After their bye week, the Birds are back on the field today. They’ll need to use all the rest they received during their time off with Tom Brady and the Patriots visiting for a highly anticipated regular-season rematch of the last two Super Bowl champs. And further below, we chat with Pranshu Verma, a relatively new reporter at The Inquirer who is focused on New Jersey politicians and its state government.

The week ahead

This week’s most popular stories

Behind the story with Pranshu Verma

Gov. Phil Murphy, left, and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) recite the pledge of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony on the Battleship New Jersey in Camden, N.J., on Thursday, July 4, 2019.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Gov. Phil Murphy, left, and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) recite the pledge of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony on the Battleship New Jersey in Camden, N.J., on Thursday, July 4, 2019.

Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with Pranshu Verma, who covers New Jersey’s politics and government.

Verma also sat down with us for an on-camera walkthrough of his investigation that led to the Philadelphia Department of Prisons announcing it will allow incarcerated people to be discharged earlier in the evening and with all of their belongings.

How would you describe covering N.J. politics and the state’s government so far?

It’s action-packed. I started right before this year’s election, and got thrown right into it. Now that the elections are over, it’s supposed to be a slow time. But legislators have other ideas. There’s talk about legalizing marijuana, banning vaping, eliminating mandatory minimums, and doing it all before the middle of January.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

Learning the nuances of issues quick enough to communicate it clearly and effectively to our readers. It’s important to provide our readers with the bigger picture and to do that you really have to grasp the issues.

What stories capture your attention?

The biggest story in the state, by far, is the controversial Gov. Chris Christie-era tax-incentive program called Grow NJ. Many corporations have taken advantage of the program to get millions in tax breaks they probably shouldn’t have gotten. The Inquirer has been at the forefront of this story, and there’s so much more that’s going to unfold. I’m also interested in the rise of progressive activists who are disenchanted with the Democratic establishment, and there are a bunch of fascinating congressional races coming up in 2020. And of course, there’s Rep. Jeff Van Drew. He’s one of two Democrats nationwide to vote against the Trump impeachment inquiry, and it’ll be fascinating to see how his re-election bid plays out.

What story are you currently working on that you’re excited to publish soon?

I’m profiling the leader of New Jersey’s Working Families Party. She’s new on the job and has some big ideas on how to move away from “politics as usual” in the Garden State. If she’s successful, it could alter the state’s power dynamics for years to come.

Keep in touch with Pranshu Verma by following him on Twitter at @pranshuverma_ or email at pverma@inquirer.com.

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Hiding in plain sight 📸. Thanks for the reflection, @that_wandering_couple!

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What we’re…

  • Eating: K’Far’s mouth-watering purple figs that sit atop cloud-like ricotta all layered across kubaneh toast. K’Far is named for the town of K’Far Saba and inspired by Israel’s round-the-clock café culture.
  • Shopping at: the new Giant Heirloom Market, not just because it has necessary food products, but also has an underground taproom that you can access once you’re inside.
  • Watching: Shrek The Musical because who doesn’t like some nostalgia while watching live actors play out the roles of Shrek and Donkey for kids? You can catch this hilarious act until Jan. 5 at the Walnut Street Theatre.
  • Listening to: Magdalene, by FKA Twigs, which relates to Twigs’ personal drama and history with Twilight star Robert Pattinson, a relationship that ended in 2017.

Comment of the week

Solid NBA player. He did seem to have a bit of a persecution complex.He in one sentence he alibis for his techs by saying family issues made him a hothead. Then he says it was the refs’ fault for the way they treat players. Huh?Truth be told, except if multiples get you kicked out of a game, tech fouls really aren’t that big a deal in the NBA, and that’s exactly how the NBA wanted it -- a “players league,” not a “refs league.” — Jaygee, on Rasheed Wallace left Philly behind, but he also brought a part of it with him during a 16-year NBA career.

Your Daily Dose of | The UpSide

“Fostering employment and career opportunities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities,” writes Drexel professor Paul Shattuck, “is not about charity — it’s about unleashing human potential.” Shattuck helps develop programs to help those with certain disabilities find jobs and excel at work.