Word got out today that Matt Katz, the Inquirer‘s well-respected Chris Christie beat writer would be leaving the paper to cover The Governor at WNYC, New York City’s dominant public radio station. Matt’s been at the Inquirer since 2008; in 2011 he won a prestigious Livingston Award for a series he reported while in Afghanistan. I reached the 35-year-old by phone this afternoon to discuss the move.
Did the recent turmoil at the Inquirer affect your decision to take the WNYC job?
I actually got offered the job the same day [ex-Inquirer editor] Bill Marimow was fired [ten days ago]. But the offer date was incidental. Incidental? Is that the word? [Laughs.] No, coincidental. It was coincidental. The timing wasn't related to the move. The decision was far more about the new opportunity than about the place I’m leaving.
Are you leaving Philly too? (Matt lives with his wife and kid in Graduate Hospital.)
Staying in Philly. Going to be still be traveling around New Jersey, following Christie around. We have a growing office in the statehouse in Trenton.
Speaking of public radio stations with growing statehouse bureaus, do you feel guilty leaving behind a newspaper--and an industry--that's something of a sinking ship? You're one of the best-respected reporters at the paper.
I think the city needs a robust presence from the written word in terms of news—digital or print, so yeah, it’s sad to leave it behind, honestly. I have also seen myself as a newspaper man, so that’s difficult as well. But there's no question that public radio has adapted much quicker than other parts of our industry to the digital environment. From their music programming to news to podcasts they’ve been ahead of the curve to adjusting to the way people consume information now. That was certainly enticing to me. They seem to know what they're doing from a digital perspective.
Is the idea for you to cover Christie until he runs for president? Until he gets to the White House? Forever?
My plan is to cover him wherever he may be going. There's a tremendous amount of interest in him, I’ve learned, both locally and around the country. Already many of my emails I get from readers are people from throughout Pennsylvania. We had an Inquirer poll—he had higher name recognition than Tom Corbett in the city.
Are you ready to do voice stuff? Are you still going to write?
I’ll be doing radio voice stuff. And I’ve been on the air with WNYC recently and WHYY in the past. So I have a little bit of experience with talking in front of a microphone. I also expect to be writing. We haven't exactly figured it all out yet. I hope to be able to continue writing about him on a very regular basis, like I’ve been doing with [his blog] Christie Chronicles.
[Laughs.] I expect I might get some ribbing for the public radio, but I have not been banished from Trenton because of it.
Last day here? First day there?
Staying 'til after the election. Last day November 8th. Start at WNYC on the 12th.
Not much of a vacation.
Well, I had delayed my start date so I could be here 'til the end of the election.
Well thank you for that. We need to know who wins.
Yeah, you'd all have been on the edges of your seats without me.
(Ed note: Well, sort of.)