Cami Anderson’s charm offensive–it works for The Star-Ledger

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Part of the presidential campaign?
Part of the presidential campaign?

Cami Anderson, a woman hardly known for her charm, has—with the help of media friends–launched a charm offensive aimed at the impossible task of rehabilitating her image. Those friends include the always reliable Star-Ledger, a newspaper that not only refuses to publish any bad news about Anderson but now also has made dubious journalistic history by promoting Anderson in a popularity contest disguised as a news story entitled, “Has the criticism of Newark’s superintendent gone too far?”

That absurdity followed a story in The Star-Ledger about Cami Anderson’s op-ed  in the Huffington Post–a story about a Huffington post blog?  That alleged piece of journalism by the former Newark newspaper was then followed, in turn, by her own op-ed piece in which Anderson falsely claims success, certain as she must be that her lies would not be subjected to scrutiny by an effort of the newspaper to practice journalism. Anderson has been given a free pass. In her op-ed, a free advertisement, Anderson explains away the consequences to real people of her ineptitude and mistakes as merely the inevitable pains associated with change—but more about that later.

Giving free space to Anderson to lie without challenge is nothing new to The Star-Ledger. It’s been doing that regularly since 2011. But the former Newark newspaper has crossed yet another frontier into the farthest reaches of unprofessional behavior by citing as authoritative the work in a competing news outlet by a woman known primarily for her ignorance of the Newark schools and support for charter schools. The Star-Ledger presents the nonsense spewed by this woman as evidence Cami Anderson has been unfairly criticized.

So, on one side of this contrived effort at balance, writes the Star-Ledger, are both Republicans and Democrats on the legislative committee who skewered her bungling and disrespectful actions—and Ras Baraka, the decisively elected mayor of the city of Newark who demanded Anderson’s resignation. To say nothing of Newark’s elected school board, its city council, religious leaders and hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have protested Anderson’s gross stupidity.

On the other hand, is a member of the Lawrence Township school board.

What?

Yes, while this woman, Laura Waters,  immodestly, if laughably, refers to herself as “one of the premier analysts of New Jersey education policy,” her credentials are this: The media outlet NJ Spotlight likes to run her stuff. Why? I haven’t the vaguest idea. Someone will have to ask the publishers of that site why.

For me, the  question is why a once great newspaper pretends a controversy exists when legions of critics want Cami Anderson driven out of town while a member of a Mercer County school board who writes for an on-line journal thinks she is the great hope of the Newark schools.

To the Ledger, this is balance. To the Ledger, this replaces actual reporting. Instead of following up on the charges made by legislators last month, instead of reporting on the failure of Anderson to improve student performance, instead of looking into a land deal she helped arrange for charter school friends, instead of asking why millions of dollars in taxpayer funds are wasted on “rubber rooms”—in other words, instead of acting like a real newspaper, The Star-Ledger indulges in self-humiliating gimmickry by pretending that a nobody from nowhere publishing in another medium has enough gravitas to create a reason to publish a story in which The Star-Ledger asks its dwindling number of readers whether Cami Anderson has been criticized too much.

Have the people at The Ledger no pride? Is saving this woman’s reputation so important to its editors that they will refrain from nothing to try to rehabilitate it?

The screed by the Lawrence Township school board member, by the way, argued that problems in Newark predate Anderson’s arrival. What a revelation. Will she now argue the planet is roughly round? The point is –what has Anderson done since 2011?

The gist of Anderson’s self-praising op-ed is that change is always painful. What rank hypocrisy. Anderson holds the remunerative position she does now because the state’s political leadership has not faced the real sacrifices necessary to improve the lives of children in Newark and other cities. Sacrifices that would include ensuring equity and an end to racial isolation in what accurately has been called this apartheid state—where places like Lawrence Township are virtually all white and cities like Trenton, Camden, and Newark are all black and brown.

If the board member from Lawrence Township, with its 90 percent white and Asian population,  wants to improve education for the poorest children of the state, she should advocate for the opening up of the township’s public schools to the residents of bordering Trenton where schools, like those in Newark, are 98 percent black and Hispanic. She should do that—or just shut up about Newark. She, like Anderson, is part of the problem.

But it wasn’t only this woman and Anderson herself who were promoting Anderson in the pages of Newark’s former newspaper. In the course of a week, the Ledger also carried two hymns of praise to charter schools and other privatized options.

No matter how numerous are Anderson’s critics—no matter the facts they uncover—no matter the strength of their arguments or the depth of Anderson’s failure—the critics will never be given a fair shake by a newspaper that once prided itself on standing with the people of the city it has now abandoned.

Parmley: A snake charmer?
Parmley: A snake charmer?

Clearly, all these planted “stories” are the work of Anderson’s new communications director, Brittany Parmley, a former Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michelle Rhee operative whose husband works  for Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. And New Jersey taxpayers are footing the bill.

But The Star-Ledger will never write about that, will it?

Nah. The Star-Ledger rests warmly and comfortably—and firmly– in Cami Anderson’s welcoming hip pocket.

15 comments

  1. John Rydberg

    In the NJ Spotlight article you cite Laura Waters, the writer, also attacks Mayor Ras Baraka with a falsehood: She says:

    ” Every Newark mayor since 1962, except for Cory Booker, has been indicted for crimes committed while in office. Last week former mayor Sharpe James, just released from jail, argued in court that “paying a criminal defense lawyer is a regular and necessary expenditure for a public official in New Jersey.” Hyperbolic, but true for Newark. Improving Newark’s schools won’t happen without improving the city leaders’ integrity.”

    Really. I cannot recall any information anywhere to suggest Mayor Baraka had been “indicted.” And Ras Baraka is the Mayor of Newark. Both Ms Waters and NJ Spotlight owe Mayor Baraka and Newark’s citizens an apology for this false report. But I won’t hold my breath waiting to read about it.

    Bob Braun: You are quite correct. Mayor Baraka has never been indicted. I also agree he is owed an apology.

  2. Becca Fields

    Tom Moran admitted he was wrong about Christie – and has since found the words to criticize the Governor in many areas that he was blind to before. But it appears Mr. Moran, and thereby the editorial board, of the SL has a blind spot for Cami (a crush??) so large that they cannot separate fact from fiction, reality from spin and integrity from tabloid hack-jobs. Mr. Moran has in the past read your blog – I wonder if he will this time and if he will have any response. Your multi-leveled and justifiable criticisms of the entire love affair with Cami and all things that (white) people write about her may leave Mr. Moran without much to say.

      • Becca Fields

        Indeed there are and I do not think I implied otherwise. My point was plenty of the fondness comes from white people who do not live the experience of Cami’s wrath.

  3. Karen Lynch

    Always enjoyed your insightful, candid columns way back in the Enlightenment Age of that now dreadful former newspaper. I,m equally delighted to stumble upon this site…and look forward to reading many more of your unflinching observations in the future. Go get em.

    Bob Braun: Thank you. Welcome to my new world. BTW, I wasn’t making a snarky statement when I referred to the Ledger as a “former Newark newspaper”. It is no longer headquartered in Newark.

    • Karen Lynch

      No longer in Newark, true, but still a former newspaper compared with its shopperesque, news-light incarnation. Snark away!

  4. DA

    Bob,

    As a discouraged Newarker, mother, community member, and an educated product of Newark; this situation shows the true America! Abuse the so called voiceless impoverished brown and black children in a so called hood city. While they take over our schools, city, pay clery/politicans and create a public campaign to go in damage control! Cami is a political strategist; Cory left her here to wipe this city clean. The PR and funds they are spending on these messes by the way can support the IB program she wants to dismantle at Science Highschool.

    We have not bought in the right power players to play her chess game!

    Learn the system, infiltrate, and then dismantle to push the natives out!! True colonization and Willy Lynch methods!

    How does this woman sleep at night knowing she bold face wont face the truth! There is a special place in the spiritual world for those who harm children at the expense of children and low income families!

    Charter schools have so much resources while public schools in Newark are pushed in classrooms of 30 kids and no books!

    Tell the star ledger the are no longer respected journalism but corporate by outs to the biggest buyer! The Devils Advocate indeed…

    Atonement will come for our children in Newark!!

    Thanks Bob you deserve an award! Keep them coming and give them hell!!!

  5. Wolf Krochmal

    Waters’s insouciant snipe at Newark leadership which implies that Ras Baraka has been indicted can be attributed to sloppy thinking if we are being generous. Regardless, the Mayor is due an apology.

    Mr. Braun, I am grateful for your tenacity in shining a light on the Newark situation and writing the truth. Please continue to uphold your standards by correcting your statements that mischaracterize the racial and ethnic composition of Lawrence Township schools. You may have been misled by Census data, but you don’t hesitate to take the Star-Ledger to task for journalistic thoroughness. You can find the facts about LTPS here:

    http://education.state.nj.us/pr/nav.php?c=21;d=2580

    Thanks again for all you do.

    Bob Braun: Misled by the census? Ok, I get your point. The schools in Lawrence are 65 percent white and Asian, while the town itself is 90 percent white and Asian. I will clarify in the blog–but I would also point out that virtually all schools in neighboring Trenton (like schools in Newark) have fewer than 5 percent white students, many have one percent or less. Why is that acceptable? I am sure some schools in Lawrence are closer to black children in Trenton than are the schools these Trenton kids attend.

    • Wolf Krochmal

      And I get your point too. But whatever bone you have to pick with Waters, who is only one board member, it is unfair to paint Lawrence as isolationist or segregationist. If you look closely, you will see that within Lawrence, the schools are more racially balanced than the surrounding neighborhoods. This is due to zoning configurations that have been in effect for decades and are a reflection of specific BoE policy decisions that are reaffirmed regularly. Beyond that, if I’m not mistaken, even Waters has called for expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship program. Maybe you should ask if she has tried to have LTPS become a receiving district. The answer will likely be that the district facilities are at capacity, which is true. Shall the responsibility for problems in the Trenton community be laid soley at the feet of Lawrence? Is this not a regional issue? Anyway, would you have us institute a One Mercer plan with random assignment of students to schools within the county or with neighboring Burlington? It’s easy to criticize and point fingers.

      By the way, Lawrence is also home to David Sciarra of the Education Law Center. He’s probably too busy to serve on our BoE.

      So when you ask “Why is that acceptable?”, I ask acceptable to who? Are you blaming the people of Lawrence? And exactly how would you distribute the burden of rectifying the situation? How do you expect to accomplish your plan, if you have one, in the real political world? Within Lawrence, I believe, we are doing pretty well.

      Do you have an issue with how Lawrence has handled its obligations under Mt. Laurel?

      Here is a thought experiment: How is it that Lawrence schools are not as white as Lawrence at large?

      Bob Braun: Thought experiment? Private schools and age differences between white and other racial groups.
      I am not only blaming Lawrence. I am raising the question of how Waters can prescribe solutions for Newark from the relative comfort of a district that, but for geography and a history of racist segregation, might well be in the same condition. I oppose vouchers and forms of privatization, like the Opportunity Scholarship Act, because they avoid the real problem–providing for the thorough, efficient, and racially integrated public school system required by both state and federal law.

  6. Bill Wolfe

    Bob – here is the connection between NJ Spotlight and Ms. Walters:

    http://www.lawrencetwp.com/FromMayorsDesk.html

    That connection is bridged by the Dodge Foundation funders of NJ Spotlight and various “sustainable” programs we see “from he Mayors desk”.

    Bob, there is a network I call The Green Mafia – a self serving pack of elitists and Foundation fiends with money.

    Just check out the connections: Dodge, Sustainable NJ, Terhune orchards, et al.

  7. Bill Wolfe

    Bob – here’s Ms. Waters again, making the rounds on Princeton local TV, affiliated as a NJ Spotlight education write, opining on NJ’s segregated schools – watch:

    http://educationroundtable.org/2014/07/29/segregation-in-new-jersey/

    Sorry, I had to stop after the first few minutes, during the “analysis” of the causes of NJ segregation.

    But, my point is, you picked up on an important issue: How does Ms. Waters become such voice? Why is Spotlight publishing her work?

    I think the connections are Mayor Pam and the Dodge Foundation – but there could be other links.

    Regardless, this is important to understand because it sheds light on how issues are framed and public opinion is manipulated.

    I’ve seen the network of foundations and Green Mafia do this – I think the same ideology and institutions have driven the education privatization train.

    In fact, the ideological, political, and policy parallels are so strong (e.g. Neoliberal market based) between what a group like Sustainable NJ is doing to the environmental “movement” and policy arena that I have likened them to the “Charter Schools” initiative.

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