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Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Record's old address markers serving as tombstones for great local journalism

DOOMED: One of the two address markers left after The Record's old headquarters at 150 River Street in Hackensack were leveled for the construction of apartments. The brick markers resemble tombstones over the spot where great local daily newspaper journalism died. 


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- There are only a few signs left that a great local daily newspaper was published for many decades at 150 River St.

Then-Publisher Stephen Borg of Tenafly moved The Record's headquarters to Woodland Park in 2009 after the biggest newsroom downsizing in the history of the daily, founded in 1895 and owned by the Borg family since 1930.

In July 2016, the Borg family sold out for nearly $40 million in cash to the Gannett Co., the biggest newspaper publisher in the United States, but retained ownership of nearly 20 acres along River Street.

Today, there are few remnants of the large, 3- and 4-story red-brick building where the presses roared nightly to publish a daily newspaper that once brought coverage of town council and school board meetings to readers the very next day.

In the 1980s, The Record of Hackensack was known for strong coverage of the environment, and for a daily, in-depth look on Page 1 at an issue in the news known as "the patch."

This week, all that is recognizable at the site are two brick address markers with the number "150" on them, and a bus-like shelter reporters and editors were told to use after smoking was banned in the newsroom.

More sports than news

One look at a copy of The Record of Woodland Park shows how far the once-great daily has fallen after Gannett:

Laid off more than 350 employees of North Jersey Media Group, reduced the number of local news pages, eliminated a daily editorial, and generally gutted a paper many still refer to as "The Bergen Record."

This poorly edited Gannett rag devoted 8 full pages to sports in Wednesday's edition compared to only 3 pages of local news, most of it from Passaic County and far from the heart of the Bergen County circulation area.

Christie apologist

On Wednesday's Page 1, I found another boring political column by Charles Stile, a burned-out Trenton reporter who served as chief apologist for Chris Christie, a GOP thug who was the worst governor in New Jersey history.

Stile enjoys taking potshots at Governor Murphy.

This despite Murphy having to spend most of his time repairing the damage Christie did to mass transit, the environment, medical care, state workers pensions and so much more during the 8 long years of his reign. 

The lead story on the Business page is plans by Krispy Kreme to open its flagship store in Manhattan's Times Square.

A photo with the story shows a New York City police officer eating a donut. What an overused stereotype.

Breaking news

In Wednesday's Better Living section, Food Editor Esther Davidowitz bemoaned the closing of the Pig and Prince restaurant in trendy Montclair, which isn't even in The Record's circulation area.

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT: The apartment site where The Record headquarters building once stood is considered part of the ambitious downtown rehabilitation zone in Hackensack. The Record has never reported the identity of the property owners who pushed for redevelopment and have been enriched by it.
SMOKING BAN: After smoking was banned in the 4th-floor newsroom, a bus shelter for smokers, center, was set up near a rear entrance to the building.
MAIN AND MERCER: A crane looms over the site of a 14-story apartment building under construction at Main and Mercer streets, about a block from The Record site.
RAISING THE SITE: The city Planning Board approved apartment construction as long as the Borg family and their development partners raise the site by 3 feet. They will be building in a flood zone.
USS LING: The Borgs have washed their hands of the USS Ling, a World War II submarine stuck in the mud of the Hackensack River. Only the periscopes are visible behind a towering heap of sand. The sub once was part of a naval museum.
THE WAY THEY WERE: Here are photos of The Record's old headquarters building and the USS Ling from Sept. 2, 2018, above and below. For many years, the Borgs monetized the parking lot by leasing spaces to Bergen County and to Hackensack University Medical Center, where lawyer Jennifer Borg once was a board member.

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