from the construction site. The problem is that the place has been closed for weeks. There is a sign on the door saying closed for construction. Before that there was a sign saying closed pipes froze. A likely story as the temps rarely below freezing in December. The poor guy never made a living. Selling ice cream on Main Street where there is no traffic and those who pass by cannot afford $3+ for a cone is a losing proposition. Check it out.

  2. In regards to Ice Cream by Mike -- according to his Facebook page he was in a bicycle accident. I frequented his business heavily (3 times a week at least) since he opened in July 2014 until July 2015 when I moved out of state. He had brisk business in the warm months. I'm sure the construction across the street affected him a little because it took away parking. Also, Main Street is so bumpy and horrible to drive down now. In the cold months, he also sold soups and hot dogs because sales on ice cream would drop. I guess his pricing could be considered high when you can buy a package of ice cream for around the same price as a scoop there, but his ice cream was Haagen Dazs-like quality and it was fun to walk downtown and get your kid a cone and sit outside his business. He mentioned to me a few times he always wanted to do a business like this, and he was always doing some IT-like work on the side, so I don't think he was hurting so much financially. His parlor is so small, so I would hope rent wouldn't be so exorbitant.

    1. Thanks. I tried to reach him on Tuesday, but he didn't return my call. He was back in the shop, preparing to re-open, according to a lawyer I talk to regularly and who is a customer of Mike's.


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