Award-winning articles provided information to the public
The two awards The Gazette received. (Image from the Gazette)
I received two awards for a series of articles I wrote that started publishing almost a year ago.
The New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists (NJ-SPJ) awarded me a Certificate of Excellence in Investigative Reporting, and both Gazette Publisher Gabriel J. Donio and I received the Courage Under Fire Award, for a series of articles published regarding the business actions of Mayor Stephen DiDonato.
I am truly grateful for these awards and I want to thank the judges and the NJ-SPJ for the recognition.
When the first article was published almost a year ago, I started getting questions.
Now it seems that the time has come to answer some of the questions.
How? ‘Or’ What?
Topical advice from someone who is not an elected official or an employee of the government. An ordinary person, if I’m honest. After the first news tip, instinct was followed.
I have always believed that elected officials should be subject to higher standards than the citizens they represent.
The Gazette has a long history of holding elected officials to a higher standard.
It is our job as the media to hold elected officials accountable and to ensure that the interests of the public come before personal interests.
When the nation elected President Bill Clinton in 1992, the disappearance of moral standards for elected officials became permanent. His subsequent actions with an intern cemented him.
I also believe that there are no two sets of rules.
There is not one set of rules for the “haves” and another for the “haves”.
I hope that an elected official will have as much respect for the city that he represents and directs as ordinary citizens.
Clearly, I was wrong.
I am not satisfied with the standard it sets for future elected officials. Being an elected official shouldn’t give you the right to avoid following the rules.
When you are in charge of something as precious as the city of Hammonton, I think you should try to be the best leader you can be and set an example for everyone else.
I hope people don’t follow the lead shown by his actions as portrayed in the series.
Did you think the articles would result in the mayor’s resignation?
To elaborate, to resign after a series of articles reporting business actions that were not perfect, would be the noble course of action. This would allow the municipality to see that the elected official cares more about the municipality than about his political career.
In my opinion, there is nothing noble about Mayor Stephen DiDonato.
Do you think the articles will have an impact on the election?
No. Elections are not based on who is the best person for the job. These are popularity contests. We see it at all political levels.
Every now and then we get lucky as an electorate and the best person for the job wins the election. I’ll let you know when I think it happens again.
Do you think that the texts of the mayor and the “fortuitous” events
was an attempt to silence you or silence the newspaper?
As a writer and editor, I will not be intimidated by an elected official.
As a woman, I will not be silenced by a man trying to use his power to submit me.
It is doubly offensive.
I was called a “joke” and it was written in a text that “the city should close the office or impose a fine on the gazette or remove the advertisement”. (See related article on page 16 in the print edition of September 22, 2021)
My work is protected by the First Amendment. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously – perhaps more seriously than those who take an oath to serve the citizens who elected them.
As it is written: “Congress shall not make any law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of it; or restrict freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to assemble peacefully and ask the government to redress their grievances.
Freedom of the press is in the First Amendment. Few other jobs are.
Oh, and as for the HVAC at The Gazette, it was installed in 1996 and I have the contractor’s invoice to prove it. The Gazette moved into the property in 2017. (See related article on page 16 in the print edition of September 22, 2021)
My only regret is that my parents worried about my personal safety and my professional well-being from the text messages and the “fortuitous” events.
As a writer and editor based in Hammonton, NJ, I don’t think my parents should have to worry about my personal or professional safety. I don’t live in a dangerous war zone and yet now they are worried. And I deeply regret it.
Although I doubt that I will spend vacations with the mayor, I hope that we will have a cordial and professional relationship where we can work together for the betterment of the city as long as he is an active political leader and a landlord. business. My love for the city is no different from his. I think I respect people in the community more than he does.
If you would like to read the award-winning articles, please visit www.hammontongazette.com/gina-rullo.
Gina Rullo is the editor-in-chief of The Hammonton Gazette.