Journalism isn’t what it once was. Today, there is a revolving door between journalism, government, politics, and lobbying. Today’s journalist is likely to be tomorrow’s political director.
Look at the case of Mark Magyar, one of Senate President Steve Sweeney's top aides. In December of 2014, Magyar was hired as the Democrat's new Director of Policy and Communications. Magyar had been a statehouse reporter for the Asbury Park Press and the Bergen Record, as well as the editor of the New Jersey Spotlight.
The corporate and political empire of Democrat Party boss George Norcross – the political machine of which the Senate President is a part – has a history of co-opting or attempting to co-opt local and regional newspapers in that part of New Jersey where his authoritarian rule is almost uncontested. The machine is in the process of solidifying its rule in its southern New Jersey base, while expanding its power across the state – and beyond.
Mark Magyar is the spouse of Elizabeth K. Parker, Co-publisher and Executive Editor of the New Jersey Hills Media Group. The group is controlled by the Recorder Publishing Company, a privately held entity in Bernardsville, that owns and publishes 17 local newspapers in Republican Morris County, Somerset County, and Hunterdon County -- and in Republican towns in Essex County. Their readership comes from towns that usually get the short end of the sick from the Democrats in Trenton. The company also sells other services, including website development, search engine optimization, "Reputation Management", and "Social Media Management".
Newspapers were never as pure and disinterested as their cheerleaders would have us believe, but at least – once upon a time/ just yesterday – they did constitute a locus of power independent of political machines. Not necessarily of their corporate advertisers (per Herman and Chomsky), but certainly of base political machines. Those days are drawing to a close.
We saw evidence of this on Saturday, when the office of Gurbir Grewal, the state Attorney General appointed by Governor Phil Murphy, conspired with Star-Ledger/ NJ.com reporter Rob Jennings to concoct a news headline the Murphy administration could use to undermine the people of Sussex County’s right to vote on Murphy’s Sanctuary State scheme. At issue was a public question on the November ballot, passed by the Freeholders in April, that asks the voters their opinion on whether Sussex County Sheriff Mike Strada should follow American law on illegal immigration – or the directives of the Murphy administration.
The Democrat Murphy administration is arguing that Sussex County taxpayers should not have the right to vote on issues that affect the performance of county functions that they pay for entirely out of their highest-in-the-nation property taxes. Taxation without the right to vote sounds pretty un-American to us.
Concurrent with plans to allow illegal aliens to have drivers licenses and to give incarcerated violent criminals the right to vote and hire lobbyists, the Murphy administration is using Grewal in an attempt to bully and intimidate the elected Freeholders of Sussex County into ending plans to allow the people the right to vote on a public question on the November ballot. Popular sentiment across the state has been running against Murphy, so Grewal’s office was charged with finding a reporter who would provide them with a headline they could use.
Jennings, a former intern with Democrat Governor Mario Cuomo, was used to provide it. Grewal’s office leaked confidential correspondence to Jennings, who promptly wrote a story with the headline: “Sussex County caves to Murphy AG, will not put immigration question on ballot.” It was the journalistic equivalent of performing fellatio for Grewal’s office.
Of course, the headline was false. Jennings lied. The Star-Ledger printed fake news. Only the County Clerk had “caved”. In fact, the County Freeholder Board had hired a conservative attorney less than 48 hours before to fight the Murphy administration. This special counsel was charged with creating an updated ballot question with language that defeats the legal objections raised by the Murphy administration, so that Murphy and his cronies cannot hold up its placement on the ballot through legal maneuverings.
Jennings refused to write about it. Even after he was contacted by Freeholders and the Special Counsel, Jennings refused to correct or update his story. The lie remained published.
Not only did Jennings break the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), but Grewal’s office may have broken its professional code as well. Word is that both may face ethical enquiries.
Despite the false headline, the Sussex County Freeholders remain resolved to fight the Murphy administration, with or without the assistance of the County Clerk. And the Freeholders could always bring a lawsuit to compel the Clerk to place the public question on the November ballot.
New Jersey is unique in its forms and ways of political corruption – especially of systemic corruption – in that it rides the wave just ahead of the rest of America. Sadly, it appears that what we once called journalism is on a rapid descent into the realms of propaganda and in future will be little more than coarse party broadsheets -- advertisements using histrionics worthy of Pravda or the Völkischer Beobachter.