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Phil Murphy and Jack Ciattarelli. (Photo: Kevin Sanders For New Jersey Globe).

Gubernatorial candidates have just three editorial board interviews scheduled

With obliteration of local editorial writers, Gannett looks like a winner-take-all contest

By David Wildstein, October 11 2021 4:31 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli have agreed to editorial board interviews with the Star-Ledger, Gannett and the Jersey Hills Media Group as both sides pursue endorsements in advance of the November general election.

One change from the last election: this time the Star-Ledger won’t be permitted to record their interview with Murphy, something that blocks their ability to monetize clips of individual questions behind a paywall.  Since Murphy hasn’t consented to being recorded, it’s likely that Ciattarelli will either.

So far, only the New York Daily News has endorsed in the New Jersey governor’s race.  The newspaper didn’t interview candidates prior to announcing their pick.

Since the 2017 gubernatorial election, Gannett has gutted its local editorial pages.  The single interview signals that this will be a winner-take-all endorsement that might appear in all nine of the New Jersey-based daily newspapers.

Legislative and county candidates have said they haven’t been asked by Gannett to participate in editorial board interviews.

Murphy won endorsements in the last election from five Gannett newspapers – The (Bergen) Record, Courier News, Home News Tribune, Courier-Post and the Daily Journal – while two others – the Asbury Park Press and the Daily Record – went for Republican Kim Guadagno.

The New Jersey Herald, which was acquired by Gannett as part of a merger with GateHouse Media in 2019, also endorsed Guadagno.

Two out-of-state newspapers that may have a greater impact the Star-Ledger and Gannett, the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, have not yet scheduled interviews.  That doesn’t mean they won’t endorse.  Murphy snagged both newspaper endorsements last time.

The Star-Ledger editorial board acts independently of the other NJ Advance Publications/NJ.com newspapers.  The Jersey Journal and the South Jersey Times have not scheduled interviews with the candidates for governor.

While there is much debate over the effectiveness of newspaper endorsements from the dailies, the exception might be with Jersey Hills, a venerable chain of fourteen top-drawer weeklies in Essex, Morris, Somerset and Hunterdon counties.  A longtime relationship with readers typically causes candidates to take this endorsement seriously.

The Jersey Hills papers are planning to transition to non-profit ownership next year, but they won’t be tax-exempt and will be permitted to continue making endorsements.

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