Broad Street’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts has a high-profile reputation for educating the likes of jazz greats Christian McBride and Joey DeFrancesco, Questlove and Black Thought from the Roots, and the members of Boyz II Men. But today, that reputation is being sullied by a bizarre scandal that schools reporter Regina Medina unfolds in the Thursday edition of the Daily News. Read more »
CBS Philly reports that minority owner Lewis Katz has pledged to pay at least $77 million to acquire the Inquirer and Daily News outright. The pledges emerged during testimony Tuesday as a Delaware judge tries to decide the process by which the papers will be sold.
Lewis Katz promises to match rival owner George Norcross’ $77-million minimum bid. Katz and co-owner Gerry Lenfest favor a public, open, sealed bid. Katz says that will drive up the price, rather than “bluffing, starting low and then raising bids.”
Norcross, who leads a majority owner group of three, wants a private auction limited to the current owners, and the Newspaper Guild, if deemed qualified, with ascending back and forth bidding.
Of course, that $77 million would represent an increase from the $55 million the owners jointly paid in 2012 for the newspapers and Philly.com. It does raise a question: Does anybody think the value of those properties has increased by $22 million in the last two years?
Chuck Stone, the first African American columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, has died at age 89.
A year and a half ago, I flew down to Largo, Florida, and knocked on Bill Conlin’s door. It was early evening, and I couldn’t tell if he was home or not. Nobody came to the door. I thought I heard a TV, though. I knocked again.
Conlin had been the baseball beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News for two decades, starting in 1966, then wrote a regular column for the DN for an even longer stretch, until the end of 2011. He was the city’s most-read sportswriter, and was nationally known via a long stint on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters as the fat guy waving his coffee cup in high-volume arguments that were often brilliant, or at least amusing. In the summer of 2011, he was inducted into the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But that December, the life he’d built for half a century collapsed, via a devastating article published in the Inquirer: A niece of Conlin’s and three other people (including one man) came forward to accuse him of sexually molesting them back in the 1970s, when they were children. They were speaking out after so many years, they said, because the recent allegations against Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky had reignited their pain, and because it was time to end what amounted to a conspiracy of silence among Conlin’s family and friends covering up his horrible deeds. The alleged abuse happened far too long ago for charges to be brought. But the accusers were finally determined, they said, to tell their stories.
Conlin resigned from the Daily News immediately and wasn’t heard from again. Eventually, word got out that he was holed up in his condo in Largo. Where I stood, on an October evening at dusk, almost a year later. I knocked on his door a third time. I was sure I heard a TV.
Finally, I could hear someone coming.
“Yeah?” Conlin yelled — it was unmistakably his blistering foghorn voice — on the other side of the door. He didn’t open it.
I told him who I was, that I wanted to talk. Conlin and I knew each other a bit, having emailed occasionally as fellow journalists over the years. After the allegations hit, I’d emailed asking if he’d talk to me. He’d written back that he’d had a nervous breakdown and wasn’t ready to talk. He didn’t answer subsequent emails. I decided that getting face-to-face was the only chance I’d have. Though he still didn’t open his door.
Instead he yelled, “I’m not talking to anybody!”
So that was that — or so it seemed. I went back to my motel in Largo and called him. I got voicemail, and left a message: Would you have dinner with me? Just a dinner. A conversation.
I got an email back: You took a certain liberty coming down here without a prior head’s-up …
After venting a bit on the hell he’d been through, Conlin agreed in the email to have lunch the next day. But it would be, he said, on his terms.
THERE WAS A TIME when he was no mere sportswriter, but the most important journalist in Philadelphia. If that seems like a stretch, we’re forgetting the impact of the daily missives he would deliver from all over the country, all summer long, on our baseball team, in the halcyon days pre-Internet. As king of the sporting scribes here, Conlin shared with a few hundred thousand locals not only hardball derring-do, but his take on the world at large. Here is Conlin beginning a piece on the riots in Watts in August 1965, during a Phillies road trip to play the Dodgers:
This is a city at war with itself. The looters and the rioters are holed up, guerrilla-like, in a section of Los Angeles as big as Northeast Philadelphia. They have Molotov cocktails and whiskey and whiskey-courage enough to burn and pillage and rape and plunder. …
There are 13,000 National Guard troops here and the trucks whine through the freeway night bearing puzzled-looking kids from all over the state. Yesterday they were pumping gas and growing avocados. Today they are getting shot at. It is Vietnam in Southern California.
More often, Conlin’s style exhibited a sort of grand goofiness. One of his passions was weather. On a deadly summer day at the ballpark in South Philly in 1995:
Hot town, summer in the city. … The epicenter of the heat island this town becomes in central July is the molten turf of Veterans Stadium. Heat waves shimmer in the mid-afternoon sun like a scene from Lawrence of Arabia. … Yesterday was one of those brain-poachers where any inning I expected public address announcer Dan Baker to intone, “Now pitching for the Phillies … Omar Sharif.” I didn’t know if Ahmed Ben-Fregosi was trying to win a ball game or reach Damascus before Lord Kitchener.
A learned smart-ass. Vintage Conlin. He was pretty good at the particulars of baseball, too.
The Phillies generally sucked, but no matter: Baseball, in the slow unwinding of a season, offered Conlin the perfect writer’s playground. It was personal as well. He could drink and carouse with the best of them, like, well, a ballplayer; Conlin once told a friend that he put away a quart of vodka a day. And he was full of stories that couldn’t see print. On the road back in the ’70s, a certain Phillies slugger went drinking with his teammates. They met some girls and brought them back to their hotel, and somebody got the bright idea to fill the bathtub with ice water and bet the slugger that if he got in the tub, he wouldn’t be able to perform with said girls afterward.
Conlin also developed a reputation as a bar brawler on the road. A fellow sportswriter who covered Penn State football in the late ’70s says it was a habit on Friday nights at PSU: Conlin would regularly hit the bars, get drunk, then get pummeled. “It happened in bars in National League cities all over as well,” adds Bill Lyon, the longtime Inquirer sportswriter. “We used to kid him: ‘You’re 0-and-5, Bill.’ He did not fare well in fisticuffs.” The fights would be over … baseball? Women? “Probably both,” Lyon says.
Though there was apparently at least one drunken dustup Conlin won: He got into a fight with Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas in a bar on a road trip in the ’70s — nobody remembers what it was about — and Kalas had to do his pre-game bit on TV the next day wearing sunglasses to hide a black eye and stitches. In another instance, it was rumored that Conlin made a pass at then-Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter’s brother’s wife on the team’s charter plane (in those days, sportswriters were invited on board), a move that got him permanently banned from the flights.
To read the full story, please pick up the April 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine at your local newsstand. If you would like to become a subscriber, please click here.
First of all, let’s grant that journalists take awards way too seriously — but for obvious reasons: Circulation reports and page-view analytics don’t always provide the psychic rewards of a trophy on one’s mantle. Since journalism awards are usually awarded by other journalists (and not by, say, the reading and viewing public) the whole thing can seem a bit self-congratulatory.
But let’s congratulate the Philadelphia Daily News, which this week took seven first-place awards and won the “sweepstakes” competition among the state’s biggest papers at the Keystone Press Awards. The Inquirer wasn’t too shabby either, taking four first-place awards.
And not to tweak the Inquirer — though, Lord knows, that can be an awful lot of fun sometimes — but a quick couple of words in defense of the perpetually under-threat Daily News: We’re not entirely sure why it’s survived as long as it has. We won’t say “great journalism” is the reason, because we know Pulitzer winners whose papers no longer exist. But what we can say is that the awards offer some small measure of what Philadelphia would be missing if the paper disappeared. Being the scrappy underdog kind is kind of in tune with this city’s soul anyway, no?
Update: Very clumsily, I omitted the great performance by City Paper in the awards. They also won the sweepstakes for their division — and, oh hey: They won NINE first-place awards in their division. A lot of good news reporting goes on at the alt weekly … which, judging by the awards, must be the real best paper in town, right?
Warts and all. That’s what you see of the Daily News’ crack reporting duo, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, in their new book, Busted. These are the women who won a Pulitzer Prize for “Tainted Justice,” a 10-month series about a corrupt narcotics squad. Because of the work, they’ve been called dirty names and threatened by anonymous commentators online. But, with journalism in their blood, they have risked their lives pursuing leads and writing stories that shock and inform.
This is what inevitably comes of having a political boss as a newspaper owner, perhaps: The newsrooms of the Inquirer and Daily News are again restless after some reporters received a campaign fund-raising letter from one of the paper’s co-owners, South Jersey political boss George Norcross.
Norcross’s spokesman, Daniel Fee, said the solicitation was inadvertent and wouldn’t happen again. Nonetheless, the Inquirer reports:
In many workplaces, job evaluations are part of the routine, a once-a-year cause for heartburn and/or celebration of another year of hard work completed. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, though, aren’t run-of-the mill workplaces — and journalists at both papers are receiving what, for many of them, is a first-ever job evaluation.
It’s a brand-new process that has fueled rumors, challenged morale, and further disturbed the equilibrium of newsrooms already unsettled by legal feuding among the newspapers’ owners.
“In general, there is nothing wrong with a company evaluating its employees,” said Diane Mastrull, an Inquirer business writer, and an officer in the Newspaper Guild that represents journalists at both papers. “The problem is the chaotic, demoralizing context of this maiden evaluation.”