By Art Gallagher
The Neptune Nudniks’ coverage of Middletown Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger’s job as Director of the Office for Planning Advocacy, and the fact that he did not announce the job with great fanfare during the Middletown campaign for Township Committee demonstrates just how unfair and biased the Asbury Park Press is when you compare their coverage, or lack there of, to other stories of far more consequence.
All media outlets are biased. It is impossible not to be. We’re all human and have our point of view. MMM proudly declares that we are fair and biased in our logo welcoming readers to the site. Newspapers like the Asbury Park Press are disingenuous when they claim to be unbiased. The APP even claimed that they and other “real journalists” work hard to be unbiased in a editorial bashing the owners of FoxNews for donating $1 million dollars to conservative causes last summer. I say FoxNews is more trustworthy. At least they disclosed their owner’s bias. The APP, and many many others persist with their facade that they are unbiased when their behavior clearly demonstrates otherwise.
With their article and editorial today, combined with Friday’s article and Bob Ingle’s blog post on Sunday, APP.com has published 2547 words in four pieces on three separate days to the story of a volunteer Mayor who was appointed to a State job over the summer and did not make it an issue in his reelection campaign.
Contrast this to the news that Congressman Frank Pallone and three of his colleagues used their political influence to get the FDA to approve an unsafe medical device in exchange for campaign contributions. The FDA reversed itself after an internal investigation. The issue was national news for a few days. But not for the Asbury Park Press and their sister papers that cover the 6th congressional district. Three days after the Kansas City Star published the story of Pallone and his crooked cronies putting Americans’ health at risk in exchange for campaign cash, the APP published one article of 619 words with a pro-Pallone spin. Ingle added 194 words with the appropriate slant two days later.
The APP never covered Democratic Freeholder John D’Amico’s pay to play plea to Barbara McMorrow. They had the story at least two days before I did.
The APP is unfair and biased in what they cover and it how they cover it.
The same reporter, Kevin Penton, wrote the Pallone/FDA story and the Scharfenberger stories.
Referring to the report that exposed the Pallone/FDA scandal, Penton wrote “The report — the result of an investigation requested in May 2009 by three congressmen, including Pallone — does not specify who in Congress made the persistent inquiries.” There was no further follow up published by Penton or anyone else from the APP.
Yet, Penton spent all day yesterday on the phone and on his computer keeping the Scharfenberger story alive. All those people Penton quoted in his article today…do you think they called him? Do you think they were even aware that Scharfenberger is the Director of the Office for Planning Advocacy? Of course not. Penton made the story. At least we know he has it in him to do some follow up. It is too bad that he, and his bosses, are unfair and biased about the stories that they actually decide to put work into, as opposed to what they often do, which is regurgitate what the subjects of their “news” tell them.
Penton’s article and the editorial state that Scharfenberger was asked about his employment in October and did not mention the State job. Neither Penton nor the editorial name the reporter. Scharfenberger denies this. He told MMM that he had not spoken to Penton about his job since July, before he was hired by the Christie administration. Penton has not responded to a phone call and an email from MMM to either verify or dispute Scharfenberger’s account. Scharfenberger said he was very careful to be truthful during the campaign in how he answered inquiries about his employment with reporters and members of the public in general.
Scharfenberger knew his state job was common knowledge in certain circles but he did not want it to become a campaign issue. “What was I going to do, go around town saying ‘vote for me, the Governor thinks I’m so great he hired me’?” “I did not want to use the job in my favor and I did not want the Democrats to use it against me. I wanted the campaign to be about Middletown issues, not who I work for.”
Scharfenberger’s account is consistent with my experience. I knew about Scharfenberger’s job in late August or early September. I chose not to report it. I did not find out about the job from Scharfenberger. He was not happy when I asked him to confirm it. He assumed I would report on it.
I’m not a full time journalist. I haven’t taken a journalism course since I was in high school writing for Bear Facts, the Bergenfield High School newspaper. Why did I know about Gerry’s job and full time journalists didn’t? Google has this neat service called “Google Alert.” Penton and the folks over in Neptune should check it out. I received anecdotal confirmation of Gerry’s job before I asked him about it.
I chose not to report about Scharfenberger’s job until after the election because, after observing the Middletown Democrats over the last 13 years I suspected they would distort it and make the campaign about it, rather than the issues facing Middletown. Feel free to criticise me for not reporting it. I told you I was fair and biased the moment you got here. If you’re going to criticise me, please also credit me for my competence. The APP and the Middletown Democrats, and maybe even you, still wouldn’t know about Gerry’s job if I hadn’t reported it.
To prove that I am fair as well as biased, I now disclose that I am aware of two elected officials in Monmouth County, one Democrat and one Republican, who have full time state jobs and are still collecting their stipends from the municipalities that they serve. The Democrat I found about last week. The Republican this morning. I’m not going to tell you who they are, at least not right now. Now that they know that I know, they have a few days to do the right thing and heed the spirit of Governor Christie’s call for reform and only collect one government salary. I also want to see if the Neptune Nudniks have what it takes to find out what I already know, or if they care.
There’s a video on YouTube which is a good analogy for how Scharfenberger handled his job during the campaign. You may have seen it already as it has over 6 million views. Here it is:
In the video, consider Scharfenberger the quarterback and the Middletown Democrats and the Neptune Nudniks the yellow shirted defense. Did the quarterback do anything illegal? No. Did he do anything unethical? No. Was he clever? Yes. Is clever bad? If you laughed at the video, you don’t think so.
Had the yellow shirted defense been rigorous and paying attention, the quarterback would have looked like a fool. As it was, and as it is in the case of Middletown and the APP, the nudniks are foolish.