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.