If you want good press, it’s gonna cost you


Greg Bean

Monmouth County Sheriff Joseph Oxley has a public relations problem — but it isn’t the one he anticipated.

Like nearly everyone of my acquaintance in the news business who heard about it, I thought I was imagining things last week when it was reported Oxley had hired a 25-year-old with no real job experience to handle public relations for the sheriff’s office at a salary of $62,000 a year.

I’m sure the new public relations person, Janna Montague, is a very nice person, and God bless her for her good fortune

But you have to wonder how the county’s strapped taxpayers are going to feel about paying a young woman who only graduated from college in 2004 so much money just to get the sheriff some good press.

I’m not giving too much away when I say that a salary of $62,000 a year is considerably more than most kids getting out of college with a journalism degree can expect to make in their first job. When I first broke into the newspaper business, back in the days when we were still rubbing sticks together to make fire, my boss paid me the princely salary of $125 a week ($3.12 an hour), before taxes.

My mother was happy I’d found such a nice hobby, but couldn’t help asking how I intended to make a living.

I’m sorry to say that things haven’t changed all that much in the intervening years, and there are still plenty of parents asking their sons and daughters going into the news business how they hope to pay their rent, buy chicken wings and keep the lights on.

That’s the nature of the beast, however, and no newspaperman or newspaperwoman worth their salt goes into the profession for the money. They go into it chasing the idealistic notion that they can change the world for the better. They want to make a difference in peoples’ lives. If it’s money they’re after, they go somewhere else.

So, Ms. Montague has got her work cut out for her — sending out press releases and such to news people who can’t hope to make $62,000 a year for at least the next few decades, if they stick it out and don’t go into a higher paying profession out of desperation — plumbing, maybe.

We’ll be expecting remarkable public relations offerings from the sheriff’s office in coming months.

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Considering how much trouble the Jackson Pop Warner group got into last week for holding an illegal Texas Hold ’Em fund-raiser, I’m a little nervous about making bets in the newspaper.

Even so, I’m giving 2-1 odds that within the next six months, one of our lawmakers in Trenton will propose a way to improve on the New Jersey Smoke-free Air Act that is before the Senate and will be considered by the Assembly this summer. That bill would ban smoking in nearly every public venue, but it says nothing about smoking in private places — homes, cars, etc. And if we’re going to protect this state’s citizens from their own bad habits with legislation, we obviously have to do something to close that loophole.

In Germany last week, Reuters reported that several lawmakers introduced a measure in Parliament that would build on the country’s laws criminalizing the use of cell phones while driving by making smoking while driving illegal as well.

Even though the New Jersey law banning the use of cell phones while driving has been a miserable failure — a statement I base on the numbers of drivers I see talking on their cell phones while commuting to work every morning — it’s my bet that at least one of our lawmakers will be unable to resist getting a little free publicity by proposing a similar law in this state. Before year’s end, I’ll wager that one of them proposes a bill that would make smoking while driving illegal.

Any takers?

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Back when I was a green reporter on a small daily newspaper, I got the Sunday shift because nobody with seniority wanted to work the weekend. And every Sunday, I’d come in looking for something interesting to write about that didn’t involve the Grange Hall, the Little Britches Rodeo or a Rotary Club barbecue.

One Sunday, on Mother’s Day, my editor and I decided it would be fun to call a few local businesses and see if consumers spent as much on Father’s Day presents as they did on Mother’s Day presents.

I was certainly surprised by what my investigation uncovered. The phone company, for example, said the traffic on Mother’s Day was just about twice what it is on Father’s Day, and on Father’s Day, a disproportionate number of calls were made collect. On average, local retailers said children and husbands buying Mother’s Day presents spent a lot more than children and wives buying Father’s Day presents.

“Mom gets a dozen roses and dinner,” one said. “Dad gets a sappy card and a tie.”

Things haven’t changed since I wrote that story, at least if my friends in the retail trade are to be believed. Dads are still getting the puny end of the stick and — for the most part — suffering in silence..

Isn’t it time for a little parity?

(In case my sons are reading this, Father’s Day this year is June 19. If my wife is reading this — Honey, you’re worth every penny. )

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This just in from the New Jersey Assembly Democrats!

According to a press release, Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-22) has sponsored, and the Transportation Committee has approved, a bill that would significantly increase the fines for the drivers of oversized trucks caught speeding down hills with more than a 5 percent grade.

“Strict fines will keep truck drivers at bay,” she said.

And Melanie Marrano, a Green Brook Committeewoman who testified in favor of the bill, concurred.

“The surefire way to ensure that trucks are driven safely is by imposing stiff penalties,” she said.

Yep, that’ll do it, all right. And let’s double the fines if those truck drivers are talking on cell phones., and smoking.

Now, if only lawmakers in Trenton could find a way to ensure that truck drivers test with higher IQ levels than New Jersey lawmakers …

Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers.