Great journalists face an uncertain future – more on the Philly papers

    UPDATE: I’m away until Monday, but numerous reports say the sale of the company owning the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and is imminent.  The post below appeared Thursday, based in part on the terms of an offer by the buyers made last week. I hope if the deal is done, the new owners live up to their responsibilities to the community they serve.


    You may have seen it Sunday and thought it was too much to take on, but you should go back and read James Osborne and Craig McCoy’s piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer about Cooper University Hospital and the power and reach of South Jersey businessman George Norcross.

    It illuminates the intersection of money, politics and institutional power in ways that help us understand what’s going on – exactly what a strong regional newspaper should do.

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    This story is particularly noteworthy because Norcross is one of the investors trying to buy Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the Inquirer, Daily News and

    In fact, when the New York Times wrote about the papers’ muzzling their reporters to help the bidders company owners favored, the story cited the fact that the Norcross piece hadn’t run as evidence the Inquirer was tilting its coverage.

    I’m glad to see it made the paper.

    And I’m happy to welcome back my friend and Daily News city hall bureau chief Catherine Lucey from maternity leave.

    She continues to make her mark on coverage of the city – she had a great original piece yesterday on how Mayor Nutter’s approach to the issue of property assessments is different from the posture he took in City Council.

    I mention these reporters in part to note the underlying journalistic strength of the two papers, despite the demoralizing staff cuts, impending sale and, shall we say evolving relationship between the staffs of the Inquirer and Daily News.

    If you read the papers carefully, you’ll notice you’re seeing Inquirer staff stories appearing sometimes in the Daily News and vice versa.

    One old friend who, like me, gets both papers delivered at home every day told me he’s getting annoyed when he reads the second paper of the morning and realizes that he’s already read the story he’s reading in the first one he picked up.

    I can’t say it’s a bad idea to combine some resources given the the economics of the business. But it poses some challenges, and the papers need to complete their sale, get a permanent management team and a sound strategy to make all this work.

    Unfortunately the current management appears intent on cutting more staff – though it’s not clear how many will be journalists.

    And there are two other interesting provisions in an offer sheet the prospective buyers presented to the PNM owners early last week.

    One is that the proposed $57 million purchase price would be reduced by, among other things, $500,000 as a partial credit towards severance costs “the Company is or would be required to pay upon the termination of certain of its senior management officers.” No doubt many in the building wonder how many senior managers this covers, and whom they might be.

    The other provision is a statement that the buyer “desires to reach agreement with certain key senior officers of the Company as to their continued employment.” The document indicates that employment agreements with those officers won’t be a condition of sale.

    This is particularly interesting in light of rumors weeks ago that the investors have pledged to keep current CEO Greg Osberg.

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