The coverage of strife at the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com in the last two days—in the wake of Inky editor Bill Marimow’s latest firing—has apparently taken its toll. A memo from the company’s human resources department is reminding the professional journalists in its employ to please, for the love of God, never talk to the media. (See the update below; the company says the memo is intended to help journalists inundated by sudden coverage of the firing, not to restrict them from talking.)
The full memo:
From: Bonanducci, Chris
Sent: Wednesday, October 09, 2013 3:50 PM
To: All IGM Employees
Subject: Communicating with the Media Company Policy
All IGM Employees:
I want to take a moment to remind you of the Company policy relating to Communicating with the Media. Any contact you receive from the media regarding Interstate General Media (IGM) and IGM’s print/digital publications should be immediately directed to the attention of Mark Block, Vice President of External Relations for a response. You should limit your response to any media inquiry, by immediately forwarding Mark the telephone/email online request and/or advising the media source requesting comment that your request will be responded to by IGM’s Office of External Relations and then providing Mark’s name, email and office number (215)854-5640. Please refrain from engaging the member of the media contacting you in any exchange and/or discussion regarding the subject of their request.
In addition, social media and online publications that reach out to you in the context of social media platforms and blogs would also be applicable to our policy of alerting Mark Block to the media request and/or online story. I recognize that seeing a story posted could prompt your need to comment and/or respond to a post or blog, but that should not occur since you are not authorized to comment on behalf of our company and its publications.
Thanks for your cooperation. Please do not hesitate to let me or Mark Block know if you have additional questions, or would like to review our employee guidelines relative to media inquiries.
Vice President, Human Resources
Now, it’s important to stress that this isn’t exactly a new policy—the memo is a reminder of old policy. But in a week in which internal documents about management’s problems with Marimow have been leaked to PhillyMag and unnamed sources have spilled the beans to the New York Observer about intra-ownership battles, management probably wants everybody to understand there can be consequences for telling tales out of school.
We’ve got calls and emails out to Mark Block and Bill Ross, the newspaper guild director, for comment.
That said, it’s a big media community. Will IGM journalists now have to ignore their buddies at the Pen and Pencil Club? Still make jokes on Twitter? We’ll find out soon, won’t we?
[Update 5:17 pm] Mark Block returned our call, and said the memo was designed to help employees who have been inundated with media requests in the two days since Bill Marimow’s firing. Journalists who ask lots of questions of strangers found themselves uncertain what to do when put on the other end of the reporting process.
“This is something that employees have asked for,” Block said. “You can imagine a number of employees are receiving phone calls from a number of media sources. … Some employees are caught off-guard for that.”
He added: “It’s a smart process, because it allows us to ensure we’re getting back to somebody in a prompt manner, and allows us” to additionally ensure the company is dealing with a credible media source.