Friday, January 29, 2016

Will ex-Times editor's retirement revive local coverage?

Pedestrians on Euclid Avenue in Hackensack faced a number of obstacles on Thursday afternoon, including uncleared snow in front of the house at 90 Euclid Ave., above and below, and uncleared corners at Euclid and Grand avenues.


One look at what may be Editor Marty Gottlieb's final front page today tells you the former Times veteran is no fan of the local-news coverage for which The Record once was praised.

In the four years he's been running the Woodland Park newsroom, the number of sports and sensational crime stories on the front-page has soared, such as the amputee and alleged murderer on A-1 today.

And Gottlieb has allowed local Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza to pad their thin local-news section with endless Law & Order coverage, numerous stories about Paterson's dysfunctional government (L-1), and minor accident and fire photos (L-3).

On Thursday afternoon, crossing Grand and Euclid avenues in Hackensack required detours, above and below. Snow from the blizzard of 2016 stopped falling last Saturday night.

The 'context' editor

In a column on A-19 today, Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin appears to be damning Gottlieb with faint praise.

"This is Marty's last week at The Record. He is retiring. He will be missed," Doblin writes, adding that four words sum up what he has learned from working with Gottlieb: "Look at the drapes."

Doblin claims Gottlieb is one of those editors who "leave indelible marks on how to practice journalism," a reference to the editor's insistence that no news story is complete without "context."

Of course, that was what Gottlieb learned in his many years of reporting and editing at The New York Times, where he ended his career as the high-flying editor of global editions in Paris and Hong Kong.

But providing "context" at The Record meant Gottlieb would edit and rewrite every Page 1 story filed by local reporters and approved by local editors.

Then, those reporters and editors would have to rework the stories from his hand-written notes, sucking out what little energy was left in a newsroom that had grown lazy under Sykes, Sforza and Francis "Frank" Scandale, the editor who was fired in late 2011.

Front-page stories became wordier, more complex and far less reader friendly.

And Gottlieb was a big fan of publishing the endless ruminations of Charles Stile, Mike Kelly, John Cichowski and the paper's other burned-out columnists on Page 1.

In the process of focusing on the big picture, coverage of Hackensack and many other towns waned dramatically.

Editor Martin Gottlieb is in his last week at The Record, but it remains to be seen if the Woodland Park daily will boost local-news coverage after he retires.


Today's story on a new president for Hackensack University Medical Center is missing salaries for Ihor S. Sawczuk and Robert C. Garrett, president and CEO of Hackensack University Health Network (L-1).

Their bloated salaries are important, because the Hackensack complex has fought for years to preserve its tax-exempt status, shifting the property tax burden onto city residents and businesses.

Garret was paid nearly $3 million in 2012, according to's "Medical Millionaires."

Today's HUMC story carries the byline of Mary Jo Layton, but it appears to have been taken straight from hospital press releases, and doesn't mention the medical complex's controversial non-profit status.

And there is no pronunciation guide so are readers to assume the new president's last name sounds like "Sawchuck"?

No shortage of B.S.

Staff Writer Elisa Ung, the paper's chief food critic, is so busy stuffing her face with low-quality burgers she doesn't have to time to investigate how the cows were raised (Better Living).

So readers have to assume the beef used at Black Rebel Burger in Wood-Ridge and Mooyah in far-off Old Tappan is pumped full of harmful antibiotics and growth hormones, and may actually contain manure and superbugs (BL-12).

If you go, stick with the vegetarian options.

See:  How dangerous bacteria travel to your table

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