Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gannett front pages are cheapening our local daily paper

On Nov. 6, 2013, The Record published this photo of two Paramus police officers who were hired to patrol Westfield Garden State Plaza, but only after a disturbed man with a rifle invaded the state's biggest mall two days earlier, fired shots that panicked hundreds of shoppers and employees, and then committed suicide. 


If I didn't know better, I'd think veteran retailing reporter Joan Verdon has been assigned to write promotional Page 1 pieces about one of The Record's biggest advertisers.

On Saturday, below the fold, she reported "a video-gaming theater" with room for 30 people to compete simultaneously had replaced "a Venetian-style double-decker carousel" at Garden State Plaza in Paramus.

On Thursday, her front-page story on how shoppers could reserve $10 parking spaces appeared above the fold.

Neither story could be considered "news." 

But they expose how profit-hungry publishers like the Borg family and Gannett, which bought The Record in July, don't hesitate to cheapen the front page of what once was a respected local daily newspaper. 

Since last month's redesign of the print edition, readers don't know what to expect from day to day. 

Gannett editors seem to have lost sight of their mission as journalists to report on issues that affect state residents.

Instead, they continue to sensationalize the politics that divide the state and nation.  

Sunday edition

Today's front page has only three main elements -- stories about President-elect Donald J. Trump's arrogant son-in-law; Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's belated bid to come out from behind Governor Christie; and Karen Koehler of Park Ridge, who is in complete remission after trying an experimental cancer treatment (1A).

The last is the kind of gee-whiz medical story The Record seems to specialize in -- instead of tackling the obesity epidemic or heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States.

A story on the alarming condition of the state's drinking water system is buried on 11A.

Saturday's paper

Saturday's front page also was narrowly focused: Stories about New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen being picked to head the House Appropriations Committee, and a Passaic County imam again facing deportation charges.

Friday's edition, on the other hand, reported on issues that affect almost everyone:

How Christie has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from environmental settlements to balance the state budget; a state appeals court ruling that stopped the governor from scrapping civil service exam requirements; and the uncertainty since the presidential election about bringing Syrian refugees to New Jersey.

Also, starting on Jan. 1, the right of adopted children to obtain their birth certificates and if not redacted, the names of their birth parents.

Local news?

Today's Local section carries a story on the Hackensack Board of Education's search for a new superintendent, but doesn't explain why Karen Lewis was fired unexpectedly in June (3L).

On the Local front, a column reports on a student movement to improve pedestrian safety on River Road in Teaneck, where a Chinese woman who held a master's degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University was struck in a crosswalk and killed on Nov. 21.

Staff Writer John Cichowski reports "the petition doesn't cover driving laws or conduct." 

But the so-called Road Warrior again treats graduate Weiqi Wang as so much road kill when he fails to advocate stronger laws to punish drivers with long jail sentences after they strike and fatally injure pedestrians in a crosswalk.

After Castro

The Record's coverage of the death of Fidel Castro has been lopsided, and today's Opinion front piece by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is no exception (1O).

"We can only hope the death of Fidel Castro will be the first crack in the Cuban regime's stranglehold on power and that the people of Cuba will finally move one step closer to freedom," says Menendez, whose parents were born on the Caribbean's biggest island.

The senator downplays all of Cuba's achievements, and doesn't even mention how the 1959 revolution brought racial equality to an island that had long been strictly segregated.

Travel section

Today, Travel Editor Jill Schensul reports on how terrorism is influencing where we vacation (1T).

But why hasn't she ever discussed crime in Jamaica, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands?

Next to her column today is a rave from the Detroit Free Press about "the first overwater bungalows in the Caribbean" in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

In one of many editing lapses in today's paper, the first paragraph says the bungalows "open Dec. 2" -- that was Friday.

In Better Living, a photo caption on 3BL starts out this way: 

"Christopher Bates of FLX Table in Geneva ...," so you might wonder why The Record is devoting nearly a whole page to a chef in Switzerland.

When you read the first two paragraphs of the story, you learn the restaurant is in Geneva, N.Y., in the Finger Lakes region.

Still, why is a New Jersey paper devoting almost an entire page to Chef Bates and the food he serves? 

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