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'Watchdog' still barks

A gig ends but Mark Lagerkvist writes on

Like he's been doing for 40 years, journalist Mark Lagerkvist -- who announced Monday that he'd lost his job at the news website NJ Watchdog -- had a story ready for readers Tuesday.

The headline was "Christie reveals travel secrets he convinced a court to keep confidential."  The piece, published by NJ Spotlight, was blunt but edgy (in other words, vintage Lagerkvist).

And the writer distributed the link in an email blast cheekily promoting his story as the work of "NOT NJ Watchdog."

"This business does not treat aging reporters well," Lagerkvist, 62, tells me by phone. "They always want to find somebody younger and cheaper. What they lose is institutional knowledge."

NJ Watchdog launched in June 2010, "when a lot of mainstream and legacy news organizations were cutting back," he notes. "It was an opportunity to do serious investigative reporting."

Peruse a sample of his choicer headlines -- "Double-dipping tricks cost millions, " Christie's biggest double-dipper quits," and "NJ Watchdog pursuit of public records strikes blow for transparency" -  and you get the idea.

"We did a lot of good work," says Lagerkvist, who has spent four decades in newspapers, TV news, and online publications.. "We opened some eyes and kicked some butt."

Nevertheless, his contract with the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity was terminated without cause. A Politicker NJ story Monday quoted an official of the Alexandria, Va. center who cited a lack of funding as the reason for the termination.

Lagerkvist says he was not privy the decision-making process, and that he "can't speculate on possible underlying reasons since that same contract prevents me from disclosing any of Franklin's confidential or proprietary information without the organization's written consent."

Politicker NJ quoted Will Swaim, the editor of, saying that publication of NJ Watchdog has been suspended, but may resume.

Meanwhile, as Tuesday's story about Christie -- a favorite target -- suggests, the reporter expects to continue practicing his craft.

"I don't see myself as a blogger, or doing this for free. I work for professional organizations," Lagerkvist says. "I'm hoping there are news organizations out there who see the true value of what we're doing, and want it to continue."

Let's hope so.