Reporters, editors can learn from Jon Corzine
COMMENTARY | June 15, 2006
The governor of New Jersey, in a letter to the New York Times, shows one way of dealing with vulgar publicity hounds: Don’t give them what they want.
By Barry Sussman
Jon Corzine, governor of New Jersey, is the author of a seven-paragraph letter to the editor that appeared in the New York Times June 15th. The letter is a model for how to deal with your occasional terrorist, Swift Boat political panderer and the like.
Corzine’s technique won’t always work but it’s worth a try more often than not, especially in cases like the one at hand. Editors and reporters can learn from it.
The letter praises the families of the victims of 9/11. Readers may be aware of outlandish recent assaults on some wives of the fallen by a long-haired, bony, home-grown terrorist.
What Corzine said, in part, was that the families of 9/11 victims “took heartache and turned it into something that could effect change for the greater good.”
He pointed out that, “if not for the strength of the victims' families, their heartfelt compassion for those who were lost and their concern for safety and security, there would have been no 9/11 commission,” and, consequently, no “thorough re-examination of our national security and vulnerabilities.”
Some of the women live in New Jersey, possibly a main reason for Corzine to write the letter and for the Times to run it. Had the letter been a news story, editors would have thrown it back at Corzine. They would have told him – maybe in disbelief – you forgot to put in the name of the terrorist.
To which he would have answered, “I didn’t forget.”
Barry Sussman is the editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project. He is the author of The Great Cover-Up: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, now in its fourth edition.