- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2010

So far, at least 3,600 among New Jersey’s 8.7 million residents agree: “Jersey Doesn’t Stink.”

A group of New Jersey residents and business people have joined since early June to “Bash the Bashers,” according to the banner on their website, JerseyDoesntStink.com.

They especially blame out-of-staters, particularly New Yorkers, for making New Jersey the national butt of jokes about mobsters, political corruption, urban blight, industrial-park “scenery,” “Guidos and Guidettes,” the “Joisey” accent, and even how bad Newark supposedly smells.

“It seems like everyone but people in New Jersey are saying what New Jersey is like,” said Gerry Wilson, CEO of High Point Insurance, the founding sponsor of the quirky campaign “JerseyDoesn’tStink.”

His company, along with seven others, decided to do something “to fight the stupid stereotypes,” Mr. Wilson said. “We don’t like the stereotypes, we don’t like the cliches, but we’re acknowledging that they exist.”

They created the website and corresponding Facebook and Twitter pages, along with putting ads on several billboards around the state, so they can say what New Jersey is really like — a beautiful melting-pot state with mountain scenery, tourist attractions from the Atlantic City Boardwalk to colonial Princeton, and “the best food in the country.”

“I love N.J., best food, best beaches, best people, the rest of the U.S. is just jealous!” wrote one Facebook fan of the site.

Some New Jersey residents are more belligerently proud of their state and accuse the rest of the country of bad faith.

“I don’t think people really don’t like N.J. It’s like Milk Duds; people are just afraid to admit when something is really awesome!!” another Jersey fan wrote on the Facebook fan page.

The campaign has its own YouTube channel, boasting six videos featuring actor and comedian Anthony DeVito as a JerseyDoesn’tStink air freshener and talking to people, especially New Yorkers, about their own perceptions of New Jersey.

The first video, which first appeared two weeks ago, has had 9,568 views as of Tuesday afternoon. The Web site has more than 3,600 supporters, the Facebook page has 4,066 fans and “NJdoesntstink” has 330 followers on Twitter.

Apparently, according to New Jersey residents themselves, their state is nothing like the popular depiction of the state. Television shows like MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and “Jerseylicious” that play to the Jersey stereotype certainly don’t help the Garden State’s image, but Mr. Wilson and other enthusiastic New Jersey residents hope to show that such stereotypes are wrong.

“Everyone would agree it doesn’t represent what New Jersey is like,” Mr. Wilson said.

Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has added his voice to the fast-growing chorus. The new Republican governor tweeted on his Twitter account: “I like what you’re doing @NJdoesntstink. Keep encouraging folks to have Jersey Pride!” Newark Mayor Cory Booker also expressed Twitter support, saying of the site, “I’m definitely going to check it out.”

This isn’t the first effort to improve the state’s national image. In 2005, the state rejected a marketer’s idea for a new state motto (“New Jersey: We’ll Win You Over”) and invited people to submit ideas for a new state motto and vote on them. The winner was “New Jersey, Come See For Yourself,” though the state has never begun using it officially.

But the campaign also inspired many of the “Jersey stinks”-type wisecracks as suggested mottos, especially centered on the state’s endemic political corruption. One Jersey City columnist suggested “New Jersey: We’re FBI-Friendly!” and “New Jersey: ‘Your Motto Here For The Right Price, Maybe? Let’s Talk.’”

The state has always had a hard time standing out on its own. For example, New Jersey is by far the most populous state in the union without a major TV market of its own, instead being served by the major-network affiliates of out-of-state mega-markets in New York and Philadelphia.

Even when the new Meadowlands Stadium won the right to host the 2014 Super Bowl, national media headlines said pro football’s biggest game was heading to New York for the first time, though the stadium is in New Jersey. Perhaps headline writers were influenced by the fact that teams that play there are the New York Giants and the New York Jets.

The idea for starting the quirky pro-Jersey initiative came out of a brainstorming session among New Jersey businessmen, Mr. Wilson said, adding that High Point Insurance is a New Jersey company with New Jersey clients, and it wanted to do something about the “Joisey” jibes and Newark jokes.

Mr. Wilson is a genuine New Jersey supporter, having moved to his adopted state from Michigan 10 years ago. Now he considers himself more a New Jersey resident than anything, as evidenced by his wholehearted effort to recover his state’s reputation.

“Jersey is awesome,” said Mr. Wilson. “It’s so much more than all the stereotypes and cliches.”

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