How To Spin a Story, by Tom Moran

In a column titled, “Why did Sen. Robert Menendez block nomination of favored N.J. judge?” Star Ledger’s editorialist Tom Moran doesn’t answer the question until the twenty second (22nd) paragraph.

In between Moran says that ‘On the merits, it was a crazy move.”  He presents, without any direct quotes or sources, a number of “juiciest” rumors that make Menendez look bad.  He also examines the political “backfire” this will cause with the state and federal Democrats, again without any direct quotes or sources.  Then he explores the revenge factor, and states that Menedez might be doing it because he doesn’t like fellow US Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Finally Moran reveals that Menendez has a stated reason for blocking the — and Menendez provided it to Moran before Moran engaged in all the gossiping in the column — appointment:

Menendez said he asks a routine set of questions for nominees to the Court of Appeals, and she blew several of them. He blocked Shwartz’s nomination in secret, using one of the arcane rules of the Senate, because he didn’t want to besmirch her legal reputation, he says.

Once he was accused, however, of blocking her out of revenge on Nobile, Menendez felt he had to go public.

“She misapplied the law and I was taken aback,” Menendez says. “I waited to talk to my chief counsel, who was there, and said, ‘Did I get that wrong or did she misapply the law?’ And he said, ‘No, she misapplied the law.’ ”

Huh.  That could be true, and actual rational reason for denying someone a position that is, as Moran says above, is “just one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.”  

So after gossiping about possible terrible things people could think without using any named sources, and revealing a compelling reason to oppose a nominee, Moran ends with this:

Not a good start to 2012 for the junior senator from New Jersey.

It’s the kind of gossip and innuendo that we loved in the old days of PoliticsNJ, back when Wally Edge ran the show and it was essentially a gossip sheet.  We expected it there, because that was what it was all about.

But the Star-Ledger is not a gossip sheet, and the senior editorial writer is not an anonymous gossip columnist enjoying the inter-personal bickering and fighting among the political class.

This column could have been written in a factual way that presented both sides evenly, that provided the information that people thought Menendez was acting improperly but that Menendez denied it.  Instead Moran’s column is structured to portray Menendez’s use of Senatorial Courtesy in the absolute worst light, going through all the innuendo and supposition before providing the senator’s position. Such a spin is easy to do for any writer of skill and even easier for such a writer with a huge platform.  

It makes you wonder if the pot is calling the kettle black, and this is a column “based on lust for revenge or jealousy.”

Comments (7)

  1. huntsu (Post author)

    This is not to suggest that Menendez is right in blocking this nominee.  I’m not getting into the merits of that, since I think it’s a little goofy, too.

    But the way this is written is definitely implies Menendez is doing this for bad reasons without evidence for the same.  

  2. Blue12345

    Definitely sounds like a gossip magazine for most of it.

    At the part in which he states she “misapplied the law”, I would have loved specifics.  Shoddy journalism, much?  Or is the information confidential?  Saying she misapplied the law is about as general of a statement as they come.  Suspicious to me.

  3. Bertin Lefkovic

    Print is dead.  He and the SL have taken numerous controversial positions, particularly with regards to education reform.  I think that these are part and parcel of a desperate attempt to remain relevant in a day and age where their relevance is waning.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the combined readership of PolitickerNJ, Blue Jersey, its conservative counterpart, and any other similar websites minus duplications is more than


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