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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dated columns, chest thumping, errors -- what Gannett did to once-great newspaper

An undated photo of Donald J. Trump appeared with a NewJerseyBride.com article on country club weddings. The photo was taken at the site's No. 1 pick, the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, which has become the president's New Jersey White House.

Ex-Record editor Bill MacNeil is dead

HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

When Gannett Co. redesigned NorthJersey.com after a long promotional campaign, readers of the print edition of The Record may have missed the subliminal message.

The website of North Jersey Media Group -- the Gannett division that publishes The Record, other newspapers and a magazine -- would become the main focus, and get the best of what the decimated staff could offer.

In two rounds of layoffs that ended in March, Gannett had cut the NJMG staff by more than 350, including 50 editors and reporters.

The remaining columnists, reporters and editors were told their main job was to write, report and edit for NJMG's digital platform.

That meant older readers, who didn't use smart phones or computers, were stuck with a downsized print edition based in Woodland Park that struggled to cover local news, and looked and sounded like the homogenized USA Today.




Dated columns

For example, today's Sunday edition contains two overlong, outdated columns by Mike Kelly -- one on Newark 50 years after the 1967 riots, and the other on the sentencing last Wednesday of David Wildstein, the so-called mastermind of the George Washington Bridge lane closures (1A and 1O).

I, for one, have heard and seen enough about both on radio and TV in the last few days and weeks, and have no interest in reading either column.

What message does Editor Richard A. Green send when he couldn't find room in the print edition for Kelly's column on Wildstein the day after the final Bridgegate sentencing?

Gee-whiz disease

The two news stories on Page 1 today -- one on childhood suicide, the other on leprosy -- affect few New Jersey residents (1A).

But they may serve to distract readers from The Record's failure to cover much bigger health stories, including the obesity epidemic, heart disease (the No. 1 killer in the United States), and dementia.

Missing big story

Only an egomaniac like Staff Writer John Brennan can turn missing the chance to interview President Trump into naked self-promotion (12A).

Or, as a reader said in an email:
"Check out John Brennan's bloviating column inside today's A section. Thumping his chest about his incredible career in a column about how he missed seeing Trump by mere seconds at the Bedminster golf course."
By the way, "bloviating" is arrogant boasting and making the story all about himself.

Brennan actually claims in today's story promoting his sorry sports and news career that his exceedingly boring coverage of the Meadowlands Xanadu project in the past 15 years has been "well read." 

What a joke!

Local news?

Only three and a half pages of today's 8-page Local section carries news and feature stories from the 90 or so towns in the circulation area.

Bergen County readers may be in the clear majority, but they are stuck with a single section containing news of Passaic, Morris and Essex counties, too.

'Summer of Hell'

An editorial today finally admits The Record's coverage of the impact of track repairs at New York's Penn Station was totally overblown (2O).

The headline:

"First week of 'Summer
of Hell' was not so bad

Meanwhile, the Woodland Park daily has never pressed Port Authority officials on why they have refused to expand PATH rail service beyond a proposal to add a Newark airport link.

Nor, has the Editorial Board called for more exclusive bus lanes at the Lincoln Tunnel during both the morning and evening rush hours.

Errors mount

There isn't room here for all of the errors, typos and just plain awkward writing that appears in The Record these days.

But one photo in the weekly Hackensack Chronicle jumped out at me:

The caption said the photo showed State Street, which is being converted into two-way traffic, but it actually showed Passaic Street.

On Friday, temperatures were in the 60s and rain fell much of the day -- in vivid contrast to Thursday's searing heat and humidity -- but a photo overline on Friday's front page declared:


"NEW JERSEY SEEKS RELIEF FROM HEAT"

That appeared over dated photos of an exhausted Paterson fireman pouring water over his head on Thursday afternoon, when temperatures soared into the 90s, as well as children splashing in a Paterson pool on Thursday.

Old box scores

Another reader pointed out that Saturday's Sports section carried box scores from last Sunday:
"Victor -- I know that you are not a sports fan and do not look at the Sports section, but in today's Record, they had the box scores from last Sunday's baseball games. Those games are more ancient history, and no baseball fan would have any interest in Sunday's box scores. It would be like putting the closing stock prices from July 6 in today's paper or putting last Monday's weather report and temperatures from worldwide cities in today's paper. It makes no sense and just filled up space."

Bill MacNeil

William A. MacNeil, who started his newspaper career at The Record of Hackensack, died on July 6 in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 77.

Here is a link to his obituary, which appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican and included an illustration by Bill Hogan, another former staffer:

It's safe to say they don't make newspaper editors like Bill MacNeil anymore, and there is certainly no one at the Gannett-owned Record who is anywhere near his equal.