Charles Stile, the political columnist for the Bergen Record, received the Lifetime Achievement Award in New Jersey Journalism at the third annual Byrne Kean Dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 11.
The event, held at the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park, recognizes journalistic excellence on the local, regional, and statewide levels. Former governors Jim McGreevey and Tom Kean attended the event, along with U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance and numerous other elected officials, former elected officials, journalists, and journalism boosters.
Stile, a longtime Princeton resident who is considered the dean of the Statehouse press corps, has been covering New Jersey politics since 1993, first with The Trenton Times and then with The Bergen Record, which he joined in 2000. He served stints as the Bergen Record’s general assignment reporter and Statehouse bureau chief before becoming a full-time columnist in 2007. He previously worked at The Princeton Packet, the Elizabeth Daily Journal, and The Sentinel Ledger. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from The College of New Jersey and studied journalism with legendary professor Bob Cole.
When Stile walked to the podium to accept his award, he received a standing ovation.
Stile told the crowd he is an eternal optimist and is encouraged by the next generation of internet reporters.
“Young reporters today have the same grit and energy that a lot of us in the Watergate area were fired up with. I’m confident they are going to carry the day,” Stile said.
“There’s a bubbling demand for news out there at the local level,” Stile said. “There is a lot of anger and frustration about projects being canceled or being done, and people not getting news about it. They want it, and they want more from their newspapers than a list of the top 10 pizzerias.”
Stile then teased McGreevey about his potential run for mayor of Jersey City.
“Mayor 2.0 McGreevey?” Stile said. “I have only one question, Jim. Why? Why?”
Former state Sen. Loretta Weinberg told the audience she worries about the lack of local news coverage in New Jersey and “the move to close it down even more.”
Award recipient Josh Weston, who was honored for his philanthropy, said journalism is essential to preserve democracy. He also said students should be taught civics, American history, and the importance of American journalism.
Kean, a Republican who served as governor from 1982 to 1990, recalled his friendship with Brendan Byrne, a Democrat who served as governor from 1974 to 1982. He said there was a spirit of bipartisanship back then that doesn’t exist today. He also said there was mutual respect between the government and the media back then.
“Reporters were tough, but they made us better governors,” Kean said.
He lamented the cutbacks at news outlets and pointed out that it is a national problem.
“Without an informed public, democracy doesn’t work,” Kean said. “Without an agreement about the facts, democracy doesn’t work.”
Three other journalists were honored at the event, which was sponsored by the New Jersey Hills Media Group and is known as the Byrne Kean Dinner.
John Reitmeyer, the budget and finance writer for NJ Spotlight News, was recognized for his outstanding coverage of statewide budget and finance issues. Riley Yates, the lead data reporter for NJ Advance Media, was recognized for his investigative reporting on police misconduct. Jessie Gomez, who reports on the Newark Public Schools for Chalkbeat Newark, was honored with the Local Impact in New Jersey Journalism award for her reporting on diversity, equity, and racial justice issues within the school system.