Happy Birthday, NJN

This week marked 40 years of the state-backed effort to bridge the media gap that existed here in the Garden State between the steroidal New York and Philadelphia television markets.

Hundreds of years later and Ben Franklin’s New Jersey as a keg tapped at both ends still needed fixing. NJN was to be a major part of that fix when the switch was flipped to put us on the air back on April 5, 1971.

So four decades and thousands of stories of, by and about New Jersey and New Jerseyans later and we’re still at it; on the air on television and later radio and now online (that last a term and practice had yet to be invented then). I won’t write an exhaustive history here. But suffice to say that the station’s consistent, quality offerings of news, the arts, cultural and educational fare here in New Jersey have served to help sew New Jerseyans closer to each other in this rich and beautiful — and, yes, frayed in places — tapestry that is our state.

We’re told that New Jersey’s rich and varied stories will continue to be told and that the telling could even be strengthened once the as yet unknown not-for-profit entity takes over when state support ends July 1. Let’s hope so. In any event, it’ll be another turning point for a place that’s become something of a beacon across the landscape of the Garden State.

So Happy 40th Birthday New Jersey Network! What do you say we tap old Ben’s keg in the middle and drink a toast to your health.

And as we’re fond of saying to our dear friends and beloved relations, you don’t look a day over 21.

Here’s a link to the story our Dari Mandell did earlier this week for NJN News on the network’s 40th anniversary.

Thank you.

Just a public note of thanks here to the crew at Politickernj.com;
namely editor Darryl Isherwood and correspondent extraordinare Max “Mad Max” Pizarro.

Darryl not only posted on his site the Veterans Day blog post I wrote about my father’s link with the Battleship New Jersey (and a tenuous but appreciated association I share with him with the great warship), but then with input from Max, put him in their “Winners” column for the week.

Needless to say, it made a humble World War II Navy vet’s day and meant the world to him not just for himself but for the recognition such an act brings to all our veterans who’ve proudly served, and continue to serve, this great nation.

So a strong salute and a tip of the cap to Darryl, Max and Politickernj.com for a class act by a standup group.

I thank you again here publicly to acknowledge that act and share it with my blog’s readers.


One thing my father noticed on our recent trip down Route 295 and across on Routes 70 and 30 to the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial (see previous post) was a lack of signage directing visitors to the most decorated battleship in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Sure, there were several signs that said “Waterfront Attractions,” but nothing that bragged of the great warship’s presence on the Camden waterfront. We knew where we were going and had planned our trip, so we didn’t need the signage.

But my father, a World War II Navy veteran who served in the Pacific, wanted to know why the presence of this treasure wasn’t trumpeted along the heavily travelled highways. Put another way: Why wasn’t New Jersey bragging about the presence along its shores of the U.S.S. New Jersey? Continue Reading »

Veterans Day …

The veteran I know best is my father.

Like a lot of men of his vintage, ca. 1924, he served during World War II; in the Pacific Theater aboard the U.S.S. Cheleb. The Cheleb was a supply ship that travelled alone and ferried ammo and other necessities of war to the fight; making runs back and forth between California and Hawaii and the Phillipines and other island chains for the duration.

After Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945, young Tommy Hooker (as he was known then) and his shipmates were sent to Tokyo Bay to support the U.S. occupation. One fine day the Bronx native and his buddies loaded the U.S.S. New Jersey, later to become the most decorated battleship in the history of the U.S. Navy; and that’s saying something.

My Dad’s memory is worse even than my own, so thankfully, his mother had saved about a dozen of his letters home from those years and in re-reading them 65 years later, we discovered his connection to the New Jersey, or BB 62.

My father gets a kick out of a connection we share with the New Jersey. See, I was part of NJN’s team of reporters that covered the New Jersey being towed up the Delaware on the last leg of its journey out of mothballs out in Bremerton, Washington, back in 1999. My Dad watched NJN’s team coverage  as she was berthed at Camden and the connection was born for him. Built just down river at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1942, she had come home again to become the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org/.

I’d been on its decks several times since then doing stories for NJN News. Once several years ago I went down because the New Jersey’s state funding was being cut and I wanted to do a story on how the crew expected to survive. They’re struggling but they’re managing, with help from museum-goers and innovative thinking like overnight stays, event rentals, golf fundraising outings and the like.

One time while on deck, I called my Dad to tell him where I was and promised I’d get him down there from his Long Island home for a visit.

We finally made that a reality a couple of weeks ago and he loved it. Like so many surviving veterans who served in World War II and now even Korea and Vietnam, they’re getting on in years. My father’s not as agile as he once was — a guy in such good shape that he played golf (poorly, like his son!) and took to the ski slopes well into his 70’s now could really use a wheelchair. And that’s just what was offered to us by the helpful staff there. We took our tour that way and my father could relax and enjoy it.

His legs wouldn’t let him go below decks like he did as the 19- and 20-year-old Navy guy he was when he served. But the tour we got was one to remember; with her huge, 16-inch guns on full display and the great warship’s history — including “Big J’s” stint as the flagship of the Third Fleet in the Pacific Theater for the Elizabeth, N.J., native Admiral Bull Halsey — ably laid out for us by a volunteer docent named Tom who was himself a Navy veteran.

One engaging story Tom told our group involved U.S. troops getting fired upon from a hill above them and calling in cover fire from the New Jersey just offshore. Since its guns can fire accurately for 30 miles or so and providing cover fire was a big part of its job, the battleship was happy to oblige the request.

A short while later, the New Jersey brass radioed back to see whether the problem had been taken care of. “We can’t tell what’s happened to the enemy, sir” came the reply. “The hill is gone.”

It was like old home week for my Dad, surrounded by vets who’d served and who are volunteering their time aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey or paying their respects to the great ship that saved so many U.S. servicemen’s lives and protected our shores.

My father hadn’t laid eyes on her since Tokyo Bay, more than 60 years ago, but to him and the rest of us, she was just as beautiful a defender of freedom as ever.

After writing the blog post on Missy Rebovich and her dad, David, I received an email from Rider University’s communications director, Dan Higgins.

Dan had dug into his files and sent a few photos along with his note. I’m posting those but I also wanted to share with the blog’s readers (with his blessings) the note Dan sent because of its candor and what it says about Missy.

As I said after the piece that aired, David would be proud. Her Mom, Jane O’Connor, surviving grandparents and the rest of her support team are, too, and rightly so.

Missy with Ben Dworkin, director of the institute named for her father, David.

Missy, Ben and others involved with the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics.

Missy Rebovich helps Rider University President Mordechai Rozanski unveil the re-named Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics back in November, 2008.


When I was first interviewing for this job, one of the attractions was that I was going to have the opportunity to work with David Rebovich and the Institute for New Jersey Politics. I had watched him on NJN and read his insights in all of the New Jersey papers and politickernj.com for years. We had a couple of meetings in my first two months on the job and were making plans for future programs at Rider. Then, I received the phone call about his heart attack. The entire Rider community was in shock.

But somehow, having Missy as part of our Rider family helped all of us heal. The announcement to keep the Institute going and to rename it in honor of her father was made at the 2008 Commencement ceremony, and the formal dedication was held in the fall with Missy and President Rozanski unveiling the new Rebovich Institute sign. Missy and I served together on the hiring committee to find a new director, and I know it has been a great help to Ben Dworkin that Missy not only endorsed his selection, but in fact advocated for it.

As I am sure you found during your interview, she is quite an impressive young lady and has a great future ahead of her. Thanks again for sharing your blog with me. I have posted it on our Facebook page and hope that all of our fans take a look at it.


 On Monday, election eve, I did a story on Missy Rebovich, daughter of the late Rider University political analyst David Rebovich, a fixture on the New Jersey political landscape until his untimely passing three years ago at the age of 58. What follows is the back-story to that story, a link to the story itself, and a couple of photos on the Rider University campus, where Missy, 21, is a senior now, and where NJN News photographer Bob Hartman and I caught up with her several weeks ago for an interview. Continue Reading »

It was new to me, but as some dear readers surely already know, when you write a blog there also comes along with it some stats you can peek at; at least here at WordPress. Things like what search terms were used to get to the blog, how many times individual posts are read and which links have been clicked on.

By far, the most referrals this relatively new blog has had so far come from the station’s own website, njn.net. Seems like folks are browsing the site and coming across the blog and checking it out at least. It’s nice to have a ready-made audience; or readership as I suppose they may call it here in blogdom.

I have a buddy who shall remain nameless who writes a very popular political column here in the state and I shared these revelations with him the other day. I told him how I enjoyed looking at the stats to see how many folks are stopping by and reading.

He says he won’t dare to look at his “hits” because he’s afraid what the numbers may show. I told him I thought he oughta because I think he’d be pleasantly surprised by how many people enjoy reading his particular brand of entertaining insight online in addition to the printed version.

So why am I sharing these thoughts here now?

Well it turns out the blog of yours truly, begun in late July, recently crossed the 1,000 visits threshhold. I liked seeing that figure because it’s a nice round number that’s got some heft to it for the relative newness of the enterprise. Sure, I’d love to see that many hits a week, a day, an hour even; as I’m sure many in this world do.

So, no, it isn’t quite up to the level of, say, the New York Times Bestseller list or TMZ.com, but I’ll take it for now. And if you like what you’re reading, why then, be sure to tell a friend.

And I’ll let ya know when we hit the next thousand mark milestone and beyond.

Til then, you’re invited to keep on reading, and watching.

Election ‘cast …

About our special election show last night, I think it was pretty much as advertised. Three pretty competitive Congressional races in a state where you’re lucky to get one among our 13 seats in any given election year.

But national politics looks to have played here as well so the 3rd, 6th and 12th (see previous post) didn’t disappoint in terms of drama at least early in the night when early returns showed the Republicans sweeping the Democratic incumbents out of all three. Continue Reading »

File this post under “just askin’.”

Gov. Christie, he of the rising GOP star on the national stage, is off on another national whirlwind campaign tour this last weekend before the all-important mid-term elections with a number of other major players in the Republican party who are looked upon as contenders in the 2012 presidential race.

So here’s the question.

There are three tight Congressional races here in Jersey where the Republicans have a good chance of knocking off the Democratic incumbents (see previous post). So I’m wondering why the governor — with approval ratings here in Jersey of over 50 percent — isn’t hitting the stump for the home-grown candidates in his own state.

I haven’t seen much about this out there in the press. I’ll pop the question to Montclair University political scientist Brigid Harrison tonight on NJN News in our Inside Politics segment. I’m looking forward to hearing her take on it. You can listen along with me on NJN2 at 5:30 or at 6, 7:30 or 11 p.m. NJN.

Of course, it’ll also be archived for a week on njn.net.

Oh, and one more thing, State House Correspondent Zachary Fink and Photographer Bob Hartman were out early this morning to cover the action with Gov. Christie at an airport in Reading, Pa.

So you can catch that story tonight, too. Another I’m looking forward to watching.

See ya on the tube.

No one, to my knowledge, has given next Tuesday’s general election any kind of nickname or nom de guerre, if you will, but to paraphrase the late Ed Sullivan, it’s going to be a really big show.

Our live election night coverage beginning at 8 on NJN as well as on our website (njn.net) and NJN radio should be fun, lively and engaging. So be sure to tune in if you have any interest at all in state, national and even local politics as this one plays out.

Pundits to the left, right and center are all predicting a landslide victory for the Republicans to the point where flipping Democratic control of the House of Representatives is virtually guaranteed and a 10-seat swing for control of the Senate — unthinkable a few months back — is considered at least an outside shot.

Here in New Jersey there are three House races where all three Democratic incumbents are, if not on the ropes, at least running scared. Continue Reading »