OPINION: BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR
I’m fine with cartoon jabs at the actual flubs and even the perceived gaffs of public officials, so let me preface this by saying my intent is not to criticize the cartoonist who drew the featured editorial comic. Hell, I’m paying him to run it.
But, I’ve published it as an example of the strain of anti-right-wing hysteria (a strong word, maybe) which is far too prevalent in this journalism business I love … and hate.
My real concern is with the dozens, though probably hundreds, of broadcast and print news agencies who chose to create “Beachgate” rather than cover the thousands of actual news stories developing at any given time around the world over the July 4 weekend.
As I carved out my hopeless scribbles and sipped my cold coffee with visions of Kerouac in my beedy little brain, and did my best to avoid anything resembling the patriotic clamor filling the world around me on Tuesday of last, I was bombarded hour after hour, tweet after tweet, e-mail alert after e-mail alert concerning the great scandal involving New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie.
According to the headlines, Christie single-handedly shut down his government, banned the poor working man from public parks and, in a fit of monarchical glee, took his family and friends onto the vacant sands for a day of revelry and general evildoing.
The truth of the matter is the Democrats and Republicans in the New Jersey legislature failed to produce a budget in order to keep their government operating.
Without a financial plan, the governor had no choice but to shut down various municipal offerings, including some public parks.
Also a fact, though you wouldn’t know it from the general brouhaha, was that the piece of beach upon which the Christie family sat was directly behind one of his gubernatorial houses.
The idea, proposed by many pundits, celebrities, and my fellow journalists and laymen, that the man wasn’t supposed to let his wife and kids go out in what amounts to their backyard on the Fourth of July was one of the most asinine things I’ve heard in a while.
What angers me so isn’t who they attacked—I couldn’t care less about Mr. Christie—but the attack itself.
This type of constant nitpicking by the press only adds fuel to the fire kept by those who claim we’re all a bunch of biased scumbags who’re out to hurt our enemies rather than supply important information to the public.
Unfortunately, more and more, especially on the 24-hour news stations, this type of non-story story receives endless play.
The parroted line of defense I heard from many journalists over the last week has been that, even if this wasn’t really a big deal, it was a matter of poor optics.
I suppose to childish sorts this matters.
But, let’s for once be honest and admit that if it would have been President Obama or Hillary Clinton or any other Dem darling, the story would’ve gotten little traction and all those now screaming for Christie’s proverbial head-on-a-platter would be in agreement with me that this really isn’t a valid news story.
You can bet I’m going to receive a fair amount of criticism from my colleagues for saying so but I think that says a lot more about them than it does about me.
If we in the news business want people to take us seriously and to trust our judgment, more of us are going to have to check our biases at the door and focus on the fundamentals.
Otherwise, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for me to defend my chosen profession from those who feel we’re not doing our job.