Mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker at the Restoring Safety Forum hosted by Billy Penn, WHYY, and CeaseFirePA, in March 2023. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

An emailing faux pas from Cherelle Parker’s campaign gave a glimpse into how the Democratic nominee for Philadelphia mayor’s staff views small local media outlets.

Members of Parker’s campaign were trading emails through late August into September discussing how to delay interview requests from Denise Clay-Murray and Lawrence McGlynn, journalists at the Philadelphia Hall Monitor, founded and run by the pair of journalists with consumer advocate Lance Haver.

Then — oops! — someone copied McGlynn to the email chain by mistake, giving up the game. 

“Let’s push her off without letting her know…,” senior advisor Aren Platt wrote in reference to Clay-Murray, suggesting language on how to do so to communications director John Dolan: “‘Denise, I’m working on getting this scheduled, give me a week or so…’”

After receiving the conversation around 5 p.m. on Thursday and discussing it with colleagues, McGlynn wrote a column about the erroneous email and shared screenshots of the discussion online.  

“By not campaigning throughout the summer, and by lying to local media about possible interviews, this campaign … does not think you deserve answers to the important issues,” he wrote.

The campaign’s internal correspondence:

  • …insinuated that Hall Monitor’s reach was too small to warrant granting all of its journalists’ requests.
  • …explicitly discussed plans to “slow roll” McGlynn.
  • …said to watch out for Clay-Murray’s concern that “we are ignoring Black women journalists and truly independent media.” 

Clay-Murray is a Black woman journalist at an independent media outlet. She and Hall Monitor have been trying to set up an interview with Parker — who would be Philadelphia’s first Black woman mayor — since the former councilmember won the May primary, per McGlynn. 

Parker has not apologized, but did post an online statement noting she was not pleased with her staff.

“To say that I’m pissed and angry is an understatement,” the note from Parker read. “The dismissive tone of my staff is not consistent with who I am or what I expect from my team and I have made it clear that this is entirely unacceptable. However, I understand the buck stops with me and I take responsibility for what comes out of my campaign.”

Billy Penn has reached out to the Parker campaign for additional comment. 

Journalists at Hall Monitor — which publishes articles, a newsletter, and produces radio and video programs — were dismayed and disappointed at the content of the leaked emails. 

“I understand Hall Monitor is a smaller local outlet, but we’ve grown a strong following,” McGlynn told Billy Penn. “The utter contempt for us was quite a shock.”

Clay-Murray, a three-decade reporter who has mostly served Black audiences through work with outlets like The Philadelphia Tribune and Philadelphia Sunday Sun, was also shocked — but not wholly surprised.  

“I think that what stunned me the most about the emails is that while I’ve always suspected that there is a pecking order when it comes to Philly media and who has access,” Clay-Murray told Billy Penn. “This was confirmation.”

Parker has remained mostly quiet since winning the primary, despite calls from some constituents and her Republican opponent, David Oh, for her to partake in debates or public forms.

Nearly 76% of voters are registered Democrats, per Pennsylvania voter data, so Parker is expected to win handily in November. The Democratic nominee for mayor hasn’t lost in the general election since Philly underwent a mid-century shift from Republican to Democratic control. 

Even if Parker doesn’t need the media coverage for publicity’s sake, refusing to grant local news outlets access is a portent for what her administration might look like, said Clay-Murray. 

“Now more than ever, Philadelphians deserve to know what’s going on with their city and its government,” said Clay-Murray. “If you’re going to do this on the campaign trail, what can we expect from you on City Hall’s second floor?”

Jordan Levy is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn, always aiming to help Philadelphians share their stories. Formerly, he has worked at Document Journal, n+1 Magazine, and The New Republic. He...