Vince Fumo, you’ve no doubt noticed, is back in the news.
Hardly a surprise.
Even when he got carted off to the pokey, we knew we’d be living with Fumo moments like this one forever, or at least till somebody gasps their last, him or us.
It’s like that in Philadelphia. Some people just don’t go away.
Mumia. Ira Einhorn. Alycia Lane.
They cycle in, they cycle out, but they keep on cycling.
You can blame the media some for resurrecting these fools. They’re easy subjects to write about. They’ve done outlandish things, people love them or hate them, and all you have to do is call up the clips to replay their boorish and often criminal behavior one more once for the peanut gallery.
Sometimes, though, these tired names do land in the news legitimately.
Fumo’s prison sentence, for example, is getting a second look. Fair enough, that’s news—though you can bet many readers, if not most, are far more intrigued by the reports that he’s grown his hair and has a beard and that he’s now sporting a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly, than they are about how much longer he’ll be walking the exercise yard.
There are other big peek details in the Fumo story, too, like the fact that he’s a serial e-mailer. Yep, you believe that? You can rock your Gmail all day long in jail just like a free citizen. Who woulda guessed it?
The emails reveal that Fumo’s into yachts and he wants to write his life story. He even has a writer at the ready for when he gets sprung from the joint.
The most disturbing Fumo email revelations came in the form of a “string of sexual epithets” directed at Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky, who had previously expressed her opinion about the prison sentence afforded Fumo.
If you didn’t think Fumo was a first-class creep before, now you know for sure. He confirmed it himself. Funny how creeps always do.
But here’s the thing: the Daily News, clearly panting at being the center of attention, tripped up by throwing the story about the emails up on their front page and firing back.
The headline on philly.com said it all: “Gloves are off: Ronnie reacts to Fumo’s rants.”
Groan. They took the bait.
For the record, I’ve known Ronnie a long time, from back, back, way back. Best thing about Ronnie, in my opinion, is her heart. She’s got a big one. It’s the best thing about her writing, too. She’s about helping the little guy. It’s been the hallmark of her long-running column. Look it up. Another disclaimer: When I was in the journalism fray 24/7, there were times when I took the bait myself and reacted to things I should have left the hell alone. You learn. It took time to rebuild this glass house.
I know, too, times are tough, it’s hard to move newspapers, and when a story comes long like this where you can fire back and be in the moment—Hey, that’s me!—the temptation is strong to take it.
It’s almost always a bad idea. It gives the subject, exactly what he wants: a reaction. And it gives the appearance to members of the city’s dim and dimmer set, not so few in number, that the media is out to get him. It sets up a bogus war: Fumo v. Daily News.
The Daily News, up against the wall as ever, has made it clear it’s going to be bold and bodacious, or some such thing. So maybe Ronnie got caught up in some kind of new branding concept.
Whatever. The good news is that Fumo will soon be yesterday’s headlines. The bad news: Alycia Lane is waiting in the wings.