Although he’s done it almost in spite of himself, Ralph Cipriano raises some good questions about walls between the newsroom of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the “good guy” owners who have supported editorial integrity.
BigTrial.net finds owner Lewis Katz in the newsroom regularly, a failure of reporters to identify Katz-type projects in some stories, and a (seemingly slight) but real case of obit influencing. (see Newsroom Meddling )
Katz, who has supported editorial integrity, should stay out of the newsroom and news meetings. Reporters should mention him when appropriate in news stories. Obit writers should not have owner approved obits (but in my career as an obit taker, I got so many of those from funeral directors, it’s hard for me to take this one quite with the same gravitas. You just ignore the damned things. )
Ralph rightly called me out for not acknowledging some of these points, and I’ll concede he was right. Those aren’t good developments and if I ignore them, I’m no better than… well, no better than other blogs that state one side of an issue and ignore the other.
Those nuggets of truth in Big Trial are sometimes hard to find because of Ralph’s other tendencies to as he put it present an “avalanche of facts” and commentary. So with the real issues, come suggestions that the applause that greeted Bill Marimow when he returned to the newsroom was somehow faked because they feared for his job.
Anyone who has worked in a newsroom knows how preposterous such a suggestion is. Anyone who knows Marimow knows how silly it is to think he would be “taking names.”
So, Katz is imperfect. Marimow, too, may be making the best of an imperfect word. Granted and all granted again. No struggle for integrity is easy, simple or straightforward. My hope is these are wind bumps on a glide path that gets Bill where he wants to be.
That said, let’s get back to the real narrative of the controversy here.
Bill Marimow, an editor of unquestioned skill and ethics, was fired by Publisher Bob Hall and owner George Norcross when Marimow would not fire top editors.
Nearly everyone can trace this development directly to Lexie Norcross, the inexperienced exec who runs Philly.com, and her conflicts with the Bill and the editors.
A court ordered that Marimow be reinstated. Norcross appealed and the two sides are battling it out in court – and in blogs, where the Norcross attorneys and sources have slimed Marimow pretty thoroughly with leaks of confidential memos.
Here though is the real challenge to the future of The Inquirer. Will Lexie and George Norcross continue to run the web operation – which arguably is the worst mash up of web approaches in the world. (A three-ring web circus with one free site and two paid sites.) Or will some professionals take control of it before it is too late.
The personal politics of it – giving the web to Lexie – already may have cost the paper dearly. George Norcross says proudly that the web offensive is based on Boston.com and Boston.Globe.com where the newspaper runs a low rent and high rent site strategy.
But that approach has proved disastrous in Boston. Free readers have dropped and paid circulation has been slow. On the other hand, a NY Times approach of metered free access feeding to the paid site has been successful.
George seems oblivious of that and boasted in one publication that the Inkie would develop Philly.com as a regional Huffington Post.
There is no better reply to that than the website Philly.com the other day where a blank space appeared that said, “advertise here.” That means that even wholesale “belly fat” advertisers don’t even send their steerage rate ad cargo to Philly.com.
Ironically, Marimow and the senior editors he was supposed to fire, have been good for business, with nearly a nine percent bump in paid paper circulation.
Norcross, during the same time period, lost web circulation and revenue.
The Philadelphia Inquirer now has one of the best professional newspapers editors at its helm.
Perhaps it should have a great professional as the COO of Philly.com as well.