Monday, April 27, 2009

Saving a City From Four More Drunken Years

Journalists often complain about the uselessness of regular press conferences. They're filled with cliched quotes, spin and stonewalling. Rarely does anything groundbreaking come out of them.*

*Unlike in Blue Chips, people don't usual confess to major scandals at them.

But I think the journalists themselves are being a bit hypocritical here, considering many of them do the same sort of dance—creating a public shield that obscures the truth. There's the old sucking up profile to curry favor with sources, known as the beat sweetener. There’s mingling with insiders to gain “insight” into various issues, agreeing not to print anything one hears. And, there’s one of my biggest pet peeves, which is when columnists (See Peggy Noonan) don’t write what they actually believe.

That's why I'm really glad to see Jersey Journal political columnist Agustin Torres is taking the current Jersey City administration head-on. I won't bore you with the details of Hudson County politics, but I'm not exaggerating things by saying Mayor Healy has been a drunken embarrassment for the city. Unfortunately, a politician backed by a powerful political machine can overcome incidents such as passing out naked on his front porch or getting into a brawl with police after drinking "five beers" down the shore.

Torres, though, is pushing back against the mayor. He'd been sparring with the mayor forever, but he finally began to really lower the boom this month. I’m not sure what impact—if any—the newspaper still holds, but I hope Torres’ columns help expose the administration for the fraud it is:

From "Healy's surely not been the mayor he said he'd be":

The mayor is correct when he says this columnist is biased. I am.

For too long this city has allowed politicians to not do their basic jobs - care for the safety and welfare of its citizens. They don't get it. Instead of putting future tax abatements and millions of dollars in grants into new waterfront projects along Newark Bay and the Hackensack River, city officials should just concentrate on upgrading the "quality of life" in the heart and spine of the "traditional" part of the city - from the Heights to Greenville.

New businesses, homes, parks, schools and more can do wonders for residents who already pay high taxes. Or how about just making sure the laws and codes that are on the books are obeyed? Isn't it amazing how first-time home buying programs always benefit members of city government - right, Dom. We can go on and on.


The truth is I would rather anyone else - even a write-in vote for those metaphoric dozen monkeys who when locked in a room with a typewriter and given enough time can write a Shakespeare play - than the present administration.

Mad at me are you? Boo-hoo.

Many of his more recent columns have continued to puncture holes in the political machine.

It's not exactly Royko-esque work, but I'm glad that at least one journalist is calling things as he actually sees them.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Good Old Fashioned Newspaper War

Shots lobbed from both sides this week in the battle between the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

From the Nation:

"I'm a little puzzled by the Journal's evolving identity," Times executive editor Bill Keller told me in an e-mail. "Some days the front page is mostly general-interest news, like a cross between the Times and USA Today. Then the next day you get a front like today [March 12], when the lead story ("EBay Retreats in Web Retailing") is clearly aimed at core business readers. Some days the tone is FT (a top-of-the-page curtain raiser on the G-20 summit); some days it is tabloid populist (lashing the million-dollar-bonus recipients at Merrill). If the paper has made up its mind what it wants to be, it's not clear to me. Maybe they hope we'll all keep reading just to see how they resolve their identity crisis."

But the Wall Street Journal fired back in its Overheard part of the Heard on the Street Page:

Stop the presses -- I want to get off! Harbinger Capital Partners and its "dissident" friends have watched helplessly as their almost 20% stake in the New York Times has fallen faster than the beleaguered paper's circulation. But, hark, one hears the footsteps of a well-heeled angel who may well have put that stake in play.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You Call That Success?

Yesterday, language software company Rosetta Stone Inc. entered the IPO market. Today, its stock is up more than 40%. As is typical when a new stock jumps following its offering, the financial media has hailed this as a success.

The U.S. IPO market continued its winning streak for 2009 Thursday, with Rosetta Stone Inc.'s initial public offering gaining more than 40% by midday.

It might be a win for the market, but I'm not sure it is for Rosetta Stone, whose bankers apparently failed to extract all they could out of the offering.

Why couldn't the banks sell it at $25/share yesterday, when Rosetta Stone gets to collect the proceeds from the sale? Did the company all of sudden look much more attractive? Of course not. But instead of raising an extra 40% for the company, they sold the stock at lower level to reap gains for their stock trader buddies, and, presumably, themselves. Just another case of investment bankers looking out for themselves ahead of their clients.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Adventures in Flackery: Chicago Tribune Edition

From Romenesko:

Although it's once again trimming editorial staff, Tribune found the money to hire a new spokeswoman. One of her first tasks was to say nothing about the latest cuts.

Sign No. 423,986 Print Newspapers are in Trouble

When I go to throw the Monday throw the Monday Star-Ledger up the front steps, it floats away in a light breeze rather than landing on the stoop.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ahead of the Curve

As I'm sure you all know, maritime law is back in the news. But while reading about the latest pirate caper this morning, I remembered the we at the Daily actually saluted this once-sleepy corner of legal world in our Thanksgiving column more than two-and-half years ago. Check it out:

Sorry we're a bit late on this, but in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, Daily Sports would like to express our thanks to the following:
International maritime law. No explanation needed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

If you think think things are bad now...

Just finished reading The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court about Marbury v. Madison. It had some great anecdotes about some Colonial campaigns I wanted to pass along that make things today seem tame.

Most Federalist newspapers, however, spent less time extolling the presidency of Adams than attacking the character of Thomas Jefferson. They denounced Jefferson as godless and immoral, and spread baseless rumors of bizarre worship ceremonies at Monticello. Allegations of an affair between Jefferson and an unnamed women were widely circulated.

Madison los his bid for reelection when he refused to set up barrels of whiskey at the polling places, insisting instead that he would win because voters preferred his views on the issues.