Star-Ledger booted from press office in city hall p.16

By: Dorothy Giobbe Star-Ledger booted from press office in city hall p.16

Editors of the New Jersey daily say
the sudden eviction is payback for
paper's coverage of federal investigation sp.

THE NEWARK STAR-Ledger was kicked out of the city hall pressroom recently in what editors say is a retaliatory move by the city for tough editorial coverage.
Just 11/2 hours after the newspaper informed the mayor's office it planned to go to court to obtain documents through a Freedom of Information request, an eviction notice was pushed through the mail slot of the pressroom door at city hall.
The notice gave reporters 48 hours to pack their bags and vacate the premises.
After the notice was served, the paper's editors linked the eviction to the tough stance taken to obtain the documents. City officials denied a connection.
Was the Star-Ledger booted because of the FoI request?
"Absolutely not," said Pamela Goldstein, press secretary for Mayor Sharpe James.
Was the timing of the eviction just a coincidence?
"Absolutely not," said Glenn Proctor, editor for the Star-Ledger.
Administration officials maintained they need the pressroom space for city employees. City Administrator Glenn Grant told the Star-Ledger that the eviction "just happened to get delivered" on the same day as the newspaper's lawyers prepared to go to court.
"I take great umbrage of the Star-Ledger's implication," Grant told the newspaper. "We have been more than accommodating of the Star-Ledger."
But Proctor said, "We feel it's an interesting coincidence that at the same time we were pushing hard for these documents we get an eviction notice."
The documents in the FoI request relate to a federal investigation of the mayor's administration.
Two reporters for the Star-Ledger worked out of the pressroom.
For many years, the space served reporters from various press organizations, but as other media dropped out of the market, it became the sole domain of the Star-Ledger. The pressroom has been a fixture at Newark City Hall since the early part of this century.
The city paid the phone bills for the pressroom and the Star-Ledger didn't pay rent on the space.
City hall bureau chief George Jordan said that the newspaper and the city recently had discussed adding more phone lines and doing minor renovations, for which the Star-Ledger would pay.
"They had no intent to put us out of the building," Jordan said. "We were in shock."
Mayor James' administration is under federal investigation for possible misuse of campaign funds.
The Star-Ledger has reported extensively on the investigations. In recent speeches, Mayor James has criticized the coverage of his administration in "the media."
Lawyers for the Star-Ledger were exploring legal responses to the eviction.
Meanwhile, the newspaper has rented space across the street from city hall for its new press office.
"We plan on carrying on our same level of aggressiveness," Proctor said.
"We may be physically out of the building but in our coverage, we are still going to be there."


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