May 25, 2018
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy unexpectedly canceled his regular radio appearance Thursday evening, causing some reporters to accuse him of hiding from tough questions and lacking transparency. The governor's people say that's not true.
Murphy was scheduled to appear on "Ask Governor Murphy," a program that allows New Jersey residents to call in with questions. It's hosted by WNYC in New York and syndicated to three other public radio stations, including WHYY in Philadelphia.
But WNYC announced before the broadcast that Murphy had decided to withdraw. According to the station, Murphy's office backed out after the station declined the governor's office's request to remove a reporter from a panel that was set to ask Murphy questions during the show.
"Editorial independence is critical to our mission and the success of such a program. We regret the inconvenience to our listeners," the statement from WNYC said.
Our 8 p.m. program, Ask Governor Murphy, has been cancelled. On Point (AM 820) and Studio 360 (93.9 FM) will air instead. pic.twitter.com/aXvv4HTFeY— WNYC 🎙 (@WNYC) May 24, 2018
The reporter in question is Linh Tat, who covers education in New Jersey for Politico. After the announcements, fellow reporters — both with the radio stations and with other outlets — took to Twitter to cry foul, with some suggesting it appeared Murphy didn't want to take questions from Tat and was trying to dictate coverage.
#Askgovmurphy call in show is canceled. @GovMurphy refused to go on air if we stuck with plan to have Politico reporter @Linh_Tat on the show to ask questions. We wanted to focus on school funding. We refused. He canceled. @MattFriedmanNJ— Nancy Solomon (@NancySolomon2) May 24, 2018
TODAY:— Matt Katz (@mattkatz00) May 24, 2018
Mayor deBlasio wanting to "starve" a reporter he didn't like + NJ Gov. Murphy cancelling an appearance on his own call-in show because he didn't like a reporter + ex-Gov Christie using a private lawyer to conceal public emails =
bad day for transparency in NY-NJ govt
The producers also noted that the format for Thursday's show was to be the same as it had been two months ago, with a journalist asking Murphy questions in between calls from listeners.
Daniel Bryan and Mahen Gunaratna, spokesmen for Murphy, were quick to counter the narrative. They said it had been made clear to the producers after the March show that they didn't agree to that format and wanted it to be strictly a call-in show for residents.
Bryan and Gunaratna also said the decision to cancel had nothing to do with Tat. They highlighted three other Q&A sessions scheduled with reporters this week.
And we told your on many, many occasions that this wasn’t the purpose of us doing the show. We’re doing three Q&As with reporters this week - this was dedicated time to talk to constituents directly and WNYC believed it should be morphed into dedicated time for reporters.— Mahen Gunaratna (@GunaRockYa) May 24, 2018
It has nothing to do with editorial independence. This is an opportunity to take questions from listeners and WNYC believed it should be more heavily tilted towards interviews with State House reporters. We appreciate the opportunity, but clearly have a different vision here.— Mahen Gunaratna (@GunaRockYa) May 24, 2018
This had nothing to do with @Linh_Tat who we respect tremendously. This was about a difference of vision, one we communicated clearly: Ask the Gov is about taking an hr of unmediated calls, etc from public, not press ?s. https://t.co/PxTq6hrDi4— Daniel Bryan (@danieljohnbryan) May 24, 2018
Not true - had nothing to do with a specific reporter. Ask the Governor is the one hour per week we speak directly to constituents, and we wanted focus to remain there. That was communicated multiple times and unfortunately we had a difference of vision. Which is ok & respected! https://t.co/kBhI0pUSIh— Daniel Bryan (@danieljohnbryan) May 24, 2018
I'll only add this: Strictly from a drama perspective, this pales in comparison to Murphy's predecessor, who knew how to pick real fights with the media.