NewsWorks: Stuff We Like

By Amy Quinn 

Prepared to be shocked, shocked! 

Last week, we reported on how the “Stronger Than The Storm” post-Sandy tourism campaign, and its earworm of a jingle, were a bust with many living near the coast. At last week’s WHYY Ready For Next Time? forum in Cape May Court House, one attendee labeled it “insulting,” and others said it encouraged disaster tourism and promoted a false sense of bravado in the face of future storms.

My “Down The Shore” co-blogger, Justin Auciello, asked for more feedback from New Jersey residents about the slogan, and got an avalanche of responses. Some folks said they liked the jingle and the #STTS campaign, while others called it “moronic,” “crazy,” and complained about the role Gov. Christie and his family play in the TV commercials.

Now comes a report from my former colleagues at the Asbury Park Press that the PR firm that won the state contract to create the ad campaign is politically active, that its bid was $2 million more than the runner-up firm and at least one person in charge of choosing the winning bid has a personal tie to the governor:  

The top official on the selection committee, appointed by Christie, once received a $49,000 loan from Christie when he was the U.S. attorney for New Jersey. 

The two bidders had different views on how the campaign should be run. MWW proposed putting Christie in the ads. The other bidder, a team headed by the Sigma Group, did not. MWW won the contract. 

I’m told the Press was only able to write the story after a months-long wait for public documents detailing the process. Christie spokesman Mike Drewniak said the campaign MWW undertook, which garnered national coverage on the “Today” show, was larger and more labor-intensive than Sigma’s. 

Photos by Bas Slabbers from the NJ Balloon Festival

The full story can be read here.

N.J. Seeking New Summer Anthem

New Jersey is looking for musicians who are “Stronger Than the Storm.”

A campaign promoting post Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts along the Jersey shore is launching a contest for musical artists to create an original song to become New Jersey’s summer anthem.

Contestants can begin submitting song entries to the Jersey Shore Soundoff today. The contest was created by “Stronger than the Storm,” a statewide campaign that has been touting tourism in an effort to drive visitors to the area the first summer after Sandy devastated many beach areas.

Solo artists and bands have four weeks to submit videos of performances to be voted on by the general public. The winner will perform at a Sept. 7 concert at the shore alongside a notable music act that hasn’t yet been determined.

While contestants are required to be New Jersey residents, people around the country are eligible to vote online. A celebrity panel of judges will also join in the voting process.

The “Stronger than the Storm” campaign already has a theme song by the same name that has been playing on radio and TV and appearing on digital ads since May. But Shannon Eis, a contest organizer and spokeswoman for the campaign, said the idea is an effort to create an authentic anthem from people who were affected by the storm and to celebrate the state’s musical roots.

"It felt important to make something custom-created," Eis said.

Eis said the contest is aimed at recognizing “the awesome musical talent that resides in New Jersey.”

The first phase of voting begins Monday and lasts until Aug. 11. A second round of online voting Aug. 12-18 and a celebrity panel will determine three finalists. Then, the final stage of voting Aug. 19-25 will determine the winner, who will be announced Aug. 26. People can cast their votes online once a day.

Here is a glance at the rules for contestants and voters of the Jersey Shore Soundoff:

CONTESTANTS: Only solo artists and bands that are New Jersey residents are eligible. Musicians must not hold any contracts with record companies, music publishing or any organization that would interfere with an ability to perform. The songs must only be submitted online in the form of a video. Audio files alone will not be accepted; only video of performers playing the songs can be submitted.

VOTING: Open to voters across the country. The first round of voting begins July 22 and runs until Aug. 11. The second round runs Aug. 12-18 and, with the help of a celebrity panel, will determine three finalists. The final stage will be held Aug. 19-25. The winner will be announced Aug. 26 and invited to perform alongside a notable artist at a Sept. 7 concert. During all phases, only one vote per person per day is allowed.

Chris Christie: Stronger since the storm



By Rob Tornoe

Back in 1978, cult leader Jim Jones poisoned members of his “People’s Temple” by encouraging them to commit “Revolutionary suicide” by drinking cyanide-laced grape-flavored Flavor Aid, which is similar to Kool-Aid. Since then, whenever an individual seems to dogmatically follow the word of a politician or leader who is irrational or nuts, they’re referred to as “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

Liberals can’t step two feet these days without a conservative claiming they’re drinking Obama’s Kool-Aid. Despite his business-friendly, right-of-center policies (including a health care bill he stole from a conservative), Obama-hate has permeated the minds of conservatives fueled by right-wing media to believe he’s an illegitimate communist socialist Muslim hell-bent on tearing down every church in the country.

What does this have to do with Chris Christie? Well, Christie currently enjoys a 70 percent approval rating in a state that on the face of things couldn’t disagree more with his policies and beliefs.

MORE.

'Sweeter off the vine,' it's strawberry season in New Jersey

Sue Gerardi remembers taking her two daughters to pick strawberries every summer. Today, the family tradition continues as she guides her two granddaughters through a strawberry patch in search of perfectly ripe berries at DeWolf Farms in New Egypt, N.J.

"It’s fun. We use to pick everything in the summer," reminisces Gerardi. She adds that for her family, it’s important for her grandchildren to see where food comes from and to experience the freshness of picking fruit from the field.

In New Jersey, strawberry season only lasts about three to four weeks in late May through the first week of June, says farmer Kim DeWolf. DeWolf’s family has been growing strawberries on their “you pick” farm since 1967.  MORE

NewsWorks Tonight is coming to Ocean City

WHYY’s Tom McDonald is in Ocean City, N.J., setting up for a live NewsWorks Tonight broadcast on Friday, May 24, at 6 p.m.

Photo 1: The beach at Ocean City, N.J., is starting to look better after replenishment.

Photos 2 and 3: From under the boardwalk, we’re running cable to the broadcast position.

Photo 4: In case of rain Friday, there will be a big covered space for the live broadcast at the Ocean City Music Pier.

Dispensing wisdom with style, barber presides in Camden ‘oasis’

Russell Farmer’s barbershop sits on a rundown block in the Lanning Square neighborhood of Camden. On the outside, the facade is bleak — bars on the windows, graffiti on the walls, a police car idling nearby, waiting, ready to chase.

But step inside, and the atmosphere is transformed. The noise of the city fades as the sweet swell of classical music fills the air.

"I regard it as an oasis in an otherwise destitute and arid community," said Farmer.

WHYY’s Phil Gregory came back from last weekend’s gun buyback in Trenton, N.J., with this photo.
Does one of these things seem … not like the others?
N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa says a shoulder-fired rocket launcher was turned in among 2,600 other weapons.
I’ve seen it argued that it’s actually an empty missile tube, and therefore not a rocket launcher capable of firing anything, and aren’t we ashamed of ourselves for being duped by N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa — but that entirely misses the point. Whatever this thing is, however deadly it may or may not be, someone in Trenton had one and traded it in for $250.
If you took this photo, how would you caption it?

WHYY’s Phil Gregory came back from last weekend’s gun buyback in Trenton, N.J., with this photo.

Does one of these things seem … not like the others?

N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa says a shoulder-fired rocket launcher was turned in among 2,600 other weapons.

I’ve seen it argued that it’s actually an empty missile tube, and therefore not a rocket launcher capable of firing anything, and aren’t we ashamed of ourselves for being duped by N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa — but that entirely misses the point. Whatever this thing is, however deadly it may or may not be, someone in Trenton had one and traded it in for $250.

If you took this photo, how would you caption it?

Online home videos show happier times in Camden, N.J.

New Jersey’s most dangerous city recently tied its record for the most murders in one year when it recorded its 58th homicide on Nov. 2.

Home videos about Camden, N.J., now being posted online show a very different kind of city. Instead of depicting poverty and violence, they show idyllic scenes in Yorkship Village, part of the Fairview neighborhood from the 1950s and ’60s.

Michael Ruiz fondly remembers his childhood there and is posting the home videos his dad shot to give former residents and others a chance to see his old neighborhood.

Read more.

Sandy aftermath: Electric linemen deserve our praise
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hasn’t been bashful about bestowing unbridled praise on to President Obama for his handing of Hurricane Sandy. But if he hasn’t already, the Governor should heap the same amount of praise in the direction of the many electric linemen working tirelessly to restore power to hard-hit areas of New Jersey.

Sandy aftermath: Electric linemen deserve our praise

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hasn’t been bashful about bestowing unbridled praise on to President Obama for his handing of Hurricane Sandy. But if he hasn’t already, the Governor should heap the same amount of praise in the direction of the many electric linemen working tirelessly to restore power to hard-hit areas of New Jersey.