If it weren’t for the dogged local press corps, Christie would still be ridiculing this story,attacking the legislators investigating it and persuading most of the national press to dismiss it.
The bridge story is still unfolding. But the pattern of how the scandal came to national attention is familiar.
When Connecticut Gov. John Rowland was still denying the allegations of corruption that would ultimately force him out of office, his wife read a poem (to the meter of “The Night Before Christmas”) mocking Hartford Courant reporter Jon Lender at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting:
“When out on the yard there rose such a hub-bub,
I thought maybe Jon Lender had jumped in the hot tub.
Now surely that man needs to go soak his head,
but there on the lawn stood Santa instead.”
Lender didn’t jump into anything, but he did stay on the story, and the aforementioned hot tub turned out to be one of the illegal gifts that would send the governor to prison.
When then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was not hiking the Appalachian Trail but visiting his mistress in 2009, reporter Gina Smith from the State newspaper drove 200 miles to be in the Atlanta airport at 6 a.m. as Sanford got off his overseas flight. His ruse thus unraveled.
When Mayflower, Ark., learned the hard way last March that an aging ExxonMobil pipeline ran under it, the Arkansas Times’s dogged reporting included a crowd-funding effort to pay for its reporters to team with journalists experienced in covering pipelines to get to the bottom of what ExxonMobil did and whether other communities with buried pipelines should feel protected by existing regulations.
Most of the time, national news happens out loud: at news conferences, on the floor of Congress, in splashy indictments or court rulings. But sometimes, the most important news starts somewhere more interesting, and it has to be dug up. Our democracy depends on local journalism, whether it’s a beat reporter slogging through yet another underattended local commission meeting, or a state political reporter with enough of an ear to the ground to know where the governor might be when he isn’t where he says he is, or a traffic columnist who’s nobody’s fool.
Here in Indianapolis, since Gannett acquired our one remaining newspaper, coverage of the statehouse has dramatically diminished, and coverage of city hall has pretty much gone missing. About the only way citizens can gauge how well–or how poorly–Mayor Ballard is doing is by how long the snow remains on the ground and how many more people got shot overnight. (Local media does report on the kinds of overt criminal activity that don’t require investigation.)
I don’t know about you, but I’m curious about all the stuff we don’t know.
I miss having real news.