I read with interest the article in the Asbury Park Press that provided an endorsement of Amy Handlin and Samuel Thompson in the 13th District.
I was struck by the dishonesty of the article, and the generally poor standard of journalism that is found throughout the article. This was not driven by the fact that I was not the one endorsed, as I entered the meeting knowing an endorsement for an Independent candidate would be very unlikely. I was also well aware that my answers to your survey made it even more unlikely that I would receive the endorsement. My criticism is instead based upon the deception that is found throughout the article.
It’s unfortunate that people in this area are not given an accurate portrayal of the discussion that took place between the Asbury Park Press and political candidates. It is very useful to have a media outlet that is willing and able to analyze the platforms of various political candidates and provide various opinions from this analysis. However, the article published by the Asbury Park Press demonstrates how media outlets misquote candidates and exclude important information to deceive readers. Deception should not be a goal of our media.
Of course, your paper has every right to come to the conclusion that the three challengers “offered little to suggest they are worthy of supplanting the incumbents”. That is your subjective opinion, and the editorial is the place for this to be expressed. The same is true in relation to your opinion that I seem “ill-equipped to address the problems in Trenton, particularly spending”. Again, this is your opinion, and this is what readers are expecting to read when they turn to your editorials.
However, your selective reporting does not provide readers with an accurate portrayal of the meeting. Each of these issues by themselves might not be very significant, but let’s see how it looks when they are all put together:
Samuel Thompson is defined as a “retired chemist”, and there’s no mention of his recent position as the communications director for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. In a paper that is critical of many state jobs, I found this interesting. Perhaps it is worth mentioning how he was appointed to that job? Amy Handlin is a “marketing professor”, when in fact, she is an associate professor of marketing. Perhaps those outside of academics do not understand the difference between the two, but I don’t believe this is an acceptable excuse for a newspaper that strives to be a credible source of information.
All points relating to the two incumbents are positive. In both articles about the 13th District, you buried our conversation about liquefied natural gas terminals. The three challengers were the most closely aligned with an editorial in your paper on this issue. Remember this: http://www.cleanoceanaction.org/index.php?id=652
I rang your reporter after the first article about his very sloppy misquote of me, in which he wrongly stated I wanted to reduce the number of police departments. When I asked why the discussion of the LNG terminals was buried, he told me it was for two reasons. Firstly, there was only limited space (somewhat understandable), and secondly, he thought my quote about foxes and sheep was funny. Is this really the standard measure for content in your articles? Last week, all five Monmouth County Freeholders voted to officially oppose the LNG terminals, four towns in this district officially oppose these terminals, and your own editorial team oppose these terminals, yet the APP must ensure that their readers get a punchline to a story? I would like to think that they would rather know how the candidates stand on such an important issue to this area.
In reference to the survey you asked candidates to answer, you only mention my responses (I did not agree with you as much as the other candidates), and Amy’s responses (she agreed most). Excluded are the responses of the other three candidates. This is interesting, as one of the challengers agreed with more suggestions in your survey than Sam did.
You state that Jim would raise the gasoline tax to help fund transportation improvements. You exclude the fact that Sam said the same thing. The context of your statement suggests that Jim was the only person to suggest this policy.
This leaves us with the concluding point about myself. This part seemed rather childish to me, along with the overall dishonesty of it. I explained at length in my introduction to your committee several parts of my background. My academic qualifications are dismissed, which is much different to your approach to Amy’s qualifications. I very clearly stated that I had recently finished my PhD at Trinity College Dublin, and that I also held a Master’s Degree from University College Dublin. I also explained that I lectured at several universities in Dublin. I let you know that I was on a self-financed sabbatical as I was completing a book. I then informed you that I was also involved in agriculture while in Ireland, and explained a little bit about my experience working on a family farm in Ireland. This experience included my work with European Agricultural Policies. At this point, I provided a statement about this experience, which you
actually misquoted. Within a very short span of time, I moved from a sheep herder in your first article on me, to a sheep farmer. Of course, you misquoted the joke, as the joke I would tell my neighbors who lived near our farm in Ireland included the “Bronx-born” aspect of my background, and of course, it was “in Ireland”, not “from Ireland”. Why would someone who grew up in Holmdel, New Jersey, and graduated Holmdel High School state that he is from Ireland? But why bother with those points, if it gets in the way of your editorial objectives?
To say that I refer to myself as “a vegetarian sheep farmer from Ireland” (after I explained at length where I grew up and went to high school in New Jersey), is childish at best, and deceptive at worst. I take a lot of pride in my involvement with a family farm, but the claim in your article falls into the pattern found in other media outlets, which is that an Independent candidate (from any political perspective) must viewed with the most extreme forms of suspicion.
Considering your pattern of reporting over the two articles, it appears to me that no paper could be this sloppy in misquotations and selective reporting. It is unfortunate that the readers of your paper expect honest reporting, and instead read childish quips about vegetarian sheep farming and selective reporting that produces a dishonest description of our meeting.
I was the only candidate not in a political party in that room, and it was shocking to see firsthand the trouble you went through to endorse the candidates of your choice. You have every right to endorse Sam and Amy, but why do you rely upon excessive fabrications when making this endorsement? It seems to suggest that you don’t have much to base the endorsement on.
With less than one week left, the other candidates and I will no doubt continue to critique each other’s positions, and this is a healthy part of political campaigns. Our criticisms, like those of the media, should be both honest and relevant. It’s a pity you do not follow this principle.
It is good, for example, that candidates present their arguments about the LNG terminals so that voters can hear differing views and then decide which candidate is best for them.
With Election Day around the corner, you provided Sam with space to critique Daggett’s tax plan, and I would like to request the same amount of space to critique Sam’s policy of paying all that taxpayer money to Lucille Panos. Panos, of course, is a Councilwoman from Old Bridge, which pays $6,000 and benefits, and according to your Data Universe, Sam’s office pays her an additional $29,500 for Special Services. You ignore this incredible fact, and instead state in the article that Sam “has an outstanding record on constituent service”. Surely taxpayers would like to know the part that their money plays in Panos providing that service?
Sam also stated in the meeting that he has no problem taking nearly $50,000 for a part-time job. One of his excuses was that he did this full-time. Imagine a guy in any other part-time job who demanded full-time pay, because he treated the job like a full-time job. He’d be fired before the day was over.
Fiscal conservatism, indeed.
Amy Handlin was a Freeholder when a string of corruption arrests took place in the area, and no one can point to any serious work she has done on corruption. Yet she earns the title of “one of the most ardent supporters of ethics reforms” from your editorial team. How could she do so little on corruption, when it costs NJ taxpayers so much money?
That “easy choice” for District 13 becomes less easy when we consider all of the above, and this is why the deception and dishonesty are necessary to make the article fit the headline.
Not only do I request the opportunity to publish a letter to the editor in your paper, I also request that you make an apology to Bob, Jim, Amy, Sam and I for your unprofessional conduct. It should also go without saying that you owe an apology to your readers.
Will a paper like the Asbury Park Press publish important information about the incumbents, or will you bury it like you did all of the other points when you wrote that article? I’ll be knocking on doors all day tomorrow, but can make time at night to write an article on a topic that all taxpayers should know about. I don’t know how it has escaped your paper’s attention till now (although your pedestrian editorial provides very obvious clues) but I guess late is better than never.
I look forward to hearing from you by return.
Sean Dunne, Candidate
13th Legisaltive Distrcit