TOMS RIVER, NJ – Ocean County Commissioner Joe Vicar last week proposed the idea to use federal COVID-19 funds to launch a newspaper promoting the works of the large public information staff employed by the county. Ocean County has a larger newsroom than most small newspapers consisting of paid employees receiving full benefits, working toward their retirement to write press releases for tourism, the library, photographers to take pictures of parks, and even a propaganda writer to push the political views on the public.
There’s just one problem. Rarely do newspapers cover any of those stories unless they are of public interest…or in our case to mock the entire process of the government paying washed-up former newspaper writers to publish government propaganda.
This has upset Vicari and other freeholders over the years, claiming the press doesn’t give them a ‘fair shake’. In return, Vicari is now questioning the archaic newspaper ‘legal notices’ laws that pump millions of dollars into the New Jersey media in the form of walls of classified ads few read.
That state benefit costs New Jersey taxpayers millions of dollars annually and Vicari now questions whether or not government entities should continue paying those costs despite dwindling subscriptions and readership. Vicari now appears to be in an all-out war with the Asbury Park Press and reporter Erik Larsen.
Larsen fired a scathing report about Vicari’s request to print their own newspaper, claiming the longtime elected official is upset because the paper never published his releases, such as one written last year to bomb North Korea.
Now, Vicari is saying that he did not say he wanted to create a newspaper. Vicari’s comments also raised questions about the existing ‘newsroom’ of public information officers currently employed by the county and their effectiveness to push their work into the public media’s attention.
Those releases go unpublished because they typically have absolutely no public content value for any media company. They are sometimes used as fillers in weekly newspapers just to get content into the pages on slow weeks. In many cases, the releases are just regurgitated re-writes of releases done years prior, such as boat pump-outs, document shreddings, and other annual events.
Nobody is going to publish a 3/4 page lengthy story about document shredding events with quotes from every elected official about the importance of document shredding. The breakdown at the county press office is complacency and competence.
Vicari’s public notice complaint is a valid issue and one that former Governor Chris Christie also tried to fight, but lost to the newspaper industry’s lobbying of state officials. Most people get their news online. The state requires public notices to be published in a newspaper with specific guidelines, but all of those notices are also published online for free by the New Jersey Press Association, which according to many should serve as sufficient notice in a day and age where online media is more accessible than print media…and free.