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.
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.
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.