Yesterday, Ward E Councilman James Solomon sent out a press release announcing that he will sponsor a resolution tomorrow, Wed., June 15, supporting a “fair” contract between the reporters and staff of the Jersey Journal and the newpaper’s owner, Advance Media.
The release included quotes from two Jersey Journal writers who cover Solomon and his colleagues on the City Council.
“I … hope that a show of support from the community will convince management to do the right thing and offer more significant wage increases than they have thus far,” said Teri West, a Journal writer and unit chair of the Jersey Journal Guild.
Reporter Josh Rosario added, “The support shown by the municipal council will guide the newspaper toward giving fair wages, benefits, and worker protections to its award-winning staff.”
It’s hard to blame West and Rosario for wanting to accept the City’s Council’s support if, indeed, Advance is underpaying them and can pay more. But they shouldn’t.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states plainly that journalists should “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel, and special treatment and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality or may damage credibility.”
By accepting his help, West, Rosario, and their colleagues may feel indebted to Solomon and other council members who vote in favor of the resolution. Similarly, it would only be human for Solomon to expect some reciprocity from Journal reporters.
When asked today about the potential conflict, Solomon countered that he was “pissing off the editors who actually control what gets printed … I’m not just currying favor with one group, and there’s no consequence. I am upsetting the people who have more power.”
We don’t buy it. Solomon gives the Journal’s writers too little credit. When covering City Hall, they can choose which stories to pitch and what facts to include or leave out.
If Solomon believes what he said in his press release — that “local media is our bedrock to uncover corruption and educate Jersey City’s residents about their government” — he should let the Journal’s writers and staff fight their own battle no matter how sympathetic he may be.
In our view, the Journal’s talented writers have been far too easy on City Hall as it is. This won’t help.