Shameful fake news: The Asbury Park Press targets local officials with personal problems

By Art Gallagher

On a website promoting his novels, the Senior Regional Content Strategist for The Asbury Park Press says “he gives thanks everyday to New Jersey’s long-line of corrupt officials.”  On another website, the content strategist (Gannett’s 21st century term for “editor”) claims “he has exposed political corruption, insider deals, deadly medical mistakes, bureaucratic bumbling, and wasteful government spending.”

That’s important work.

But lately there must be a shortage of corruption. The Asbury Park Press has taken to publicizing the personal financial problems of municipal officials instead. There has been no evidence reported that those local officials did anything criminal or corrupt while experiencing those financial problems or as a result of them.  In the two recent stories of elected officials’ personal finances, the problems have been going on for years and agreements have been made with the creditors for the successful resolution of the personal issues.

In another recent incident a local official’s son, an adult, was arrested outside of the town where the official serves.  The Asbury Park Press published the defendants relationship to his father and the town where the father is an elected official, as if that were relevant to the story or the crime the son allegedly committed.   The adult son’s alleged crime is irrelevant to his father’s public service.

In each of these incidents, the local elected officials are highly esteemed in their communities.  They each have been elected and reelected. There has been no hint of corruption by any of those officials.

It serves absolutely no public purpose to publicly shame local elected officials for their personal financial problems or for the conduct of their adult children.

One could make an argument that personal financial problems on the part of an elected official is a concern because their situation could lead to the temptation of violating the public trust.

The flip side of that argument is that elected officials with personal financial problems, who do their jobs well and exhibit high levels of integrity, are demonstrating their good character and have earned the “Honorable” title routinely bestowed on office holders. There is no reason to believe that the three local officials The Asbury Park Press recently shamed are anything but “Honorable.”

We live in an economy where financial difficulties are all too common.  Local elected officials are not immune. Given how little we pay them for the long hours they put it, many of them are more susceptible to falling behind on financial obligations should they, or a spouse, suffer a job loss or health crisis.

On the local level, “politicians” are very often civic minded people who spend too much time for too little money trying to make their communities a better place. They often do so to the detriment of their businesses, jobs and family lives.

The effect of public shaming for personal problems has the effect of making it more difficult for civic minded people to even consider taking on these thankless jobs.  There is no evidence that shaming prevents corruption.  Ethical shaming is a punishment for corruption and a warning to those who might be tempted.  Unethical shaming, like what The Asbury Park Press is practicing, does harm to families and to communities.  Unethical shaming drives good people away from public service.

Kelly McBride, a media ethicist with the highly esteemed Poytner Institute, provides great guidelines for journalism and public shaming.   McBride’s work should be required reading for the editors and reporters of The Asbury Park Press. 

In the meantime, the bean counters at Gannett should not be surprised if there is a big drop off in their legal advertising revenue in 2017.

Municipalities are reorganizing starting on Sunday and throughout next week.  New Jersey’s media companies were successful in blocking the “revenge bill” that Governor Christie proposed this month which would have allowed towns to post their legal notices on their websites instead of in newspapers. But local elected officials have choices of which newspapers get the legal ads.  Several Monmouth County towns, controlled by both Democrats and Republicans, are preparing to select weekly papers and The Star Ledger, instead of The Asbury Park Press, for the publication of those ads.  In some towns, The Asbury Park Press will be authorized for legal ads only in the event of special meetings when the deadlines for the weeklies will not meet the publication requirements.

Maybe then the holier-than-thou click baiters in Neptune will understand what so many of their readers are going through.  Or, they could simply call their former colleagues who have been laid off or been restructured out of their jobs.

MoreMonmouthMusing is no longer accepting ads from The Asbury Park Press


Posted: December 30th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Art Gallagher, Asbury Park Press, Monmouth County News | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

5 Comments on “Shameful fake news: The Asbury Park Press targets local officials with personal problems”

  1. George Hartigan said at 12:16 pm on December 30th, 2016:

    Thank you Art for pointing this out. Good for you! I am canceling my subscription to the APP!

  2. Jimmy Jones said at 4:59 pm on December 30th, 2016:

    The APP and all of Gannet is trash…..but the level of CORRUPTION of officials is unreal. Only the surface has been scratched.

  3. They have long since said at 7:49 pm on December 30th, 2016:

    lost any semblance of credibility and decency.. can’t wait till they, and all the lib dinosaurs of so- called journalism, finally have to fold up their biased tents, and retire into broke oblivion- yes, our culture and social media have become so very “gotcha” and thrill/seeking, they do not care about hard times, peoples’ personal issues, etc- we are all just meat, and fodder for a lousy buck, for their trash-talking headlines. Sad reflection of who we have become, as a society, in general.

  4. Art Mooney said at 8:37 am on January 1st, 2017:

    boycotting the paper may not be the answer, maybe a politician that has financial problems should be seeking employment outside the public sector that would not interfere with his personal problems making him committed in performing his legislative duties – What we need is more transparency not less

  5. Some folks said at 7:39 pm on January 2nd, 2017:

    get elected when times are good for them, then, as many of us have experienced, some personal problems can happen for them-in their job, family, whatever..if they are doing the job they were elected or appointed to do, I think they deserve some slack, and not immediate crucifixion, on social or print media, (which has gotten very mean,) as long as they don’t act like it is the taxpayers’ job to bail them out, or as long as they remain faithful to those they serve, and do nothing to harm their constituents..we are all human, and imperfect beings: so are our families..I believe those who are motivated by jealousy or thrill- seeking, five moments of fame,are hypocritical, and motivated by the proverbial ” gotcha” mentality, so prevalent today..