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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Record: Incompetent reporter peddles a flawed column on NJ Transit bus service

On HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," the political satirist referred to the controversy over President Trump rescinding the nationwide policy on transgender bathrooms. He said Trump believes men shouldn't be in the same room with women peeing unless they are paying for it.


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Long-suffering NJ Transit bus commuters are the lowest of the low, judging by how Staff Writer John Cichowski has largely ignored them in the 13-plus years he's been banging out his Road Warrior column.

And his front-page column today has nothing to do with the crowding and delays NJ Transit bus riders have faced for a decade or whether relief will be provided anytime soon.

No. Today, he sides with a family owned bus company that lost a contract to a much bigger transportation company, Coach USA, even though the outcome won't affect the sad lot of bus commuters.

That doesn't seem to deserve Page 1 coverage, especially when readers learn Saddle River Tours will be able to bid again in one year for the 7-year, $49-million pact.

But in the process, the veteran reporter takes pot shots at NJ Transit's bus and rail operations, which "have provoked chronic service complaints" -- none of which he has covered (10A).

And he also slams the state's mass transit agency for "posting losses of more than $300 million annually despite two fare increases in 10 years" (10A).

Cichowski is so incompetent he doesn't tell readers that since 2009, Governor Christie cut state subsides to NJ Transit by more than 90 percent, forcing the most recent fare hike, or that no mass transit agency in the United States turns a profit or is expected to.

New column

Today's front page also debuts Garden State of Mind, a new column by Staff Writer Christopher Maag, who covered Hackensack, NJ Transit and other beats. 

The column is supposed to profile people in North Jersey or as Maag says in a NorthJersey.com video, this "funny and strange and surprisingly beautiful place."

He also says he already has columns "on deck" about a professional ice carver and what he calls the world's last beatnik.

Most notable about this new Record column is that it is the first one by a "fresh voice" in more than a decade.

But the Woodland Park daily still is without a news or feature column by a woman.

Production screw-ups

Production screw-ups were common when The Record was owned by the Borg family.

But they are occurring with greater frequency now that page layout, headline and photo-caption writing, and other tasks have been moved to Neptune, where a total of seven Gannett dailies are put out.

In the debut of Maag's Garden State of Mind column today, 19 words are missing between the last word on the front page and the first word on the continuation page (8A).

Those missing words can be found on NorthJersey.com.

Also today on the Business section cover, a large-type headline includes an awkward word, "amongst," used improperly.

"Made in the U.S.A.
gaining popularity
amongst toy industry"

Last Monday, a Better Living story included a photo of a community garden in Paterson during warmer weather, and no attempt was made in the caption to tie the garden to the story about "food and dining trends."

In addition, the caption's spelling of collard greens as "collared" would suggest the garden grows greens with collars or that they tried to flee and were captured or collared.

This is high-school or college-level journalism, making The Record even a bigger laughing stock than before.