NY Times takes on suppression of news at Philly papers

    It’s hard to believe Greg Osberg could look any worse than he has in my posts lately about his muzzling of reporters at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.

    But in a must-read piece by Amy Chozick and David Carr today in the New York Times, Osberg is – I don’t know how else to say it – caught lying about whether he met with editors of the paper and Philly.com about managing the coverage of the sale of the company.

    Osberg initially said the meeting didn’t happen, then after Daily News editor Larry Platt courageously told the Times it did, Osberg changed his story. He continued to deny interfering with editorial decisions.

    Osberg didn’t speak with me. I guess he felt he couldn’t ignore the Times.

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    The Times reporters also managed to score some confidential documents about the company’s financial condition, indicating it suffered a 13.9 percent drop in advertising revenues last year and its earnings were less than $5 million.

    Yesterday the company announced plans to reduce staff as it combines some newsroom functions. Buyouts are offered, and reporters and editors have precious little time to decide what to do. And at the moment they lack a critical piece of information: will Greg Osberg still be their boss?

    Former Gov. Ed Rendell, who said two weeks ago Osberg has done an “excellent job” of running the company, has refused to say whether he would keep his job if investors associated with Rendell succeed in buying the papers and Philly.com.

    I’ll say it again: Ed, if you expect anyone to take seriously your claim that you’re doing this to keep local ownership and strong media here, you have to make it clear your crew will stay out of news coverage. That means hiring a publisher with an unblemished record for doing that. If you’ve made some commitment to Osberg, you better talk to your lawyers and get out of it.

    One more thing, and this is to you, not Rendell: The events of the past week have demonstrated the importance of independent media in this region, and the coverage of the papers here at Newsworks had an important impact.

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