Last week, it looked like it was going to go the other way. But last night, in the end, NJ’s Senate voted to hand over the state’s public broadcasting network, NJN, to Channel 13 WNET in New York. The plan, negotiated by Governor Chris Christie, is a coup for Montclair’s Steve Adubato Jr., whose local company, Caucus Educational Corp., will produce content for the new entity, NJTV, which begins operations Friday.

A clear loser  was Montclair State University, which had submitted its own bid to take over NJN operations. President Susan Cole traveled to Trenton last week to plead for MSU’s plan. “The University proposed a dynamic and entrepreneurial public media model that would be neither burdened by an existing high-cost public media operation nor at risk of having New Jersey-based resources siphoned off to benefit out-of-state entities,” she said.

Montclair’s Michael Aron, a longtime NJN correspondent, covered the vote that would end his long public television career live. (You can see it, upside down, here.) He signed off, “Thanks, New Jersey.”

This is how the Twittersphere reacted.

Lots of interesting commentary this morning, all over the internet.
Star Ledger’s Paul Mulshine: “What a loser state we live in.”
PolitickerNJ: NJN debate opens Essex political divide

Adam Bauser, a freelance communicator and segment producer for the TV series Classroom Close-up, NJ, put it this way on Twitter:

Dear broadcasting gods, ur attempt to balance cosmic scales by smiting #jerseyGuys is appreciated but doesnt make up for armageddon at #NJN

22 replies on “RIP NJN”

  1. Damn.

    I cannot fathom how so many people can just accept Chris Christie’s arrogance and allow the state to become the cultural stepchild of NYC and Philly.

    San Diego has about 1.5 million people, far fewer than New Jersey, and we have our own Public Television station (KPBS) with award winning local programming and news coverage. We’d never submit to Los Angeles or Orange County.

  2. Chris Christie is a disgrace as is the loss of our public broadcasting station.

    I will miss the local news and programming.

    If we can’t afford having this wonderful statewide resource, then why wasn’t the MSU proposal accepted?

  3. An Absolute Disgrace

    NJN was the only traditional media outlet left for unbiased coverage of NJ politics. This is a tremendous victory for the machines that are sucking our state dry and the bosses who run them.

  4. Adding salt to the wound was that Montclair State U put in a better bid than WNET–and still lost out. MSU would have been a great spot for the channel.

  5. While I am no fan of Chris Christie, I wonder why so many folks are giving our Democratically-Controlled NJ State Senate a pass on this – our own Senator – Democrat Nia Gill, should hang her head in shame. All that cash from the County Machine and the ECIA comes at a very steep price…

  6. Nia Gill needs to explain herself. Why wasn’t the MSU offer entertained? The linked articles suggest she is somehow in the bag for WNET. This deal stinks.

  7. From the few things I’ve read in the Star Ledger about this issue, it sounded to me that the Adubato Political Machine was behind the effort. (at least that’s what the stories were implying.)

    Pollyanna here fervently hopes that is not the case, but if the state Dems caved in, then it is starting to look like that insinuation may be true…

    What a shame. John’s right – San Diego has had its own PBS station for as long as I can remember, even back when its population was only 700,000! For NJ to play second fiddle as the ugly tri-state cousin is just embarrassing.

  8. While I’m opposed to anything that spreads the blandness and predictable, hokey reassurances of Steve Adubato (who, it turns out, pays himself something over $400,000 from his company for…well, for what? no matter that he has often been mentioned favorably here before and may thus be a pal of the Baristas), I also have to wonder who locally, if indeed anybody, actually ever watched NJN regularly.

    Someone wrote above that he/she would “miss” the “local news and programming.” Really? How much was there aside from the nightly newscast? What sticks in the mind of viewers? Name a few programs other than its nightly newscast. (Even thee, Carl Bergmanson, whom I quite respect.)

    Perhaps Montclair State did have a better idea. We’ll never know now. But it is important to bear in mind that, at least since the days when the relatively capable Gordon MacInnes headed up NJN (and he was nonetheless very much a political appointee), the debate has gone on in Trenton over what, if indeed anything, to do about NJN. Yet even with this fairly frequent debate over 25+ years about its right to survival, NJN seems to have done very little innovative to truly appeal to its projected viewership. The network coasted (and coasted and coasted and..), and while this is somewhat understandable given its always tenuous status, it was no real way to run a public TV station.

    There used to be a section on the BlueWaveNJ web site about “media” or “media control” or some such. I’m not going to bore myself by visiting this utterly turgid web site again, but if BlueWave was ever seeking a real media issue, NJN was it. So I wonder what it has to say about this matter, if inded anything. Not least because I suspect BlueWave would probably be quite pleased with Steve Adubato’s general politics and opinions on social issues.

    As for Michael Aron, he was a great, daring editor of New Jersey Monthly long sgo, who unfortunately was forced out by the creeps who took control of the magazine (who of course now also provide none other than Steve Adubato with yet another regular forum for his wisps of verbal nothingness) But while he remained a very good interviewer on NJN, it was clear that his own reporting abilities were also quite clearly constrained hy NJN’s financial and administrative problems for almost all of his long tenure.

  9. It is sad that NJN is now gone. What is sadder to me is that, except for its news broadcasts, it never established itself as a real player in New Jersey life. In a state rich with media professionals, musicians, scientists, writers, documentary filmmakers, and concert venues, NJN presented a lackluster program schedule. Its producers didn’t tap into the energy of a state overflowing with talented people. I never felt that it aggressively reached out to its potential audience. It was just there, sort of a bump on the media log.

    I wish that it could have stayed in New Jersey. I wish that Governor Christie had used his bully-pulpit to challenge the station to produce exciting content, energizing it rather than dismantling it. I suspect that relocating it to Montclair State would have had that result, as the college is adept at forging a relationship with the surrounding community.

    Nevertheless, it may be significant that the person appointed as the interim general manager, John Servidio (isn’t Sir Video a great name for someone in TV?) is not only from New Jersey, but also from Montclair, and is a key player in the Montclair Internation Film Festival. I think that it’s promising that WNET appointed a New Jerseyan to a key position at the station. I wish them well. Perhaps NJTV will hire Michael Aron as its chief Trenton correspondent. That would be a good start.

  10. And Kay, I don’t think that either the Star-Ledger or the Record “implied” anything about the role of both Adubatos in this matter. They came right out and said it, for the most part. And they were surely right to do so.

    Some have correctly called Nia Gill to account above. I’d also note the seeming silence of our congressman, William Pascrell. (Who rarely hesitates in general at speaking out whateber the degree to which he’s actually well-informed agbout an issue.)

  11. NJN’s value is debatable. The fact that a decision was made based on lining the Adubato’s pockets is not. @Kay, don’t be polyanna. Nia Gill and the other Essex Dems will do whatever they’re told. And that’s why you don’t see them challenging Christie ON ANYTHING. Don’t worry, you’ll get some new parks out of the deal…

  12. Cathar,

    NJN has (I guess had) its faults, I will agree. However, it was, alas, the last source of unbiased reporting on NJ politics – That’s an important thing the preserve in a republic (and, I’m sure, why the bosses were so eager to get rid of it).

    Besides, regardless of how one feels about NJN, this is a bad deal – period. I certainly would have supported efforts to improve NJN and to make the network a better deal for the taxpayers – sadly, this deal does neither. WNET & Adubato’s company get all the benefit and yet take none of the risk, and the NJ taxpayers are still on the hook for at least $5 million – possibly much more.

  13. oops – that should have read:

    That’s an important thing to preserve in a republic

  14. You and I are in basic agreement, Carl. It is a terrible deal. Kind of like cutting one’s hamstrings with a Bowie knife. I see no real “benefit” to the state viewing audience here.

    As for the Adubatos, father and son, both have always been shameless when it came to furthering their own interests. Steve Jr. has always just been much better packaged. He’s slick, whatever else you make of him.

    I still miss the good old long-ago days when Channel 13 had “Uncle Fred” Sales showing black and white cartoons (usually featuring Farmer Gray, his cat and many mice, who always took over his bathtub as a beach resort whenever the farmer went on vacation) and ran teenage dance party shows featuring both “Jocko” Henderson and John Zacherle.

  15. BTW – that’s not just a one time thing, that’s $5 million annually that we (the NJ taxpayer) are on the hook for…

  16. “We’re gonna make the scene with the record machine
    Time right now …. 10:15
    So come on all you mommy-os and daddy-os out there is rocketship land
    we’re going up up up into the outer stratosphere”

  17. Senator Nia Gill could have been the swing vote to keep NJN here or to have MSU considered, but she chose differently. I am very disappointed in her and 5 other democrats voting with the republicans to give NJN to WNET.

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