Friday, June 17, 2016

Gannett deal has older newsroom staffers shitting in pants

The widely reported sale of the Borg family's North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record, to the Gannett company raises many questions. Does the deal include 19.7 acres along River Street in Hackensack, which the city has designated for redevelopment? In recent years, the parking lots of NJMG's old headquarters have been leased to Bergen County and Hackensack University Medical Center, above.

Publisher Stephen A. Borg closed the 150 River St. headquarters of NJMG and The Record in 2009, and shifted operations to a nondescript office building in Woodland Park a few years after moving the printing of the company's daily and weekly newspapers to Rockaway Township.


The reported sale of family owned North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record, likely sent shock waves through the Woodland Park newsroom on Thursday, especially among older staffers.

How readers will fare is less certain, because The Record's local-news operation has been on life support for several years.

"Gannett is famous for cutting the budget and staff of newspapers it buys; for replacing veteran journalists with younger, lower-paid employees; for doing cookie-cutter newspapers subject to tightly centralized corporate rules," a columnist for Urban wrote last October.

If Gannett replaces newsroom veterans in Woodland Park, the move would recall the major 2008 downsizing ordered by Publisher Stephen A. Borg -- several months after he obtained a $3.65 million mortgage from NJMG to buy a McMansion in Tenafly.

Then, staffers with 20 or more years of experience were shown the door or told to accept buyouts, including the director of photography, community editor and co-supervisor of the copy desk.

Before the downsizing, it was common newsroom practice for supervisors to favor younger employees for promotion, such as the replacement of the food editor with a man who was less than half her age and had none of her talent.

In 2011, Gannett was reported to have reduced editorial staffs at three of its New Jersey dailies -- Daily Record, Home News and Courier News -- to 53 from 99. 

Potential cuts in Woodland Park would include such veteran columnists as Mike Kelly, John Cichowski, Bill Ervolino and Charles Stile. 

Tabloid report

The New York Post broke the news on Thursday afternoon, reporting that Gannett "is getting ready to add to its stable of New Jersey newspapers by snapping up The Record and some weekly newspapers."

Media reporter Keith J. Kelly said:
"The news sent a jolt through the Record newsroom. Beleaguered staffers, who have survived recent rounds of belt-tightening without getting a raise in years, were stunned.
Many were said to be standing around in small groups talking after broke the news of the impending sale Thursday."
A number of former Record reporters and editors who have been working at The Post for a decade or more may have been among the "sources" Kelly cited. 

Gannett in N.J.

Gannett already owns the Asbury Park Press and five other dailies in New Jersey, and they joined The Star-Ledger in calling for the resignation of Governor Christie after he endorsed wacko racist Donald J. Trump in the presidential race.

The Record is the only major daily in New Jersey that didn't do the same, leading many readers to question whether the Woodland Park daily still is part of a free and independent press.

The sale of The Record to Gannett has been rumored for years, especially in view of the two publishing companies' business and journalism ties.

Gannett's USA Today and other papers have been printed under contract at NJMG's Rockaway plant

Record history picked up the report from The Post, noting NJMG owns The Record and 49 community newspapers, one of which is the weekly Hackensack Chronicle. is owned by The Star-Ledger, the state's largest newspaper.

The Record is second largest, but its average circulation of 170,163 on Sundays and 135,544 Mondays to Fridays probably includes copies of the Herald News, which was designated an "edition" of the larger paper years ago.

The paper has been owned by the Borg family since 1930.

The Bergen Evening Record was founded in 1895, and prospered for more than 110 years in Hackensack, where the Borgs once lived in mansions on Prospect Avenue and Summit Avenue, in the city's Fairmount section.

The younger Borg is president and publisher, and his father, Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg of Englewood, is chairman of NJMG.

Jennifer A. Borg, Stephen's big sister, is vice president and general counsel of NJMG.

The company also operates and, and publishes (201), a lifestyle magazine for Bergen County's wealthiest families.

Today's paper

Page 1 of The Record reports Democratic lawmakers have blocked Christie "from loosening one of New Jersey's toughest gun-control laws on Thursday, turning the tables for once on a governor known for his prolific use of the veto pen" (A-1).

In the court of public opinion, Christie was at the center of the George Washington Bridge lane closures a month before he was reelected in November 2013.

So, why is The Record again using precious space on the front page today to quote his continued stonewalling of an illegal political operation inside the Governor's Office that targeted Democrats, including the mayor of Fort Lee?

Taxpayers were forced to pay more than $10 million to Christie's lawyers for a complete whitewash of his involvement, yet Record editors, columnists and reporters long pointed to the so-called Mastro report as evidence the GOP bully had absolutely nothing to do with ordering the gridlock.

Pricey Italian

Today, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung recommends you fight traffic all the way to Ramsey, then fork over $25 for a small portion of potato dumplings at Bici, a pricey Italian restaurant where she makes the manager sound like a stalker (BL-16).

Ung complains manager Marcelo Gambarato "needs to become less intrusive," calling his five visits to her table "overkill, since most involved having full conversations."

She still managed to eat plenty of rich, artery clogging food topped off by a few gooey desserts.

"Gambarato was so over-hospitable that I was little worried he would follow us down the street and call us the next day," the reviewer notes at the end of her 2.5-star appraisal (Good to Excellent).

She doesn't mention whether he asked for her telephone number.


  1. I was quite pleased, as I'm sure were you, to see Gannett buy the Record, but I declined to trumpet my opinion on social media because a number of journalists I respect were upset by the announcement. Personally, I hope some of my former colleagues on the copy desk survive the impending round of layoffs, but the rest of the staff, good riddance. It's comforting to know, as I'm sure you'll agree, that our dear Elisa Ung probably has a job waiting for her on the waitstaff at Bici in Ramsey.


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