Ditch the COVID tag, keep Murphy’s weekly briefings | Editorial


Say it’s not true, Phil.

In what he presented as a signal that things are more or less returning to normal in a post-pandemic or emerging endemic period, Governor Phil Murphy announced that his weekly coronavirus press briefings would end permanently on March 4. – two years after the date New Jersey recorded its first case of COVID-19.

In the spring of 2020, these sessions, initially held three or more times a week, were a staple on TV or streaming, along with similar press conferences from other Northeast governors. You couldn’t tell from one day to the next which businesses were confined or where you were required to wear a mask without seeing these pressers.

By continuing to hold the sessions thus far, Murphy is starting to look like an outlier among his gubernatorial peers. And, politically right now, it’s not good for your image to appear too ominous or too willing to cling to mandates and executive orders while the threat of the coronavirus recedes.

Still, it’s time to repeat what was said here seven months ago, when Murphy first reduced sessions to once a week: these press availabilities are good for transparency and accountability. government, and they must continue.

The reasons have not changed. That’s because Murphy’s Trenton War Memorial rallies with the Fourth Estate had already gone from single-issue updates to unrestricted press availabilities. They are now limited to about an hour, which is about the ideal length.

After the final session next Friday, will reporters have a guaranteed chance to ask Murphy why he appointed an alleged enabler of an alleged sexual predator as attorney general? Will the press – and all of us – have to chase him down to ask when the pre-COVID walk-in functions of unemployment and motor vehicle offices will return? When will legal marijuana sales finally begin?

If asked about the situation in Ukraine, as Murphy was in last Wednesday’s session, will we get a candid, seemingly off-the-cuff remark about Vladimir Putin being a “thug”, or a statement bland and prepared that was carefully massaged by the communications staff and the governor’s council?

If regular briefings continue, there may be difficulties for Murphy and the press corps to be in the same place at the same time for an hour a week. But, the governor can make a one-time change of day and time if he has a scheduling conflict.

As for regular Statehouse reporters (and those who occasionally skydive from TV), it was their job to kick the governor out of their offices, at least before the newspaper chains pursued work-at-home strategies. home and limited office space. which have been further tightened by COVID-19 related restrictions.

It is true that some of our representatives of the free press repeatedly ask what they call “When did you stop beating your wife?” questions in a less enlightened age. Maybe Murphy wants to dodge those loaded trap bombs. He can always give an evasive, or cryptic answer, as he too often does. And, no one in the War Memorial has asked the governor anything with the venom some Fox News and OAN reps use to interrogate President Joe Biden, making him swear when discussing one of their own. Biden, by the way, also needs to have more free-range press conferences.

So, ditch the COVID-19 brand, but commit to keeping weekly briefings. They benefit the citizens of New Jersey, and they will likely benefit Murphy as well, especially if he has the designs on national office he is supposed to.

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