Matt Rooney (left) is founder and Brian McGovern managing editor of Save, which has become essential reading for political junkies. KEVIN RIORDAN / Staff
From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/10/12 – “Kevin Riordan: Save Jersey, a website that’s red and well-read” Well-red: Matt Rooney (left) is founder and Brian McGovern managing editor of Save, which has become essential reading for political junkies. KEVIN RIORDAN / Staff
Matt Rooney’s goal is nothing if not grand. Consider the website he founded as a Rutgers-Camden law student in 2008. He named it “Save Jersey.” “I love my state, and I was disgusted by what I saw the party bosses doing to it,” Rooney, 28, explains. Whether New Jersey requires salvation due to the depredations of Democratic “party bosses” is debatable. What’s undeniable is that Save has become a must-read among Republicans, Trenton-watchers, and even Democrats. Reading its savvy, sassy coverage of the Rutgers-Rowan merger, I enjoy the combative Jersey-ness that defines the site. “I’m very much a Jersey guy,” says Rooney, who lives in Oaklyn, where he grew up. “That’s one of the first things I identified with Chris Christie about. And why I love Bruce Springsteen, even though I don’t agree with a darn thing he says, just what he sings.” I meet the “blogger-in-chief” and his managing editor, Brian McGovern, 25, at Rooney’s office in Haddon Heights, where he practices family law. McGovern is a third-year law student at Rutgers-Camden aiming for a career in the corporate world. He reports and writes stories, and also edits posts submitted by the network of contributors he recruited to keep an eye on issues statewide. Although Save Jersey attracted 115,000 unique visitors during the elections last fall, it’s a part-time operation. No one is paid, but they do have fun, as is evident in the site’s appealingly low-tech graphics, cheeky headlines (“Chris Christie Flies Flag Half Mast for Whitney, and You Should Get Over It”), and in-your-face tone. The homophobia, obsession with contraception, and blather about presidential birth certificates that stain much of the right-wing blogosphere seem blessedly absent from Save Jersey. But visitors in search of kind words for Democrats amid stories with headlines such as “Obama Can’t Avoid Culpability for Jobless Nightmare” will leave disappointed. “We call it a conservative blog [because] Brian and I happen to believe that most of the ways to Save Jersey are conservative,” Rooney explains. “The site came about before the tea party movement started,” says McGovern, a longtime Voorhees resident, who, like Rooney, is single. “We don’t always agree with the New Jersey GOP,” he adds. “We don’t always agree with Chris Christie either, although we probably do most of the time.” This inspires criticism that Save Jersey is too loyal to one Republican. Or maybe not loyal enough. Some readers even accuse the site of being a RINO (Republican in Name Only), perhaps due to the less-than-doctrinaire musings of contributors such as Joshua Einstein, 29, of Hoboken. A veteran of what he calls “the Jewish nonprofit world,” Einstein wrote a five-part interview with a leader of Occupy Wall Street. He’s been blogging for Save Jersey for about six months. “I am very grateful to Brian and Matt to have a platform where I can spew my views,” Einstein says. Perhaps the site’s lively mix attests to the fact that young Republicans Rooney and McGovern grew up in enemy territory, a.k.a. Camden County. “It takes a special form of brio to be a Republican in Camden County,” observes Dan Cirucci of Cherry Hill, who has his own distinctively conservative blog and likes the “energy” and “sheer chutzpah” of Rooney and Save Jersey. “Matt & Co. and other young conservatives give me great hope for the future,” he says. “I don’t really agree with them much. . . . [But] I read their blog pretty much every day,” says Jay Lassiter, a progressive political consultant and occasional blogger on the liberal site Blue Jersey. “I greatly appreciate the attention Save Jersey has brought to the wildly unpopular Rutgers-Rowan merger,” Lassiter, of Cherry Hill, adds. McGovern notes, accurately, that “the rest of the media is certainly aware” of Save Jersey. Knowing that their work is being read “makes this seem worthwhile,” he says. “We have an opportunity to make a difference.”  

Kevin Riordan:

Matt Rooney and Brian McGovern talk about their “Save Jersey” blog: