Watchdog Journalism

New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star-Ledger, is reorganizing (probably to lay off more news staff) and in a front-page story yesterday in the paper (though not online) they announced that the main change will be to “feature more local content”:

watchdog journalism

I have come to realize that newspapers are a business and watchdogjournalism* is not good for business but claiming to watchdog, even if based on past history nobody is likely to believe you, is.

If anything has distinguished The Star-Ledger over the years it has been ‘lapdogjournalism’.   One would be hard pressed to find ANY coverage of Union County government in the Star-Ledger that did not originate in county press releases or official statements.  For example, let’s compare coverage on some important stories and see where we find watchdogjournalism:

Solar Panel Fiasco
UCWA (6/19/11): Solar Panel Scam Plays Out in Union County
SL (6/19/11): Union County to put solar panels on county buildings
Union County Press Release (6/13/11): Union County Renewable Energy Program To Provide Clean Energy and Cost Savings

County Bond Rating

UCWA (10/23/11): How much did Union County pay for its bond rating?
SL (6/9/11): Union County receives ‘AAA’ pristine credit rating
Union County Press Release (6/9/11): Fitch Ratings Assign AAA Bond Rating to Union County

Union County Utilities Authority Stipend Scandal
UCWA (2/13/14): Secret payouts to former Freeholder Sullivan and other UCUA employees uncovered
SL (7/18/14): Union County utility agency director, deputy must repay thousands in stipends
Union County Press Release: No information to provide

Even with the Pulitzer Prize that Star-Ledger reporters won for the McGreevey scandal coverage it was all after the damage had been done, in part because they were not covering things like McGreevey setting up his boyfriend in a Homeland Security post.  So it is in Union County where waste, fraud, and abuse is rampant but we see nothing that would jeopardize legal-ad revenue printed in The Star-Ledger, though they still have the chutzpah to call what they do watchdogjournalism*.




* If that’s really a word.  It could be a typo since a lot of editors have already been let go or it could be a font issue since the ‘of’ also seems to be part of the word in that article excerpt.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bpaterson on September 5, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    if the Star Lesniak, ooops I mean the Star Ledger, closed down Monday, will there really be anything of value missed. Lots of people unemployed, obviously the hard workers in the trenches will be hurt, drivers, typesetters, runners. But the management, administrators and so-called “investigative journalists” of the SL, covertly controlled by the politics and corrupted system in place, we shed no tears for. Even the sunday auditor section was nothing but an attack dog owned by certain politicians for their own ends. They all knew how they sold their soul and ended up just creating a useless rag of a paper actually hurting our state’s integrity and moral fabric in the process. Sad. They were good up to maybe the year 2005 and then just became reactive. That teacher at Rutgers actually does make some sense saying it should fold. Jim Morrison summed up NJ and its gullible residents well even though he was high most the time: “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind”


    • Bruce,

      I don’t pay attention to politics so I could be wrong but I don’t see Lesniak as much of an influence on The Star-Ledger which doesn’t do any real journalism in Union County but I don’t see them doing much anywhere else either.

      As for doing less than the little they used to do that might have a lot to do with legal ad money. With classified advertising revenue virtually gone and regular advertisers sporadic legal ad revenue is holding them up. It’s probably the only thing keeping the LocalSource and Cranford Chronicle in business and even the Westfield Leader to a lesser extent. It’s a business and going after the people who pay you is bad business.


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