Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cubans live longer, don't worry about guns, crime or drugs

Pope Francis and Fidel Castro meeting on Sept. 20, 2015, during the pontiff's trip to Cuba (Credit: Alex Castro-AP).


The Record's news, feature and travel editors and columnists are trying to keep readers from learning a dirty little secret about Cuba.

The island has long been the safest major tourist destination in the Caribbean.

Cuba doesn't have crime, gun or drug problems, making it a paradise on earth for its 11 million residents, and a great place to vacation.

In fact, the life expectancy on the biggest island in the Caribbean is 80, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported on Saturday.

That's quite a feat for a country that is often portrayed in the news media as one of the poorest in the world, especially when you realize the life expectancy in the United States is 79.

In reporting the death of Fidel Castro, the Sunday edition of The Record is filled with negatives about the Cuban revolutionary, communism and life on the island -- a former U.S. colony (1A, 9A, 10A, 11A).

The headline over the huge black-and-white photo of Castro in 1970 reads:


Castro handed over the presidency to his younger brother, Raul, in 2008 and was in declining health for several years, so he really wasn't the "leader" of Cuba on his death.

Much of today's coverage reflects The Record's relentless focus on politics -- the same filter used to report on Governor Christie, the racially inspired congressional gridlock during the Obama presidency and the nasty White House campaign that ended with the election of wacko racist Donald J. Trump.

In 2000, on one of my visits to Havana, Cuba, I took a photo of three teenagers. They reflected the diversity of an island that until the 1959 revolution had been strictly divided between whites and blacks.

I made seven trips to Cuba between 1997 and 2004, and stayed with a family in Havana on most of my vacations. I rented cars to explore such eco-tourism as bird watching and scuba diving. Here, I saw a group of friends gathering at the Bay of Pigs on a hot January afternoon.


Gannett editors launched a major redesign of The Record with the edition of Nov. 16, a Wednesday.

When you compare today's Sunday edition to the Sunday paper of Nov. 13 -- before the redesign -- the differences become clearer.

The redesign appears to use more white space and smaller type, especially in photo captions, but the type used for text is not as dark as before.

So, pages with big blocks of type make the paper appear grayer.

Headlines and captions were far from perfect before Gannett bought the Woodland Park daily in July, but now even more errors appear:

In the Page 1 caption on the death of Castro, his full name is used twice -- usually a no-no.

Last week, in a front-page promotion of a column on rehabilitation of Route 495 to the Lincoln Tunnel, the headline, caption and sub-headline all repeated the subject of the story.

From the website Mike Kelly Writer.


The redesign also uses updated thumbnail photos for most columnists, such as the one that appears with two Mike Kelly columns today (1A and 1O).

The old photo, in use for nearly a decade, showed an annoying shit-eating grin.

Although Kelly's own website shows he has a lot of gray hair, the new photo makes him appear to have colored his hair, and he looks like he is holding up his head with his right hand.

Local news?

Although readers today won't find any news from the vast majority of the 90 or so towns in the circulation area, the Local front carries a long story about a single parking spot in Ridgewood (1L).

The Record has devoted move coverage to the village's downtown parking woes and solutions than to the entire school system in Hackensack. 


Many readers rejoiced at the departure of Elisa Ung, who was the paper's beef-and-dessert obsessed restaurant reviewer for more than nine years.

Ung consumed obscene quantities of mystery beef and other artery clogging food, all on an expense account, and showed extreme deference to celebrity chefs.

Still, Gannett hasn't replaced her.

On Friday, in place of the usual weekly restaurant appraisal, readers found a list of Theater District restaurants taste tested by Food Editor Esther Davidowitz and Robert Feldberg, the theater critic.

The week before, Better Living editors listed expensive North Jersey restaurants that were serving Thanksgiving dinner.

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