Just days after the Star-Ledger eliminated 167 jobs, including 40 in the newsroom, a recording has come to light showing Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann telling a group of college students it would be "great" if New Jersey’s largest newspaper went out of business.
According to the website Muckgers.com, Hermann spoke to a 400-level journalism class at Rutgers "several weeks ago." When the topic of the Star-Ledger came up, Hermann chose not to take the high road with regard to the paper, which published a story last May highlighting allegations of abuse by Hermann stemming from her days as the head volleyball coach at Tennessee.
"I’ve got one guy over at the Ledger — he has one mission," Hermann said, according to Muckgers managing editor Simon Galperin, who was in the class. "That’s to get any [athletic director] at Rutgers fired. That’s his hobby."
Hermann then engaged in this exchange with a student, according to NJ.com, which obtained a copy of Hermann’s address to the class and is part of the Star-Ledger family:
"If they’re not writing headlines that are getting our attention, they’re not selling ads — and they die," Hermann told the Media Ethics and Law class. "And the Ledger almost died in June, right?"
"They might die again next month," a student said.
"That would be great," she replied. "I’m going to do all I can to not give them a headline to keep them alive."
In a statement to NJ.com, Hermann said she made the comments "in an informal way" and expected that she was doing so "out of the glare of the media spotlight."
"Her comments were in response to a broad array of student questions on a number of different subjects and were reflective of her own personal experiences," the statement read, according to NJ.com. "She had no knowledge of the impending reorganization of the Star-Ledger and drastic changes that the newspaper would announce several weeks later, in April."
One would like to think that the Star-Ledger’s staff has better things to do than unfairly debase a newly hired AD for the sake of generating clicks on the website, but guilt or innocence aside, if Hermann’s goal truly is to not give the paper headlines going forward, slamming that paper in front of a group of future journalists is probably not the best place to start.