Conan’s Newark Wings Clipped via YouTube

September 30th, 2009

It often seems as if nothing is off limits when it comes to late-night comedy, but Conan O’Brien might wish he had drawn the line before he took a jab at Newark, New Jersey. He made the following comment on his show: “The Mayor of Newark, New Jersey wants to set up a city-wide program to improve residents’ health. The healthcare program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark.” Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, responded with this YouTube video.



A lot of public information officers (PIOs) struggle with how best to handle social media due to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Hopefully the actions taken by Newark will serve as a good case study and pave the way for other government agencies to participate in the conversation. I know I’ll continue to follow the tweets, videos and social media efforts of Mayor Booker, the City of Newark, and Newark International Airport (EWR) as these government outlets effectively take on social media and even network television as needed.  

Mayor Booker tweeted that it was a “joke” – accompanied by this cheeky tweet: “just got call from the White House. Pres is inviting Conan & I to come have a beer & try 2 settle this. This could be a teachable moment.” I hope for Conan’s sake he can make the peace. If the tri-state winter precipitation is anything like the spring and summer this year I would hate to be banned from EWR for my travels.

 If the City of Newark were your client, how would you have advised them after the Conan comment? Do you feel like the Mayor and City of Newark are demonstrating good media relations/public relations use of  social media? I always appreciate your feedback and know that other BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog followers benefit from your feedback when you post here.

4 Responses to “Conan’s Newark Wings Clipped via YouTube”

  1. Sarah W says:

    Mayor Booker responded to the Conan comment well. What I find important is how he used comedy to get a point across. Most of America knows that late night shows are in good humor and Booker’s response demonstrated he can take a job but at the same time represent Newark in a good light. And when it comes down to it, Newark is getting more time in the headlines now then it was before the Conan joke, so might as well use it for good media attention and not a pointless fight between a comedian and a mayor.

  2. Johna Burke says:


    Thank you for the feedback.

    It’s is definitely giving the story traction it wouldn’t have otherwise had, but isn’t that the case with a lot of PR opportunities? It’s about positively seizing the moment. Newark has an amazing Mayor who is smart and has a great sense of humor. His response worked because of its authenticity. My hope is that this video will give other government agencies, not to mention PR pros in general, confidence to engage in social media. Let’s face it, this approach wouldn’t have worked for all Mayors, but Mayor Booker’s direct, smart and fun response makes it work.


  3. Robert Samuel White says:

    I disagree, especially with Mayor Booker’s latest YouTube video. He should be focusing his time on managing the city, not using taxpayer money to fund these videos (video editing, photo rights purchases, etc.) How many employees do you think spent time putting that two minute video together? He also goes on to say that he has been talking to his sister cities around the world; is that really the best use of his time? In my opinion, a mayor shouldn’t be taking jabs at a late night comedian’s two-line joke. Personally, I don’t think a mayor should be engaging social media in this manner. He has a Twitter account with nearly a million followers. That’s perfectly fine if he is posting about city initiatives and events, but to post these videos attacking a comedian or just plain ridiculous.

  4. Sam Claycombe says:

    Robert, I know where you’re coming from. But today’s public officer cannot simply ignore the media. I think what the mayor did was actually pretty smart. He capitalized on a public comment made by a prominent media outlet watched by millions. I am a 25 year old male living in Nashville, TN. I hadn’t heard anything positive about Newark until one of my friends posted this story to his facebook page. Now, my perception of Newark has changed and I like the mayor’s response. Creating a positive public perception is the most important action that a public official can take. Now the mayor can use his new-found fame to call attention to problems that need help in Newark. Public support is crucial to any sort of campaigns a mayor might wish to wage. By garnering public support for Newark and himself, Mayor Booker has proved himself to be a canny politician that may change the way the cat-and-mouse media game is played. Social media is not going anywhere. Public officials that can use it effectively (i.e. Obama) will outshine their opponents.

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