Friday, June 22, 2018

Saving Local News in New Jersey

My Letter to the Editor in the Hudson Reporter:

Dear Editor:

New Jerseyans are stranded in a news desert. That is, we lack essential news and information about ourselves and our communities. Why? The state is wedged between two populous cities, New York City to the north and Philadelphia to the south. As a result — and depending on which half of the state you live in — you’re receiving a daily ration of news by broadcast and print outlets based out of state, while getting very little reporting about the New Jersey community in which you live.

Last year the Federal Communications Commission auctioned off the state’s two main public TV stations, WNJN and WNJT, a sale of locally-controlled spectrum that generated $332 million windfall for state coffers. This year thousands of people across the state are asking for a dividend in return for the sale of our stations. They’re taking action to support the Civic Info Bill (S2317/A3628), which would create a public fund to invest millions of dollars in innovative projects designed to revive local news coverage, community and municipal information, and civic engagement across New Jersey.

The bill creates a fund to improve the quantity and quality of information in New Jersey communities, which would benefit longstanding and startup news outlets alike while also launching statewide media-literacy and civic-engagement programs. Importantly, it would also provide grants to support the information needs of the states low-income communities and communities of color, long neglected by traditional outlets.

The Civic Info Bill is a lifeline for communities across New Jersey. And it needs the support of everyone. State Sen. Sandra Cunningham represents many of us in Hudson County, and she chairs the Higher Education Committee, which could be instrumental in sponsoring this legislation. We’ve got only a month left to tell Sen. Cunningham and other lawmakers in Trenton to support the legislation. A simple call from you could be the catalyst for local reporting and information services where you live. Make the call and help transform New Jersey news.

Timothy Karr

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Chinks in the Machinery of Hoboken Politics

Tuesday was election day in Hoboken and the streets were full of campaign workers wearing T-shirts, holding signs and handing out fliers in support of one of the six people running for mayor.

Some of these campaigners are volunteers; others are paid to do this work. Hudson County's Democratic Party machine has a long and sordid history of paying people to vote for its chosen candidate. After being exposed for this illegal practice the machine instead began hiring legions of people to canvas t
he city on election day... and it delivers these workers to the polls, too.

While the Hudson County party establishment can now claim it's paying people for their day of work and not for their vote, the net effect is often the same. In mid-term, low-turnout elections this tactic often generates enough votes to tip the election to the machine's favor.

In this year's mayoral election the establishment's chosen candidate was Anthony Romano, which should have been evident to anyone who walked our city streets on Tuesday. Romano campaigners were clustered at intersections within a block or two of polling stations. Others were being carted from one location to the next by a fleet of minivans and SUVs.

For two weeks prior to Tuesday's vote, Romano and friends hired video trucks to cruise the city and blast messages from the mayoral wannabe to anyone unfortunate to be within earshot. "Romano continues to fight for the integrity of Hoboken," one mobile video claimed at top volume, as imagery urged a vote for Hudson County party boss Brian Stack. But such ham-fisted politics failed to deliver. Romano came in fourth; Hoboken voters sent their own message to Hudson County's old guard: You no longer get to pick winners in our city.


Monday, October 30, 2017

New Leadership for Hoboken

One of the few bright lights in an otherwise dark Trump era is the emergence in local politics of young progressive leaders. Local progressives have won municipal elections across the country and are now banding together to ward off right-wing attacks on undocumented immigrants, voting rights, civil liberties and racial equity.

For the most, Hoboken hasn’t been part of this hopeful realignment of power — due to the decades-old stranglehold of Democratic-machine politics, which is more about patronage of Hudson County’s old guard than it is about forging a just and inclusive vision for the future.

As I look across the large field of Hoboken mayoral candidates only one stands out as a leader in this new mold: Ronald Alfredo Bautista.

Ron is a longtime resident of Hoboken who moved here at 13 as an undocumented immigrant from Guayaquil, Ecuador. He graduated from Hoboken High School, where he routinely outscored his classmates on civic exams while leading the soccer team to county championships; he paid his way through college by growing his mother’s business cleaning Hoboken homes.

 Ron’s professional life includes stints working for education nonprofits and consulting local governments on transit solutions and economic development. He’s the real deal who shares a vision for a people-friendly Hoboken that dares to engage everyone in civic life, including those who have long been afraid to stand up and speak out.

His ideas about participatory budgeting have proven successful in involving a representative cross-section of local populations in key decisions about the allocation of city resources.

 It was little more than a year after he became a full-fledged U.S. citizen that Ron opted to enter the race for mayor. His name may not be familiar to you. Many of the other candidates would rather Ron had stayed out of the race. Some have even gone so far as to deny that he’s running at all — for fear that Hoboken’s sizable Hispanic community (including 5,000 registered voters) will rally behind him. They should. And so should the rest of us. That’s why on November 7 I will be casting my vote for the next mayor of Hoboken: Ron Bautista.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Junk-Food Politics

Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason hands out Oreos and Nutter Butters to people waiting in rain to apply for the city's affordable housing program. (Oct. 22, 2014)
Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason knows well enough that the way to constituents' votes is often through their stomachs. She arrived early on a wet Wednesday morning to cater to the nearly 1,000 people lined up outside Hoboken's Elks Club to apply for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. Many had endured hours of steady, cold rain to qualify for the rental assistance program.

Mason, whose own political ambitions are voracious, seized on the opportunity to expand her local base of support. But her breakfast snack of choice, Oreos and Nutter Butters, may not have settled well with many.

Friday, September 5, 2014

What’s FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Really Afraid of?

While millions of Americans, a nationwide coalition of mayors, and thousands of startups and small businesses called for real Net Neutrality protections this summer, the FCC’s boss remains holed up in the agency’s Washington headquarters, reluctant to engage the public on the issue.There was no vacation for the Internet this summer.

While many Americans slipped away to the beach, Internet users were busy defending the openness of a network that has become this era’s engine for free expression, ingenuity and just about everything else.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is TMZ the Future of News in New Jersey?

On Tuesday, I took part in an on-air discussion at NJ News Commons about the future of local news in New Jersey and beyond.

Exhibit A was Fox Broadcasting Company’s decision to replace WWOR’s evening newscast with Chasing New Jersey, a TV newsmagazine modeled after the celebrity gossip show TMZ.

Chasing New Jersey is Fox’s attempt to reinvent local news. Its format — young reporters “chasing” events around the state and reporting them back in conversations with colleagues — is a departure from the standard news fare featuring co-anchors seated before a teleprompter.

The switch is Fox’s attempt to appeal to a younger demographic, especially those 18-to-34-year-olds that advertisers pay top dollar to reach.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Media Sent on Hoboken Goose Chase

Media head scratching in Hoboken after police on the scene of the Newtown tragedy identify the shooter as 24-year-old Ryan Lanza. 

A subsequent Facebook search identified Lanza as a resident of Hoboken, which sent local and national news crews and helicopters scrambling to his 1313 Grand Street address, where local police and FBI had roped off surrounding streets. 

I counted some 80 journalists and crew members across the police line before new information had the assailant as Ryan's younger brother Adam. 

Some cellphone shots from the scene as journalists realize that the fog of breaking news had led many astray: