Vol. 2, Issue 31, August 17, 2004
New Jersey Governor Sends Multi-decade PR Campaign Down the Drain
New Jersey residents are collectively smacking their foreheads in the realization that a long-running, multi-billion dollar effort to improve the state's name has effectively been scuttled.
The long-term strategic plan, nicknamed "New Jersey: We're Not So Bad," was initiated in 1984 following the humiliating rejection of Hoboken, New Jersey as a potential Olympic site. Not only did perennial rival Los Angeles win the games instead, but Hoboken made Olympic history by ranking below three nations which were actually at war at the time as a potential Olympic venue.
"We knew we had an image problem, but the IOC's rejection letter clinched it," said New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny. "Not only did they give us a score of negative four, the rejection letter actually included taunts in Icelandic, Dutch, and Tagalog. That's when we knew serious action was called for, and pronto."
A multi-decade strategy was conceived which would gradually temper New Jersey's poor reputation in the eyes of the nation. The plan included multiple public relations campaigns and a significant number of payouts to the entertainment industry.
"The payouts, while expensive, were the most innovative and effective features of that plan," said Variety editor Peter Bart. "For almost twenty years, they have helped erase New Jersey jokes from late-night monologues and sitcoms. In doing so, they've significantly reduced New Jersey's profile as a state to mock. But now, of course, they're back to square one."
Last week New Jersey Governor James McGreevey announced he is gay, had an extramarital affair with a man, and will resign on November 15. The governor said news of the affair made him and the governor's office vulnerable to threats.
"Now, McGreevey was in a difficult situation," said Bart, "and you could argue he did the best thing he could under the circumstances. Moreover, there's no question but that the fact that the affair was homosexual in nature has invoked a double standard. Many politicians have been accused of or confessed to adultery, and few have been compelled to leave office as a result. Logically, there is no reason why the governor's affair should be considered any worse. But tell that to Dave Letterman."
In fact, journalists and pundits looking to expand upon the story have quickly raised questions about McGreevey's fundraising as well as other alleged backroom politics, painting New Jersey once again as a state beset with a corrupt, bloated political machine. Nationwide, public opinion of New Jersey plummeted forty points overnight, undoing much of the past twenty years' gains.
"Well, if they'd devoted some time to actually fixing some of New Jersey's problems, such as excessive property taxes, pollution, and general lack of fiscal responsibility, maybe they wouldn't be in such a mess," opined Russell Hagerty, political science professor at Rutgers University.
State officials, however, were already planning a comeback strategy.
"We're working on a new long-range PR strategy nicknamed "New Jersey: At Least We're Not Mississippi," said Senator Kenny. "We'll get those Olympics yet. But you'll need to allow us a few decades first."