Opinion: First Amendment Rights Under Fire In North Bergen

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On 05-18-17 I sent 4 major news outlets in Hudson County a letter-to-the-editor about the North Bergen Preschool that Mr. Sacco illegally placed in Braddock Park in 2001, which the State requires to be removed as a result of the Hi-Tech H.S. acquisition.

As a penalty, North Bergen must now create up to 5X as much new park land as was diverted from open space and recreational use by the Preschool.

3 of the 4 news outlets published my letter, no questions asked, the 4th, North Bergen Reporter, called to verify I wrote the letter and said it would be published.

Subsequently, they emailed me “Before we publish this letter our editor asks that you verify certain assertions you have made.”

I sent North Bergen Reporter documentation from the State; they responded they don’t have time to read it.

Then they emailed “We will review your documentation and let you know.”

They didn’t let me know, nor did they publish the letter, even with further documentation.

It’s a newspaper’s prerogative to not publish a letter-to-the-editor, but it’s highly unusual to require documentation, because it’s not a news story, it’s an opinion.

Ironically, on 06-04-17, North Bergen Reporter published a news article about the Preschool-Park situation, without verifying numerous facts and statements.

One glaring example is the report that North Bergen will buy land in Hoboken and convert it into a park.

The State had already ruled this land ineligible, because it already is a park!

The upside of the article is it demonstrated how little North Bergen spokesman Phil Swibinski knows about the situation and how confused Superintendent of Schools George Solter is about it.

North Bergen claimed the diversion application will save taxpayers $10+ million.

Why didn’t the newspaper report that the State found this claim to be untrue?

Instead, taxpayers will now pay millions in penalties/new parkland.

Reporting the truth should come before protecting advertisers.

Robert Walden

 

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