May 26, 2012

At NJ.com, Hackery Abounds in Coverage of Mayor’s Downfall: Political, Computer, and Most of All Journalistic

Yesterday, West New York, New Jersey Mayor Felix Roque and his son were arrested and charged with “gaining unauthorized access to computers, conspiracy and causing damage to protected computers” — offenses which carry potential sentences of over 10 years.

At NJ.com, home of the Star-Ledger (print circulation now less than 200,000), one finds that the there is an even greater example of hackery than that involving political hacks allegedly perpetrating computer hacks. That would be hackery of the journalistic persuasion. In his coverage of the Roques’ arrests, the Star-Ledger’s Ted Sherman waited 19 paragraphs to directly tag Roque as a Democrat. Meanwhile, Sherman noted the mayor’s support of Republican Governor Chris Christie — twice (Paragraphs 5 and 20) — and his short-lived endorsement of Joseph Kyrillos, the Republican challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. As will be seen, Sherman’s shameful show of bias caps several months of disgraceful NJ.com coverage of Roque. First, excerpts from Sherman’s coverage of the arrests, complete with shaky grammar (bolds are mine):

West New York mayor arrested by FBI on hacking charges

West New York Mayor Felix Roque was arrested this morning by the FBI on charges of illegally hacking into a website associated with a recall movement, while attempting to tap into e-mails to find who might be plotting against him.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office confirmed the arrest and said Roque’s son, Joseph, was also taken into custody.

According to a criminal complaint filed under seal and released following the arrests, the two men are charged with an electronic dirty tricks campaign in an effort to disrupt and kill the recall movement, whose organizers included West New York and Hudson County employees.

Details in the complaint show the two men were playing hardball, in a place where politics is always a life and death struggle against competing Democratic factions.

Roque, who is a strong supporter of Republican Gov. Chris Christie and repeatedly suggested that he had powerful friends, but never mentioned the governor’s name.

Roque, an Army reservist and doctor, is a Democrat who led a recall petition against former Mayor Sal Vega, then beat him in the city’s nonpartisan election on May 10.

But his support for Christie has angered many in his urban Hudson County community, leading to the efforts to toss him as well.

Roque earlier this year endorsed Republican Joseph Kyrillos against incumbent U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (N-N.J.) in February, only to awkwardly take it back a month later after facing pressure from his own party.

(Not that there’s any conceivable defense for what Roque did if he’s guilty of the alleged crimes, but is expressing support for Christie the only reason Roque is or was facing a recall?)

As the story about Roque’s rogue behavior developed, NJ.com’s allergy to Democratic Party ID’s was obvious:

  • May 24 (“West New York Mayor Felix Roque and son arrested, sources say”) — On the day of the Roques’ arrests, an unbylined Jersey Journal report announcing their imminence failed to note the mayor’s party affiliation.
  • March 23 (“West New York mayor’s home and offices searched by FBI”) — Reporter John Heinis of the Jersey Journal failed to tag Roque as a Dem. Republican Kyrillos was mentioned, but it was Roque who brought him up.
  • March 24 (“West New York Mayor Felix Roque denies reports that FBI agents searched his premises, though says he did meet with agents on unrelated matter”) – Heinis again failed to ID Roque as a Democrat.
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