Monthly Archives: August 2010

New Jersey’s $400 Million Gaffe Provides A Lesson for Lawmakers

When a clerical error seemingly costs a state $400 million in federal education funding, there are plenty of lessons to be learned.

Some of those lessons are obvious. As I learned in my very first newspaper job, you can never proofread an item too many times. Secondly, if you plan to make a bold public statement, make sure the facts are on your side, especially in today’s environment where advanced technology makes it possible to keep permanent electronic records of communications that previously were left to the frailness of the human brain.

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American Idol, Steven Tyler and English 101

News that Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith, is in line to be a judge on Fox’s American Idol next season is bringing back memories of my brief encounter with the flamboyant entertainer back in 1983.

At the time, I was a music editor for The Aquarian Weekly, and Aerosmith was coming to New Jersey to play a concert at the Meadowlands. A few weeks before the concert, the band’s publicist called and asked if we could do a cover story about the group and have it appear the week before the show. I said we could do it, but we had to have an interview with Tyler because he was the leader of the group and the most outspoken and well-known member of the band. The publicist agreed and promised to set up the interview. But as our deadline approached, the interview had yet to be scheduled. Continue reading

Divergent Topics, Common Ground

There is an interesting parallel between the debate over plans to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site and the decision by News Corp, which owns Fox News, to contribute $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.

Both are controversial, volatile issues, but I’ll leave the arguments, pro and con, to the many groups and individuals already weighing in. There are no shortages of opinions on either matter.

The similarity I see is that, in each case, the debate is not over a legal or Constitutional right to take an action. Rather it is a matter of appropriateness.

Having the right to do something does not always mean that exercising that right is the best path to take.

As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said this week, “We cannot paint all of Islam with that brush,” but we also must take into account the sensitivities and concerns of family members who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks.

Although it is not as grave a matter involving life and death issues, News Corp’s contribution to the Republican Governors Association merits similar consideration. Fox News already is a target for those who claim it is biased toward the GOP and a conservative agenda. Why fan that fire?

I am not suggesting that we play it safe all the time. Positive change often happens only when we push the envelope. Let’s hope that at the end of the day, when all of the shouting and political posturing is over, we all emerge with a better understanding of each other, regardless of our politics and ideologies.

Addendum:

Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz wrote an interesting piece this week about the mosque controversy and how it evolved. Read

Can’t Escape from NJ

Since the media and elections course I am teaching this summer is in Rome, I wanted to add a little international flavor to the curriculum, especially since my students are from five different countries.

Over the past few weeks, in addition to politics and campaigns in America, we’ve explored issues in media and elections in places such as Italy, Chile, France and Japan.  But when it comes time to illustrate points about specific items, I always seem to come back to New Jersey.

When we discussed polls, I used an example from the Monmouth University Polling Institute. For the class on political consultants, the students read David Chen’s New York Times piece on Message and Media. To demonstrate new media models, we looked at New Jersey Newsroom.com and The Alternative Press. And to prompt discussion on trends in the relationship between reporters and politicians, we watched the YouTube video of Governor Christie’s exchange with Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran.

To Infinity and Beyond: A Look at Media and Elections in the 21st Century

Right before I left for Italy at the end of June, my two daughters took me to see the movie Toy Story 3 for Fathers’ Day. They are both grown now, but we had enjoyed the Toy Story movies when they were children and I’ve always been fond of Buzz Lightyear, Woody and the rest of the gang.

No matter what we do in life, there is always a little child in all of us, and I am no exception.

Ironically, when my wife and I arrived in Rome, what did we find playing at the cinema just a block from our apartment? Toy Story 3 – in Italian, of course.

We decided we would go see it on a rainy day, but other than a few sprinkles, there have not been any rainy days in Rome since I arrived to teach a course in media and elections at John Cabot University. Nevertheless, Toy Story 3 provides an interesting lesson about media and elections. Let me explain: Continue reading