“Gerry the Grinch” Parody Takes Aim at Newspaper Layoffs

Web site and Twitter account alternately satirize, plead with owner to reverse job reductions.

A website and Twitter account dubbing Gerry Lenfest a “grinch” hope to persuade — or maybe just embarrass — the owner of Philly’s biggest news organization to reverse recent layoffs.

Lenfest is the owner of Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com; nearly 50 journalists and support staffers were notified last month that they’re being laid off as part of a corporate restructuring that will see the company move closer to a “one newsroom” model. The layoffs were scheduled to be complete this week.

The “Gerry the Grinch” Twitter account has satirized Lenfest and his philanthropic exploits — particularly a multimillion donation Lenfest made in 2010 to preserve the SS United States, the aging luxury ship long docked in South Philly near the Ikea. (Lenfest didn’t take full ownership of the papers until 2014.)

The same prankster also bought up GerryLenfest.com, where this week a less puckish, much more sincere plea — to Lenfest’s wife, Marguerite — appeared:

Dear Mrs. Lenfest,

In four days time, 46 talented journalists employed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com are scheduled to lose their jobs.

They are victims of layoffs that your husband has deemed necessary at Philadelphia Media Network.

While you and Mr. Lenfest have been extraordinarily generous in your personal philanthropic pursuits, I am sorry to report that Mr. Lenfest has operated far less nobly in his ownership of Philadelphia Media Network.

Despite pledging his support importance [sic] of media and investigative journalism to the city, Mr. Lenfest does not seem to understand how deep these cuts will go in hindering the work of the three enterprises.

You don’t protect journalism by laying off journalists.

Amy Buckman, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia Media Network, said today: “PMN has no comment on the ‘parody’ account, which is not affiliated with nor sanctioned by PMN owner H.F. Gerry Lenfest.”

Bill Ross, executive director of The Newspaper Guild, which represents journalists at PMN, denied the guild is behind the satire.

“As far as Gerry the Grinch and the affiliated web site, neither are run by the Guild,” he said via email, “but I sure find them entertaining.”

Reached through direct message via Twitter, the person behind the effort declined to reveal his or her identity. “Much as you never see Mickey Mouse take off his helmet at DisneyWorld,” the anonymous prankster wrote, “the creator of Gerry the Grinch would feel awful ruining the beloved character for the children.”

The layoffs are scheduled to be complete by Friday.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.

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