How the Herald almost started the Watchdog
On June 14, 2011, blogger Rob Eichmann met with Herald editor Bruce Tomlinson to discuss taking the Herald website statewide. Eichmann brought along Bill Winkler, who had arranged the meeting on his behalf, and Tomlinson brought in Herald Internet director Amy Paterson. The meeting was held at the Herald's Newton offices.
Eichmann saw the need for a conservative-leaning print newspaper in New Jersey, to provide balance to the left-leaning Newhouse and Gannett newspaper groups , among others. With the Herald print edition serving a conservative county, a right-of-center tilt wouldn't hurt it any, while assuming the mantle as the state's "conservative" newspaper would open up the possibility of the Herald operating a website with statewide reach. To that end, Eichmann was willing to share a reader base of over 40,000 emails with the Herald.
Unfortunately, Tomlinson wasn't having any of it. During the meeting, he lashed out at the idea of the Herald becoming "New Jersey's Fox News." Eichmann took his idea away with him and had found funding for it when he was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. He died in 2013, before his idea could be launched. But not before launching a few websites of his own, including Sussex Watchdog.
Originally called Sussex County GOP Watchdog, Eichmann launched the blog in the spring of 2012 with the help of restaurant owner Gail Phoebus, a candidate for Sussex County Freeholder at the time. After he died, it was relaunched as Sussex County Watchdog and adopted a less partisan, more reform-minded posture. Many different people contribute to it, including Harvey Roseff, a sometime independent political candidate.
Of course, the Herald's Tomlinson was furious when Eichmann went ahead anyway. Tomlinson had assumed that his rejection meant an end to it and did not appreciate Eichmann's determination. The Herald -- especially Tomlinson -- have had a hard on for the website and its contributors ever since.
Sometime after Tomlinson's arrival at the Herald, the newspaper began to adopt the role of political arbiter in Sussex County. If politics were a scale with Republicans on one side and Democrats/Independents/Greens on the other, Tomlinson attempted to play the role of a kind of god, using the Herald to balance out the prospects of the opposing sides. This became preposterously obvious in 2011, when he suppressed coverage of the criminal conviction of an independent candidate who used violence against a mother and a child. When the Herald refused to write about it -- but the candidate lost anyway -- Tomlinson blamed the professionalism of the Republican campaign.
Curiously, he was joined in this by a consultant-turned-politician on the make by the name of George Graham. Graham was a journeyman political consultant from Hudson County -- where he mainly worked Democrat municipal campaigns and did the government relations work for a major county contractor. He was also a local elected official in Sussex County who had flipped from Democrat to Republican back to Democrat and then back to Republican again. Graham contributed to Democrat legislative candidates and even voted in the Democrat presidential primary in 2008 for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
Graham wanted to take a piece of the political consulting action in Sussex County and he also wanted to advance up the ranks of elected office. He took over the Sussex County League of Municipalities and held it until the finances ran out. He made an important alliance with attorney Dan Perez, who had been introduced to Sussex County legal circles by the Herald's own attorney. Perez is currently the Democrat Party candidate for Freeholder in Sussex County.
Graham worked in a kind of partnership with the Herald -- and boasted about the hundreds of times he had met with the editor and senior staff. Graham opposed reform legislation to end the newspaper subsidy, which counted for a great deal with the Herald. In return, the Herald has been uniformly supportive of Graham's political career. Last year, the Herald suppressed coverage of the challenge to Graham in his bid to be re-elected Freeholder. The contrast between 2016 and 2017 could not be greater.
Aside from Graham, the Herald has adopted an antagonistic view towards political professionals -- seeing them as a direct threat to their ability to "play god" and place a thumb on the scale as seen fit. This is strange, because political professionals have been working in Sussex County -- and indeed everywhere else in America and the free world -- for at least 40 years. The political consultant is a well established staple of American political life, not the dangerous novelty that bizarrely the Herald would have us believe.
The Herald is part of a mid-western based media empire and we know for a fact that each and every one of those media units within Quincy Media corporation, every radio or cable station and the Quincy Whig, they all have professional dealings with political consultants. Throughout the whole of the Quincy empire they are viewed as clients -- but not by the Herald.
With malice and premeditation, the Herald has worked to draw out and "expose" political professionals for the purpose of making them boogey men -- all except George Graham. The Herald has imposed rules on subscribers who pay to use its website in order to identify them with the equivalent of stars and triangles -- for the purposes of making them objects of hate. No other newspaper in the state of New Jersey has similar rules. None. Most newspapers don't even ask that you be a subscriber to comment. None monitor political professionals. None care if you post anonymously. Only the Herald, with its agenda, and a stick planted firmly up its arsehole.
Not content with "exposing" political professionals, the Herald has worked to "expose" their family members and to apply the same rules to them. The Herald actually trolls social media in order to determine relationships between paid subscribers who comment and elected officials. That is how mental it has become. The Herald has become so obsessed that, in our opinion, it crosses the line into restraint of trade.
The philosopher Michael Oakeshott reminds us that journalism is not about persuading others but rather it is about reporting events clearly. The Herald is very far removed from this ideal. In fact, Tomlinson and company more often behave like marketing reps than reporters -- laying their hands all over a story to spin it this way or that. But in the interest of whom?
In contrast to the Herald, we have an open policy. Please feel free to send Watchdog leads or indeed full columns and we will post them. Thank you.