Forty years ago, Rod Stewart had a number one single and album named Every Picture Tells A Story. Last year at this time in New Jersey, we had a story that painted a picture – several of them in fact.
The story involved the state’s ill-fated application for federal Race to the Top education funds. New Jersey lost out on $400 million, essentially because the state made a clerical error on its application.
As for the pictures that story painted, they tell a lot about Governor Christie, the media and more.
For example, Christie demonstrated Continue reading
Fiscal conditions have drastically reduced personnel and resources at news organizations all over the country, including New Jersey. But over the past week, we have seen two instances in which the media still is impacting public policy in New Jersey.
First The Courier Post reported that Democratic operatives were responsible for getting a Tea Party candidate on the ballot in the 3rd Congressional District, where incumbent Democratic John Adler is locked in a tight race with Republican Jon Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagles lineman. The theory behind adding a Tea Party candidate to the mix is that it would drain votes from Runyan.
Although Adler has denied any involvement, the Cook Political Report moved the race from the “leans Democrat” column to “toss-up”.
The other example of the power of the press came from former state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, who testified before the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee about the actions that led to New Jersey’s failure to qualify for $400 million in federal education monies because of a clerical error the state made while it was revising its application for the funds. Schundler told the panel that the application had to be redone at the last minute because Governor Christie did not like what a talk radio host was saying about it.
“The Governor informed me that NJ 101.5 radio host Jim Gearhart was saying he had caved in to the union,” Schundler testified. “He said that the leaders of the NJEA had demeaned him and that it was utterly intolerable for him to be viewed as having given-in to them. The money was not worth it.”
In the interest of full disclosure, Schundler was fired by the Governor because of this incident. Nevertheless, the words of the former Cabinet member are quite intriguing. As Carla Linz of The Press of Atlantic City wrote: “If true, that means Gov. Chris Christie valued his image and ego above $400 million for education in New Jersey. Outrageous. Even worse may be the idea that an entertainment/talk radio show is setting policy in the Governor’s Office.”
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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.