Wagons West for The Record

June 30, 2008

If you are a New Jerseyan of A Certain Age, chances are you never got over the habit of referring to The Record as “The Bergen Record.” As long as the paper was still based in Hackensack, the mistake didn’t matter. But in the very near future, the Record is going to leave Bergen altogether for smaller lodgings in Passaic County:

The Record of Hackensack, N.J. is planning to vacate its main headquarters and move staff to the site of its sister daily, The Herald News of West Paterson, according to a staff memo from Publisher Stephen A. Borg. The memo declared: “We must re-invent ourselves.”The memo stated that the move could save about $2.4 million per year. Borg confirmed the memo and said that most of the news staff would actually become mobile journalists, working from the field, while others would also relocate to one of the paper’s eight weekly newspaper sites.

“The number one objective is more mobile journalism,” Borg, who said the paper has about 30 such “mojos,” who report from laptops and cell phones, told E&P. “And to take advantage of our other offices.”

Borg said the move has not been scheduled, but added, “I wouldn’t want it to occur any later than January ’09. Advertising has already moved. In the last six weeks.”



“Mobile journalism,” in case you hadn’t already figured it out, is the latest management fad to afflict a once-great newspaper already bled white by dozens of them. “Mojo” (sounds better than “Hobo,” I suppose) is the latest Dilbert-level quackery in the tradition of “continuous improvement,” known by the catchy name “CI,” a motivational program that was used to waste the time of already overburdened Record reporters. Like Shelley Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross, making calls from a phone booth while pretending to be in his office, Record journalists will work “from the field” unless they’re lucky enough to share a desk with somebody on another shift.

New Jersey newspapers have shown a remarkable willingness to treat their reporters with the dignity and respect usually reserved for burger flippers at drive-through windows, but even by this low standard The Record has been scandalous. The company cafeteria was recently closed and replaced with some vending machines. There are four elevators, but two have been shut down for about nine months. The other broke down a week ago but management isn’t having it fixed because — why bother? It’s not like there’s going to be a newspaper there anymore.  

The story of the newspaper industry is the story of soldiers winning battles while their generals lose the wars. Last year, Record reporters were kicking asses and taking names on the EnCap scam that is the McGreevey administration’s true legacy. Meanwhile, their bosses were cooking up rationales for nickel-and-diming them while wasting time and money on Internet boondoggles.  

In the old Roman empire, a general who screwed things up this badly would have the decency to fall on his sword. In modern journalism, the general gives his legions a memo saying “We must re-invent ourselves” and books a flight to the Caribbean. Assuming, of course, the legions haven’t already been laid off.     


2 Responses to “Wagons West for The Record”

  1. Bill Bowman Says:

    A foemer colleague of mine who now works at the Record tells us he has worked out a deal with one town he covers to let him use an office, as well as another deal with a diner owner to let him work from there.

    Mac Borg said he envisions “a swarm of bees.” I wonder if he was looking at an MRI of his skull.

  2. carrie Says:

    I used to work at the The Record. I’m not opposed to filing remotely via laptop, and I have been doing it a lot lately for my new employer in Houston, filing from Galveston for our hurricane coverage.

    But “mo-jo” reporting is just one tool. To do decent enterprise or investigative reporting, you need a printer and a desk and filing cabinet to keep documents. And, when I had a desk at the Record, I had reams of docs on EnCap and the Meadowlands. Other reporters would borrow those docs and we would talk about the deal and what we needed to do to cover the implications. Being a younger reporter, I benefited greatly from hearing from veterans about the past of such-and-such local politician and how they related to the story of the moment.

    What about the conversations and brainstorming that go on in a newsroom? How do you bounce ideas of each other and share institutional knowledge when you’re isolated and spread out as mo-jos ?

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