NJ Papers Shake Up Reporting Desks

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By: Joe Strupp

The Record in Hackensack and the Herald News in West Paterson, which both have been covering some of the same areas since the two New Jersey newspapers came under joint ownership in 1997, will shake up reporting assignments to cut the amount of duplicated coverage and free up reporters for other beats, editors said Wednesday.

Owned by North Jersey Media Group Inc., the papers have had an unusual relationship for the past five years, with the larger Record covering all of Bergen and Passaic counties, as well as parts of two other counties, while the smaller Herald News focused only on some parts of Bergen and Passaic counties. The papers’ combined daily circulation is 178,962, according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations’ FAS-FAX report.

Under the realignment, announced Tuesday at staff meetings at the two papers, seven beats in Passaic County that had been covered by reporters from both papers will be assigned to reporters from one paper or the other, but their work will appear in both papers. Those beats include municipal coverage of the highly populated cities of Paterson, Passaic, and Clifton, as well as Passaic County’s government and its courts.

“We are eliminating the duplication and redeploying the reporters to different assignments,” said Vivian Waixel, vice president and executive editor for North Jersey Media Group. “Coverage will not diminish, and no one will lose their jobs.”

In all, five Record reporters will be reassigned, while two Herald News staffers will go to new beats. Among the new assignments will be an additional reporter for the papers’ combined state capital bureau in Trenton, which will increase to eight reporters from seven.

“It will be transparent for the reader,” said Herald News Editor James McGarvey. “The reader will get the best coverage we can provide.”

Before the acquisition of the Herald News by the Borg family, which owns The Record and created North Jersey Media Group a year after the purchase, the two papers competed heavily in Passaic County and some parts of Bergen County. After the Borgs purchased the Herald News from MediaNews Group Inc., speculation arose that the papers might merge since parts of their circulation areas overlapped.

Some sports and photo coverage was combined in 2001.

But North Jersey Media Group resisted a full merger because the papers have very different readerships: The Record has more suburban, white-collar readers, while the Herald News attracts more urban, blue-collar readers.

Waixel downplayed speculation that the beat changes mean The Record plans to expand more into neighboring Morris and Sussex counties, both of which have seen large population increases in recent years. “The company is looking at all of its options,” she said. “But that has nothing to do with this.”

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