Thursday, November 24, 2016

Future of Gannett journalism: 5 times more ads than news

NJ Transit buses in the exclusive lane to the Lincoln Tunnel are driven against the flow of westbound traffic during the morning commute. The Port Authority has ignored calls for a second XBL, as the lane is called, and never explained why exclusive bus lanes don't operate in the evening, too.
For decades, this portion of Route 495 to the Lincoln Tunnel has been called the helix. On Wednesday, The Record's so-called commuting columnist labeled it a "bridge," and raised an alarm about a rehabilitation project that won't start until late next year at the earliest.


I might actually try reading the Thanksgiving Day edition of The Record now that I've caught my breath after wrestling with what felt like 5 pounds of advertising inserts.

I quickly bundled them up for recycling, along with Sports, leaving me with four news and feature sections, containing pages that appear to carry more advertising and less news than before Gannett redesigned the print edition.

Stephen A. Borg, the former publisher, was no slouch when it came to advertising and marketing, and he even created a North Jersey Media Group unit that staged food-truck and other events.

Those events were promoted in the paper and covered by the news staff.

With the sale of NJMG to Gannett for a reported $40 million in July, the Borgs now call themselves Fourth Edition Inc., and work out of their old offices in Woodland Park.

Today's paper

It's front-page news when President-elect Donald J. Trump doesn't appoint another middle-aged white man or white supremacist to his Cabinet (1A).

Today's A-section has news on 4A, 8A and 9A that would normally appear in Local.

Local news?

Since Gannett let go more than 200 NJMG employees, reporters and editors for daily and weekly papers now work out of the same newsroom.

That means readers of the local-news section have been seeing many unfamiliar bylines, which belong to reporters from the weeklies.

Generally, they are younger and less experienced, and make a lot less money than reporters for The Record and Herald News.

Wednesday's paper

Staff Writer Christopher Maag, who covered NJ Transit and the city of Hackensack for The Record, had a Page 1 byline on Wednesday that identified him as "columnist."

No thumbnail photo of Maag appeared, as with The Record's other columnist. 

His story on "one family's journey from Syria to Paterson" is a tearjerker, especially if you've been following the horrific news from Aleppo and other towns that are being destroyed during the civil war.

The focus was on Ghussoon Zouabi, 39, who recalls the food shortages in Syria and who has been cooking non-stop since she arrived in South Paterson for her family, for the homeless and for others.

"When we got to my parents house [in Paterson], the kids opened the fridge and pulled all the food out and ate it. I sat on the floor and cried."

Zouabi arrived in the United States in March 2013. 

Last year, after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Governor Christie called for a ban on all Syrian immigrants to New Jersey, including children, but it has been widely ignored.

Route 495

Staff Writer John Cichowski appears to be the only columnist who continues to use a dated thumbnail photo, which is probably a decade old.

On Wednesday's Local front, his Road Warrior column quotes commuters who use Route 495 to the Lincoln Tunnel.

But Cichowski isn't concerned about congestion in the exclusive bus lane, the lack of rush-hour seats on NJ Transit buses or how Route 495 was closed for an hour in each direction when Trump left Manhattan for his New Jersey golf club last week.

Instead, the addled reporter looks more than a year ahead to the start of a major rehabilitation of the Route 495 helix, which he refers to as a "bridge" (1L).

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