John Baer Wrote Today’s Funniest Line About Pennsylvania Politics

The Daily News‘ John Baer writes today that Gov. Tom Corbett is on the verge of a defeat so deep and humiliating it would be kinder to use a “mercy rule” to award the governorship to Tom Wolf right this second.

Corbett’s excuse for trailing? He didn’t realize he needed to work so hard to tout his own accomplishments. Which leaves Baer’s mouth agape, metaphorically speaking:

If Corbett loses, he needn’t look far for the principal reason why.

In a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he himself spelled it out:

“Frankly, I always was of the philosophy – and I certainly am changing that now – that if you do a good job, people will recognize it and it will get reported.”

This betrays either a profound misunderstanding of politics, a long-term disconnect from reality or the cognitive powers of a cocker spaniel.

Ouch. Funny. But ouch. We’re guessing Baer won’t get a Christmas card this year.

(UPDATE) Gerry Lenfest Is Tom Corbett’s Fifth-Biggest Donor

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

[Update 6 p.m.] Interstate General Media, the company that owns the papers and Philly.com, sends along a statement saying the donations are old news:

In February 2014, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine both reported on the nature of Mr. Lenfest’s $250,000 donation to Governor Corbett’s reelection campaign. The donation was directly related to the governor’s approval of a $30 million grant for the proposed Museum of the American Revolution.

In the Feb. 4 Inquirer article, headlined “Lenfest second largest individual donor to Corbett”, Mr. Lenfest made the following statements regarding his donation in an interview:

“I greatly appreciated that support from the Commonwealth,” Lenfest said. He said he was “even more appreciative of what Gov. Corbett did” because Lenfest had supported Democrat Dan Onorato for governor in 2010.*

“He (Corbett) saw the museum as something worthy of support. . . . It wasn’t a quid pro quo because he didn’t know that I’d give to him when he approved the RCAP grant,” Lenfest said.*

It should be noted that Mr. Lenfest’s political contributions to the governor’s campaign were made prior to becoming sole owner and publisher of Interstate General Media’s publications. Mr. Lenfest stands by The Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com’s fair and balanced coverage of the gubernatorial campaign.

[Original] Gerry Lenfest, publisher of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, is one of the biggest cash donors to the re-election campaign of Gov. Tom Corbett, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

Lenfest has given $252,000 to Corbett’s campaign, making him the Republican’s fifth-biggest donor, AP reported.
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Ruderman Responds to Inquirer Takedown on Facebook

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Wendy Ruderman, one-half of the Daily News‘ Pulitzer-winning duo whose work has come under scrutiny by the Philadelphia Inquirer, took to Facebook today to rebut allegations she and partner Barbara Laker behaved unethically during the reporting of the “Tainted Justice” series on police corruption.

“I’ve been advised over and over again NOT to speak out or go on Facebook or Twitter,” she wrote. “But to sit quiet, at least for me, feels cowardice and wrong.”

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3 Reasons the Case Against “Tainted Justice” Doesn’t Add Up

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Something doesn’t add up.

The Inquirer on Friday did something pretty unusual: It printed a takedown of the reporting behind the Daily News’ Pulitzer-winning “Tainted Justice” series of reports about police corruption in 2009. The underlying question in the report: Why had Thomas Tolstoy — accused of sexually assaulting women on the job, as well as sundry other bits of corruption — been able to stay free and even keep his police job in the years since?

The Inky’s answer? Ethically questionable behavior on the part of the Daily News reporters, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, may have compromised the case. Specifically, the two are alleged to have offered financial assistance to “Naomi,” a key witness who said Tolstoy jammed his fingers into her vagina during a 2008 drug raid. Naomi’s real identity has never been revealed publicly.

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, at least, is making the case that the reporters’ behavior was so egregious that Tolstoy — a bad cop by the commissioner’s estimation —  won’t get the punishment he might deserve. “It’s not a question of whether misconduct occurred. I think we have an investigation that does demonstrate that,” Ramsey told KYW Newsradio, “but this could very well be exploited by defense counsel when it comes to creating some doubt in the mind of an arbitrator.”

Here are three reasons — drawn only from the public reporting on this issue — that the “bad reporting kept a bad cop on the streets” story doesn’t quite make sense.

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Is “Tainted Justice” Now Tainted?

It would appear that an Inquirer story killed last month by publisher Gerry Lenfest is back from the dead.

The Inquirer today has a lengthy front-page story examining why Thomas Tolstoy, a Philadelphia Police officer accused of sexually assaulting women in the Daily News’ Pulitzer-winning “Tainted Justice” series in 2009, is still on the force.

The Inky’s answer? A main witness gave federal officials inconsistent accounts of her encounter with Tolstoy. And her already shaky credibility was hurt when she told federal officials that Daily News reporters Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker had helped with bills and bought her gifts.

If true, investigators said, Ruderman and Laker could be seen as “enticing” the victim’s story, harming her credibility in court. And journalistic ethics generally prohibit giving gifts to sources. Ruderman said she did buy a bag of groceries for the woman, but that was the extent of the help.

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Are Good Phillies Teams Good for Newspapers?

Our pal Randy LoBasso has an interesting cover story this week at Philadelphia Weekly, suggesting that when the Philadelphia Phillies play poorly — as they are this season — there are economic ramifications:

For many of Citizens Bank Park’s workers, it’s simple trickle-down economics: pay rises and falls with the team’s fortune. These workers, who vend beer section-by-section, aisle-by-aisle, are paid based on tips and commission. Poor teams mean fewer fans. Fewer fans means less product moved. Less product means less pay—and as the team gets worse, for lots of these workers, their wallets get emptier.

Makes sense. And you know who else seems to suffer when the Phillies play poorly? The city’s newspapers.
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Stu Bykofsky’s Baggage

Byko's greatest hits, according to a recent Storify presentation about him.

Byko’s greatest hits, according to a recent Storify presentation about him.

I don’t think Stu Bykofsky is a bigot.

Let me rephrase: I don’t know if Stu Bykofsky is a bigot, because answering that question definitively requires knowing Stu’s heart — and nobody knows Stu’s heart (or, really, if he has one) except Stu.

Helen Gym did a thorough takedown last week of the longtime Daily News columnist’s rhetorical proclivities, but I suspect Bykofsky isn’t a bigot as the term is normally understood. Hating other groups of people requires caring, on some level, that they exist. I’m not so sure that’s the case with Stu.

He’s a provocateur. A troll, in the modern parlance. A naughty child in the body of a cranky old man. A Philly.com commenter given pro status. Other people don’t seem to be “other people” in Stu’s columns so much as they are targets for his gleeful, unending bomb-throwing. (Full disclosure: He’s aimed those bombs at me on at least one occasion.)

The question, then, is this: Is he a worthy newspaper columnist?

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How the Daily News Cover Changed Overnight — Then Changed Again

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It may be that this morning’s news is the first you’re hearing of the events in Ferguson, Mo. — how a young unarmed black man was shot by police, how residents protested, and how a militarized police force evidently overreacted — and if it is, well, prepare to get angry.

What’s interesting, from a Philly perspective, is how those events forced changes to the cover of today’s Philadelphia Daily News. Twice. And how that happened says a lot about how media works in 2014.

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