Monthly Archives: January 2011

Recalling the Challenger Disaster

Twenty-five years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, and all seven of its crew members perished.

It was one of the moments, like the JFK assassination and the 9/11 attacks, which we always remember where we were and what we did in the aftermath of learning the news.

At the time, I was a State House reporter for The News Tribune, and what I remember vividly was the Associated Press taping photos on the walls outside its bureau office Continue reading

Is Obama Returning to His Old Playbook?

During his successful campaign for President in 2008, Barack Obama used the internet with great innovation and creativity. He may have lost some of that momentum during his first two years in office, but his administration is bringing back his old playbook – and adding some new twists – for tonight’s State of the Union address. Here’s what is taking place: Continue reading

An Anniversary with Relevance for Today

Fifty years ago today, for the first time in American history, a presidential press conference was televised live. This marked the first time that the American public could hear exactly – and in full – a President’s responses to questions from the White House press corps. Previously, citizens had to rely on news reports, which by their nature, only contained portions of a President’s remarks.

First Live Televised Presidential Press Conference

First Live Televised Presidential Press Conference

We are experiencing a similar development today. Thanks to the Internet, Presidents and other elected officials now have the ability to send news and information directly to the public via websites, social networks, and email. This gives them the opportunity to bypass the scrutiny of journalists.

Christie Was Right to Pass on SOTU Response

Governor Christie made a smart move by declining overtures from Republican leaders that he deliver the GOP’s official response to the president’s State of the Union address tonight.

On the surface, the decision appears out-of-character for Christie, who has built a strong following among Republicans across the nation. Delivering the GOP rebuttal tonight would have given him national exposure on every major television network.

But the rebuttal is not as high profile an event as one may think. Continue reading

He Didn’t Really Want to Hurt You

It was nice to read some good news about Boy George for a change. It seems he recently discovered that a religious artifact he bought from a London art dealer in 1985 had actually been stolen from the Church of Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion, so he has returned it to its rightful owner.

Boy George and me at Epic Records circa 1983

Back in 1983, I was one of the first American journalists to interview George. We talked by phone while I was in New Jersey and he was at a recording studio in Great Britain. Later when he and Culture Club came to the U.S., I had a chance to speak with him in person. Continue reading

What Olbermann’s Departure Says About Today’s Media Industry

Keith Olbermann’s sudden departure from MSNBC is illustrative of an overriding tenet that characterizes the media industry.

News organizations are businesses first – businesses that exist to make a profit. Providing news and information is secondary, just a means to bring in revenue.

In the world of big business, journalists are just tiny cogs in giant machines such as Continue reading

NJ and Miss America

For more than 80 years, the Miss America Pageant was synonymous with Atlantic City, but in 2006, the annual event moved to Las Vegas, where it will take place again this year – on Saturday evening at Planet Hollywood.

How ironic that Atlantic City, the East Coast’s answer to Las Vegas, has lost one of its oldest attractions and sources of identity to what once was its only domestic competitor for casino gambling dollars. Even for those of us who love the Garden State, it is another sign that New Jersey is destined to be a second-class state. Continue reading

The Fisher King, the Rolling Stones and What They Tell Us about an American Tragedy

In the opening scenes of the 1991 movie The Fisher King, a radio talk show host named Jack Lucas tells a caller that the clientele in a popular New York nightspot are repulsed by everything America stands for and that they “must be stopped before it’s too late.”

Later that night, the caller goes to the nightspot with a shotgun, kills seven people, and then turns the gun on himself. Lucas then becomes so devastated about the unintended consequences of his words that he attempts to take his own life.

The Fisher King is a work of fiction, but there are interesting parallels to the tragic events that unfolded in Arizona last weekend. There also are parallels in Continue reading

Despite Cutbacks, Newspapers Still Important in NJ

Although politicians – nationwide and in New Jersey – often are quick to dismiss and criticize the media, they are just as quick to use news reports when the opportunity arises to score points.

Both Governor Christie and his Democratic counterparts are fond of posting news releases and sending out emails containing headlines, clips and links to favorable stories.

And in his State of the State address this week, as part of his argument that New Jersey is better today than when he took office a year ago, Christie used newspaper reports from to make his point

Before:

“Some were beginning to write off New Jersey, doubting we could change what the newspapers called our ‘old, hide-bound ways.’ Back then, the state’s largest newspaper opined: ‘taxes are too high as it is…’ Another paper put it simply: ‘New Jersey must change course.’”

After:

“Those same newspapers who thought we were in deep trouble are now telling a different story. One said, we have taken ‘the first step in a very new direction.’ Another now says: ‘New Jersey is setting a national example.’”

Nice to see that despite the cutbacks and layoffs that have devastated the state’s newspapers over the past few years (including Gannett’s recent decision to cut its newsroom staff in half at three of its New Jersey publications), newspapers continue to have importance for the Governor and other New Jersey leaders.

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State of the State

Governor Christie clearly conveyed the challenges that lie ahead for New Jersey in terms of fiscal management, pension reform and quality education, but these are the same issues that have been on table for years.

We don’t need to be told what the problems are. We need the Governor and the Legislature to work collectively and take the bold, courageous actions the state needs, regardless of how difficult or politically unpopular those actions may be.

As the Governor noted today, the Administration and the Legislature did work cooperatively on several major initiatives in 2010. It is important for this to continue, even in a year in which the Legislature is up for election.

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