Sunday, November 20, 2016

Gannett accelerates once-great daily's slide into mediocrity

Thanksgiving will be celebrated this week, but readers of The Record of Woodland Park aren't thankful for the drastic changes made by the Gannett Co., which has shown the door to more than 200 employees of North Jersey Media Group and reduced the local-news content through a major but unannounced redesign of the print edition.


What do readers think of last week's drastic redesign of The Record of Woodland Park?

"It sucks! Gutted and USATodayified" was this morning's tweet from @occupybergennj in a direct reference to Gannett, publisher of The Record and USA Today.

"The weekly edition of the local news decimated as well as Friday's Better Living," said another tweet from the group.

A reader who lives in a Hackensack high-rise emailed me this comment:

"The Record appears to be on life support. Do they have a living will for someone to pull the plug?

"Other readers of The Record I have spoken with are greatly disappointed with the new print version."

The descent of The Record into mediocrity coincides with a major makeover of the website in Gannett's bid to attract younger readers and generate more advertising revenue.

The editors and staff appear to be putting most of their effort into the website while neglecting the print edition, and that is certainly alienating thousands of readers.

Today's paper

The front page of the Sunday edition may get markets to once again use the paper to wrap fish.

The major piece on the rights of transgender teens in North Jersey is of so little interest to the vast majority of readers you have to wonder why it is taking up half of the front page.

Does the issue even affect 100 teens? I don't think the story says just how many transgender teens are attending North Jersey schools.

The second major piece on how the drought "reveals pieces of history" in the Wanaque Reservoir is the kind of environmental reporting The Record does every time water levels fall dramatically (1A).

Slanted reporting

Staff Writer James M. O'Neill, who wrote the piece, and fellow environmental reporter Scott Fallon have a blind spot -- the impact of auto emissions on our health and climate change.

Readers have seen many stories on the recent 23-cents-per-gallon hike in the New Jersey gasoline tax, but nothing on its potential to reduce driving, improve air quality and ease traffic congestion.

Noting record-high carbon-dioxide levels, Tesla CEO Elon Musk estimates that 53,000 Americans die every year from auto emissions.

But stories in The Record and other media continue to pander to the automakers and dealers who spends millions to advertise and sell all the gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs they are churning out.

Meanwhile, editors run wire-service stories that ignore the environmental benefits of hybrid and electric cars, calling them unpopular when gas prices are low (7B).

Christie columns

The last major element on Page 1 today is one of two exceedingly boring political columns about Governor Christie (1A and 1O).

Readers who are sick of all the transition news will choke on yet more rumination from Charles Stile on how Christie will fare in the two months before President-elect Donald J. Trump is inaugurated.

If you think that's bad, the first paragraph of Mike Kelly's Christie column might prompt you to throw up:

"Somewhere in the strange bubble of bullish blather and banality that now surrounds Chris Christie, you have to wonder if he harbors any regrets about how his political life has unfolded -- or not unfolded" (1O).

No. Actually, most readers are wondering how the GOP bully has managed to avoid testifying in public and under oath about the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal.

Or, how many more vetoes he'll execute to thwart the will of the majority in the state Legislature.

Local news?

I am sure I am not the only reader stunned by how in the last decade under the ownership of the Borg family, this once-great newspaper slowly gave up any pretense of presenting a comprehensive local-news report.

And how in less than five months after Gannett purchased North Jersey Media Group, that process has accelerated so dramatically.

That can be the only explanation for the shameless promotion of a big advertiser's Black Friday sale as the lead story in today's local-news section (1L).

And, you'll have to excuse me for kvetshing, but what is a story about Yiddish doing on the Local front?

And who cares that tiny Woodcliff Lake is replacing the roof of an elementary school (1L)?

Another advertisement is disguised as a news story on 2L, where an auto body shop in Wyckoff has permission to add "spray-painting bays."

We can only hope the runoff isn't going into a nearby stream.

1 comment:

  1. From Jeff Ross in Hackensack (this comment also appears at the end of Thursday"s post):

    Look's like you got your long-time wish for Kelly's more aged photo in his 11/20 Sunday column. No grin whatsoever. However, they may have glued his right hand to his head to keep it from rolling off his shoulders, or perhaps he is nursing a headache in response to what is happening at The Record.

    Or maybe he refused the new owner's repeated requests to pose for a normal updated head shot for his column, and the owner had to have someone sneak up and take whatever photo that they could take of him, and he always seemed to be lost in thought with his hand to his head.


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