For the past week, the wide-ranging scandal in New Jersey politics has been making great theater. With a veritable feeding frenzy across all aspects of the media, the press has had a wonderful time taking the Garden State to task--from the venerable Wall Street Journal and New York Times, to all three major network evening news outlets, to the blogosphere. With the news reaching millions of eager eyes and ears, New Jersey seemed like a backwater studio set ready-made for a variety of mob-related movies and television shows. So much for balanced reporting.
The truth is that corruption is too common in New Jersey's chambers of local government. But there are many more people that don't lend themselves to the "culture of corruption." New Jersey possesses earnest and hardworking public servants who only take the public interest into account. The state is home to 23 Fortune 500 companies employing hundreds of thousands of people. The state is the fourth largest real estate market in the country and, in spite of its less than business-friendly tax status, it is a strong economic engine bringing opportunity to millions of people.
Does New Jersey have an all-too-common problem of entrenched corruption? Yes, it does, much like many of the other states in the union. However, it has so much more than this one sullied aspect of its persona. All too often it's all too easy to characterize New Jersey as a laughingstock--a place mired in backroom deals filled with characters direct from central casting. Of course, it's less convenient to focus on the ordinary and honest people who work and live there every day. What kind of story would that make? Perhaps one that gives the millions of readers, watchers, and listeners a different idea about what else happens in New Jersey.
There are many truths about New Jersey, and it would be great to see more media outlets bring them to light.
Jonathan A. Schein is the publisher of New Jersey & Company magazine(njand.com).