In a cookie cutter opinion piece marking the end of local editorial boards, six of the nine Gannett-owned New Jersey daily newspapers have endorsed Democrat Phil Murphy for a second term as governor.
“As we considered the candidates and their platforms, no challenge facing New Jersey and its residents rose to the same level as the management of the COVID-19 crisis,” the USA TODAY network editorial stated. “Murphy’s leadership of the state’s reaction to the crisis — despite serious missteps with regard to long-term care facilities and state run veterans’ homes in the pandemic’s tragic and frightening early weeks and months — has been rooted in a reality governed by facts and science.”
They said that Republican Jack Ciattarelli’s opposition to vaccine mandates and mask requirements for children attending school were deal breakers for their support.
“As heartening as Ciattarelli’s reasonable, once-mainline Republican positions were, we cannot countenance his reluctance to aggressively combat the pandemic,” the editorial said.
But the editorial said that Ciattarelli “impressed us with his belief that the COVID-19 deaths at the state-run veterans homes deserve more and immediate transparency” and supported his call for investigative hearings by the legislature.
The endorsement ran in The Bergen Record, Courier News, Home News Tribune, New Jersey Herald, Asbury Park Press and Daily Record, but not in their three South Jersey publications: Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and Daily Journal.
The editorial was different from the past, when newspapers exercised some independence from their parent company and forced candidates to compete on a paper-by-paper basis.
Four years ago, Murphy was endorsed by the Bergen Record, Courier News, Home News Tribune, Courier-Post, and Daily Journal. The Asbury Park Press, Daily Record and New Jersey Herald endorsed the Republican, then-Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.
Gannett, in a cost-cutting mode after severe financial losses, has eliminated local editorial boards and replaced them with mostly generic editorials. For endorsements, that’s set up a sort of winner-take-all system.
The editorial that ran in the six newspapers on Sunday were identical.
At times, the editorial appeared to cheapen itself by shamelessly plugging the work of their own reporters.