A Swift-boating in Jersey

LESSONS IN JOURNALISTIC OBJECTIVITY

I became well acquainted with political spin during the many years I covered New York City politics as a newspaper reporter. Yet, even with that background, I’ve been a little dizzied by the brazenness of what the spin doctors have been dishing up this year in the race for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey. The story raises important issues for the practice of journalism.

As a cub reporter at a small New Jersey newspaper more than a quarter-century ago, I chronicled the last hurrah of a local political boss who was famously reelected mayor of Union City the day after he was sentenced to seven years in prison for taking payoffs. The late Bill Musto, last of the New Jersey bosses who could trace their political lineage to Frank (“I am the Law”) Hague, was, on one level, a most compassionate man. He counseled constituents all day long, and many of them loved him. He was a powerful, respected state senator, and New Jersey’s senior legislator. But Musto also took bribes from a local construction company controlled by the mafia.

A subplot in the story of Musto’s downfall has recently emerged in the race for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, a seat that has been in the Democratic column, which national Republican strategists hope to gain in a close battle for control of the Senate. Robert Menendez, the Democrat appointed to the vacant Senate seat in January by Governor Jon Corzine, was the twenty-four-year-old secretary...

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About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).