Criminals with pension checks and other thoughts on the new Daily News

    The New Philadelphia Daily News is here – a re-design with new columns and features, and promises of an ever-more interactive approach to covering the city and giving voice to its citizens.

    In my 20 years writing for the paper I saw a few makeovers, and my first reaction was usually negative – I want the paper I got yesterday. So it will take some time to see how well this one wears. I have few nits to pick below, but I’m pleased to see that the paper leads with a great enterprise piece by Catherine Lucey and Michael Hinkelman, two solid reporters with investigative and writing skills.

    The piece notes that many former city employees convicted of crimes are collecting city pensions, including a convicted child molester who did his deeds while he was a cop in the mounted unit.

    What I like about the story is that it gets into the guts of the issue and doesn’t over-simplify it. It’s seems clear enough that if you disgrace your badge or public office by taking payoffs, your pension should be yanked.

    But should everyone convicted of any crime lose their income forever? The story has a sidebar which shows other states have a variety of answers to this question.

    I also recommend Rich Hofmann’s column about veteran sports columnist Bill Conlin being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Hofmann, who is a hall-of-fame quality columnist in my book, prints the text of Conlin’s remarks. If you know Conlin’s work, it will have a familiar ring: insightful, funny, and at times almost incomprehensible.

    On the redesign: Seems to me there’s too much white space above the stories, which then seem crowded below. And I hope the editorial page doesn’t look like that every day. Signe Wilkinson, the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist is squeezed into a tiny space, while the masthead on the left is huge.

    And the head shots for the columnists are microscopic. A strength of the paper has always been its columnists, who write with voice and passion. They suddenly look Lilliputian.

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