Monthly Archives: May 2011

Moving On

I am leaving my job at the Hall Institute to accept a position teaching journalism at Saint Bonaventure University.

Playing a role in the creation and growth of the Hall Institute over the past six years has been an extremely rewarding experience on both a professional and a personal level. Now that the institute is firmly established as a leading voice on public policy issues, I am looking forward to embarking on a new challenge.

The teaching position provides me with an opportunity to return to Saint Bonaventure, where I met my wife Anne, started many lifelong friendships and earned my undergraduate degree.

My work at the Hall Institute and my research at Rutgers University have focused on media issues and the importance of quality journalism. At this point, I believe the best way for me to foster quality journalism is to help train the next generation of journalists.

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Bob Dylan’s Close Encounters with New Jersey

Bob Dylan, who turns 70 on Tuesday, hails from Minnesota and rose to fame playing clubs in Greenwich Village, but he has had several interesting encounters in New Jersey during his seven decades on the planet.

When Dylan came to New York in 1961 at the age of 19, he was determined to meet his musical idol, Woody Guthrie. Since Guthrie had Huntington’s Disease and was hospitalized in Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris County, young Bob found himself traveling to New Jersey to visit his hero. In addition to Greystone, Dylan spent time at the East Orange home of Bob and Sid Gleason, where Guthrie sometimes stayed on weekends. Continue reading

Been There, Done That

Don’t be surprised if the news that former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with another woman while he was married to Maria Shriver is greeted with a collective yawn in New Jersey.

We’ve seen a sitting Governor come out of the closet, a rabbi charged with selling a human kidney on the black market, and a prominent political donor hire a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and then send a video recording of the encounter to his sister. So you’ll have to excuse us if our response to the latest headlines is: “Been there, done that.”

Why?

Well, as anyone who ever has sat in traffic on a New Jersey roadway knows, we are the most densely populated state in the nation. One of the consequences of this dubious distinction is that issues of all types emerge here before they affect the rest of the country. Likewise, New Jersey is among the first to react and respond to them.

For example, when the automobile became affordable in the 1920s, thousands of New Jerseyans purchased cars. In fact, New Jersey had 718,000 registered cars by 1930 – a staggering figure considering the fact that the car had just become affordable a decade earlier.  All of this helped lead to construction of the state’s basic roadwork years before other parts of the nation had the traffic volume to necessitate such actions.

Similar scenarios have taken place with environmental issues. In the mid-1980s, New Jersey began running out of landfill space for its garbage while states in the Midwest and elsewhere still had plenty of room. New Jersey responded with mandatory recycling – long before similar initiatives took place in other parts of the country. Along the same lines, the state’s many pollution and contamination problems eventually resulted in New Jersey becoming a national leader in identifying and cleaning up toxic sites.

More recently, the state enacted health care reform two years before President Obama signed a bill into law that contained many of the same provisions included in the New Jersey’s legislation.

Personal issues, scandals and outrageous behavior always will get people’s attention. But for New Jersey, the shock value of such items is starting to wear thin. Think back to the 2009 gubernatorial race when Chris Christie’s driving record and weight became frequent topics of discussion. Exit polls conducted on Election Day showed that such inconsequential matters had little impact on how New Jerseyans cast their votes. Instead, it was the economy, jobs, and property taxes that determined which candidate voters supported.

And that’s the way it should be. There are daunting challenges confronting our state in the 21st Century. The best way to address them is to focus on serious public policy issues, not the personal matters and tabloid headlines that grab our attention, but have little impact on our quality of life.

Our focus in New Jersey is not yet fully where it needs to be, but as long as we keep heading in the right direction, we should once again find our state a step or two ahead of the rest of the nation.

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A Touch of Class from Governor Christie

Governor Christie’s outspoken style and demeanor often bring him criticism, but he has displayed a touch of class in his comments about the Barack Obama’s role in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Whereas many top Republicans made no mention of the Democratic president in their comments on the incident, Christie praised the Obama administration for “its commitment and dedication to finally bringing Osama bin Laden to justice” in a statement he issued shortly after the news about bin Laden broke.

The Republican governor elaborated on the president’s role during a news conference on Monday: Continue reading