Philadelphia Magazine on The Philadelphia Inquirer Owners’ Battle

Posted: February 8, 2014 in Contemporary Commentary
Tags: , , , ,

Steve Volk in Philadelphia Magazine certainly moves the ball and establishes a high mark for reporting on the issue.

There’s still a fascination with Nancy Phillips as the dragon lady in this opera, which I feel is over wrought, but the examination in this article is worth the read and it’s good to see the coverage take on more depth and seriousness.  Certainly, he has dug more deeply into Norcross’s nastiness.

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Steve Volk

The one problem Volk and everyone else covering the issue seems to have is: Source Club.  The leaked emails from Phillips came from somewhere and it does not take much imagination to suggest that either Bob Hall and George Norcross have crossed an ethical line, perhaps a legal line, in leaking these to Volk and others. 

But having received the emails, Volk can’t really write about that particular nefarious Norcross tactic, cause he would burn his source.  It’s a dilemma with which I’m not unsympathetic.  Any decent news person faces it.  The trick is not to be controlled by such leaks.  Somewhere down the line, Volk, who seems indeed to be a fair-minded journalist, needs to do a piece or blog on the overall Norcross campaign.  He can do that without blowing out his sources.  Just list all the damned leaks to all the damned media outlets over the last six months and point out they could not have happened without some official sanction from Bob Hall and the Norcross team.

My other nits on the Volk piece.  Three parts might have been fleshed out more. The chronology of escalating web conflicts of Philly.com parallel Norcross’s conflict with Marimow. And two: the horrid web strategy that Norcross is following, an inferior and lamer version of the Boston Globe, which has been a disaster, all at a time when web ad rates are crashing.  The savior of the paper will not be digital.  (Politico.com makes its money from ads in a D.C. paper version and from events and sponsorships.)
As to focus groups, those of us who have served on the biz side of publications know how laughable those can be. You can walk those anywhere you want and interpret them anyway you want.  Volk hints at this, but it’s worth a deeper dig.

Volk is right of course that the conflict of owners here is not sustainable. I think he and others covering the issue  still suffer from a sort of false objectivity here though by suggesting that Katz and Phillips somehow are equally to blame with Norcross.  There is an implication in the Volk story that Katz may somehow have finessed coverage of casinos in which his grandchildren had some interests, but it’s a very far reach.  As is the old canard of some funeral director claiming Katz told him it was okay to run someone’s obit in the paper.

From all that I can see, we are better off believing Norcross’s own words. He is the guy, as he says in Volk’s story, with the black hat.
I’d just like to see that and his web business incompetence in a story lede sometime rather than the overdone fascination with the affairs of heart of Nancy Phillips, who seems to me to be acting in the best interests of news, certainly not herself, in my humblest of opinions.

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