Inquirer Celebrates Comcast’s Birthday

Happy 50th, corporate overlords!

November 13 will mark the day that, 50 years ago, a humble, homegrown Ralph Roberts purchased a TV subscription system in small-town Mississippi for $250,000 and began a commercial journey that culminated with an eerily monolithic skyscraper in Philadelphia and lots and lots of tax breaks.

To mark the occasion, the Inquirer has written one of the most flattering pieces on Comcast I can imagine the company has garnered, sending its communications personnel into fits of orgasmic professional joy for having successfully steered reporter Bob Fernandez away from discussing the overbearing power that the company wields over our souls or the fact that everyone even kind of in the know is aware that Executive VP David L. Cohen is the one who quite literally runs Philadelphia.

Instead, Fernandez gives short other-side shrift to the savvy but understated Yeshiva University law professor and Comcast expert Susan Crawford.

“They are a beautifully managed company. They are extraordinarily adept at engaging all levels of government,” Crawford said. “There is President Obama golfing with Brian Roberts in Martha’s Vineyard. That’s pretty good. Smooth.”

Some of us would just come out and call this regulatory capture, but “smooth” offers a certain subtlety, I suppose.

Not once mentioned in the piece: The millions in grants and tax breaks received as part of the Keystone Opportunity Zone, its successful fight against the paid sick leave bill or its position against net neutrality.

Now, this is just conjecture, but I’m guessing one of two things: Either Fernandez was so star-struck by the presence of such charismatic fellows as the patricians of the Roberts dynasty and so eager to preserve future ties with them that he was successfully disarmed, or this was some tit-for-tat engineered by Cohen who tipped him off to something big in return for a flattering portrait of a company with a lot of really gross dirty laundry. And yes, those deals are struck in journalism all the time.

It’s things like this that sometimes inspire apathy at the idea of a dead Inquirer and why even some of the most respected journalists I know don’t even bother to subscribe. []

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  • Avon Foote

    In 2009 I revealed why Comcast selected Mississippi as its start-up state. Find the Blog at

  • Joseph N. DiStefano

    Hi. I’m an Inquirer reporter, too. When I wrote a book about Comcast some time ago,

    it got positive reviews in the Boston Globe and the New York Sun (!). PhillyMag solicited its own — from a writer who at the time was best known locally for her piece on her stint as a phone sex operator. She wrote a short and rather negative review. She then went on to write a couple of flattering pieces, one on a Comcast marketing campaign, one on a Comcast executive. Last I heard, she was working as a waitress.

    Bob Fernandez has covered Comcast for years and written quite a bit about its failures as well as its successes.

    However, I don’t recall PhillyMag ever doing any hard-hitting report on Comcast. Indeed, Andrew Thompson had to quote a weekly paper, not anything PhillyMag ever wrote, when he cast about for something critical.

    Why don’t you do some critical Comcast reporting of your own, PhillyMag?

    • asthompson

      Would respond on here, but I’d get harangued. Email response to these fair and fairly stated points is en route. Address on Twitter is correct?

    • Jason Fagone

      Nice of you to reveal your sexism for all the world to see. The reporter you talk about here has written for the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Columbia Journalism Review, Gawker, and many other places. She covered a lot of other things for Philly mag aside from the phone-sex company. That was a great piece, by the way, stylish and smart and memorable — better than anything I can ever remember appearing in the Inquirer under your byline.

      • Tyler Woods

        Moe’s got more talent in her keyboard than all of

        I don’t think it’s sexist to say she was famous for her phone sex operator story though.

  • Amy Rosenberg

    Wait so you will criticize an inquirer story and reporter but when someone critiques Philly mag you take the discussion to private email????

    • asthompson


  • barrygster

    The Comcast Center is not a Keystone Opportunity Zone.