How I Spent My Summer Vacation…

For most of the summer, Democratic candidate Cherelle Parker hasn’t been on the campaign trail. Any other year, that would be okay. I’m not so sure about that this year.

As I write this, I’m traveling to the Online News Association conference at the Philadelphia Marriott hotel downtown.

At a time when everyone, and I do mean everyone, is getting their news online either by watching newscasts on their phone, reading the newspaper on their computer, or via an online newsletter, the work that ONA does is significant.

For the past few days, journalists from around the country and the world have been engaged in discussions on the future of digital journalism, the latest technology, issues regarding diversity and inclusion in digital newsrooms and how to battle such things as online extremism and misinformation. There’s also a chance for people who want to start their own news organizations or get funding for existing ones to connect with foundations like the Lenfest Institute, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Pivot Fund, Indiegraf (who works with Hall Monitor) and LION (Local Independent Online News).

I’ve enjoyed the interaction with the folks I’ve met as a volunteer at the conference. I’ve also gotten a lot of good information on how online journalism works and how it can be best utilized for the greater good and met some people that are I’ve talked to about Hall Monitor, what we do, and how we do it that might be able to point us in the direction of funding.

(Those conversations are why I’m dressed up as I head to the Marriott. Gotta look your best when you’re trying to talk people into giving you coins…)

And, because hyperlocal is what we do here, I’m in a room filled with international journalists and what I’m about to say comes from a place of complete annoyance, my guess is that most of the people who are here from places other than Philadelphia can do something that I won’t be able to do until after Labor Day.

That something? Sit down for an interview with the Democratic candidate to be Philadelphia’s next mayor.

Since winning the May 16 primary, the closest that any local news outlet has come to having an interview with Cherelle Parker, the winner of said mayoral primary, is a set of written questions that she answered for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

She also hasn’t been seen on the campaign trail much. Parker spoke briefly after the primary at an awards luncheon put on by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists in May, and has been seen on Instagram in photos with various groups that supported her candidacy or have been made up of personal and political friends, but the places where you might expect to see her like the Odunde Festival, or the Juneteenth parade haven’t had the benefit of her presence.

I understand some of that. Shortly before the end of the primary, Parker had been dealing with a dental emergency that had left her unable to speak. The mayoral primary campaign was a long slog, and you definitely need a rest after fighting with 10 people every day for months.

But here’s my problem. If you want to take the time off to rest and recharge before the general election, that’s cool. But be consistent.

The reason why I said that the folks at ONA who aren’t from Philly news outlets could get an interview with Parker while us local folks can’t is because, well, she told me that herself.

I spent last Sunday at Sen. Sharif Street’s annual campaign fundraiser. The gentleman who throws it every year, Bill Hart, is a friend of mine from the days when I worked for Temple University. He and I used to discuss politics all the time and he’d give me insights on how the city worked that I might not have considered before. So, he invites me to this shindig every year.

Most of the time, I don’t come. The last place that any political reporter needs to be is one some candidate’s contribution form. The assumption from most political candidates is that you’re taking a side. Writing a check to a campaign would all but confirm that. Plus, I don’t have that kind of cash and if I did, it would go to a scholarship fund.

But since I had been trying to get an interview with Parker for one of the myriad of projects I’m working on, including one on gun violence and mental health, I came to the cookout this year.

At least the food was good. Finding out that the New Yorker had interviewed Parker for an article when I had been sending emails, text messages and even Instagram posts requesting an interview wasn’t. Heck, I sent questions to her people similar to what the Inky did and am still waiting for answers.

It’s not cool.

While I understand that Philadelphia has a massive Democratic voter registration edge, and that Parker will probably become the city’s next mayor based on that, one of the things that I was taught in J-School is that you shouldn’t assume stuff. Not sitting down with local reporters and not attending local events assumes stuff.

Especially when your opponent is doing both. Now, I understand that David Oh, the Republican candidate for Mayor, has to work harder because he doesn’t have the benefit of a massive registration edge. But he’s out here continuing to be Your Favorite Democrat’s Favorite Republican. You can’t ignore that.

Hall Monitor has been promised an interview with Parker after Labor Day. I was told by someone in her campaign that she wants to make sure she’s prepared for any questions we could ask, and I appreciate that.

But I also hope she understands that one of the questions that I intend to ask is, “Why could the New Yorker get a few minutes with you this summer, but local media outlets couldn’t?”

Because that only makes sense if the job Parker wants is Eric Adams’s, not Jim Kenney’s.

Our reporters sit through hours of city council meetings, dig through piles of documents, and ask tough questions other media overlook. Because we’re committed to addressing Philadelphia’s poverty crisis — and challenging those who sustain it. If you think this work is important too, please support our journalism.

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