The Wall Street Journal Plays Stenographer to Chris Christie

Is this a news story in The Wall Street Journal or a press release from the Office of the Governor of New Jersey? You make the call:

Gov. Chris Christie took New Jersey by storm in his first year as governor, thrilling Republicans by taking on entrenched Democratic power centers in the name of fiscal responsibility.

But with the state still slogging through the dregs of the recession and finances as precarious as ever, Mr. Christie says not to expect radical shifts this year, and he plans to “stay the course.”

In his first State of the State speech on Tuesday, Mr. Christie will focus on three issues: education, public pensions and benefits, and fiscal discipline.

It’s the top of a news story in the Journal’s Greater New York section, alas, although it could have come down the hall from WSJ sister news org Fox News.

Republicans are thrilled here, while Democrats are “entrenched,” we’re told, and the GOP governor has taken the state “by storm” with Frank Luntz-would-approve “fiscal responsibility” and “fiscal discipline.” And the “blunt, unapologetic” guv will “stay the course” despite brickbats from the unions, “who stood in his way,” and school-system reps whom he called “greedy and arrogant.”

These greedy opponents aren’t given a chance to respond. The FT-sized piece has just one source: The governor himself. You don’t need me to spell out what’s wrong with that.

And then there’s this, which finds a way to imply that Obama’s stimulus plan is to blame for one of the most severe challenges Christie faces next year:

A particular challenge will be a $1.4 billion deficit in Medicaid, blown open by the disappearance of $900 million in federal stimulus funds, he said.

Those federal stimulus dollars didn’t just magically appear out of thin air only to disappear again to cause Christie headaches. The more correct way to put it would be: “a $1.4 billion deficit in Medicaid, which was eased last year by $900 million in federal stimulus funds.”

This is the second time in the last three weeks we’ve noticed the paper playing stenographer to Governor Christie, the Republican hero whose approval rating is lower than President Obama’s (the WSJ, to its credit, noted the poor Christie poll at the time, though not in the paper).

Last month, the Greater New York section parroted Christie’s spin on New Jersey’s job numbers and made a hash of the economic reporting. I said this then:

The bottom line is, if you’re going to do a story about a governor trying to take credit for creating jobs in his state, which is a dog-bites-man story if there ever was one, you’ve got to actually report the context.

Otherwise, you might as well reprint the governor’s press releases.

Worse than reprinting the governor’s press releases: Writing them yourself.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,