Prodded by reporters’ union and critics, Philly papers change their tune
February 9, 2012By Dave Davies
Finally, three days after they got the notice, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News today acknowledged that a group of prominent investors has expressed an interest in buying the company that owns the papers.
If you missed reports about how the owners of the papers and Philly.com suppressed the news that developer Bart Blatstein had put together a partnership to bid, read my posts from the last two days here and here.
Today's stories in the papers are the kind of solidly reported pieces that should have appeared routinely several days ago, before I and others noted the peculiar behavior of a company theoretically committed to independent and credible journalism.
Today's pieces also referred to the controversy, to the extent that they said some nice things about Daily News reporter David Gambacorta, whose blog post on the Blatstein group was scrubbed and replaced with a company statement Tuesday.
The stories quote a statement by company spokesman Mark Block, who removed Gambacorta's post Tuesday.
The statement said, in part, "It was never my intent to question the accuracy of David's reporting - David is nationally known for his exceptional investigative stories, and this blog posting would be no exception to his stellar record of diligence and professionalism in getting the story right."
Nice to read. And I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the Newspaper Guild, which represents reporters at the papers, filed a grievance over the handling of the story.
Or maybe it did. Here's a notice the Guild sent to its members:
Dear Guild member,
On Tuesday, the Newspaper Guild filed a grievance over two recent
contract violations involving stories partially or entirely removed from
Philly.com without the advance knowledge of the writers. Article 35,
Section A of our contract states that in the event of any retraction:
"The employee involved will be consulted prior to the retraction of any
On Feb. 4, a paragraph related to Philadelphia Media Network's earnings
was mysteriously removed from the online version of Inquirer reporter
Andrew Maykuth's story about Ed Rendell's group of investors seeking to
purchase the company. The paragraph, about the company's finances,
appeared in the print edition of the Feb. 4 Inquirer, but was edited out
of the online version. Maykuth was not told in advance, nor has anyone
mentioned to him since, that the paragraph was removed after
On Feb. 7, Philadelphia Media Network Vice President for External
Affairs Mark Block told the journalism web site Poynter.org that he
ordered a blog post from Philly.com, by Daily News reporter David
Gambacorta, to be removed from the site. Gambacorta was never consulted
that his post was to be removed from the site and then replaced by an
anonymously posted statement from the company. Block went on to suggest
to Poynter that there were inaccuracies in Gambacorta's story, which
there were not, and commented that what appeared in Gambacorta's post
A grievance meeting was held Tuesday afternoon in which the company said
it wasn't prepared to fully discuss the Maykuth situation, but stated
that the paragraph was not removed due to inaccuracy but over concerns
of the reporting of the earnings of the privately-held company and
whether that may violate its fiduciary obligations. The Guild and PMN
agreed to reconvene to discuss the matter.
In the case of the Gambacorta blog post, whose removal from the website
led other media outlets to cast doubt on the integrity of the company,
which in turn undermined the work of Gambacorta and all of our
journalists, Block claimed he did not malign Gambacorta's reporting,
rather took issue with a press release issued by developer Bart
Blatstein about his interest in purchasing the company.
During the meeting Guild leaders and Gambacorta stressed that had the
company merely provided comment for Gambacorta's story, as it regularly
provides comment for our own and other media outlets, rather than
nefariously remove his blog post and replace it with its own statement,
it would not have faced ridicule in national and local media outlets
some of which questioned whether current management is trying to control
the sale process. This was a public embarrassment that could have easily
We thank the company for meeting promptly to discuss the grievance and
Block for agreeing to the Guild's request that he publicly apologize for
casting doubt on Gambacorta's accurate reporting. His quotes to this
effect from Block appear in today's Inquirer and Daily News stories
about Blatstein's interest in the company.
Block's publicly clarified remarks and defense of Gambacorta's
professional integrity resolves that portion of the grievance. We look
forward to meeting on the Maykuth matter and discussing other instances
we are looking into about other material being removed from blog posts
without advance consultation of the writer. If you are aware of an
example of this nature, please get in touch.
Dan Gross, President
Bill Ross, Executive Director
Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia/Communications Workers of
America Local 38010