Newsroom Shaken by Norcross Campaign Solicitation

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:

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Inky Mess: Karen Heller Vs. George Norcross’s Spokesman

Another week, another rumpus in the Inquirer newsroom.

This time, it involves longtime Inky columnist Karen Heller and Daniel Fee, whose strategic communications firm, The Echo Group, handles public relations for George Norcross, the South Jersey political boss and part-owner of the company which owns the Inquirer. When Norcross has communicated with the newsroom, it has often been through emails that have gone out under Fee’s name.

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While Owners Feud, Inky and Daily News Suffer

Morale is busted, advertisers uncertain, and Philadelphia’s newspapers are edging closer to another bankruptcy, lawyers for the papers’ feuding owners said in documents filed with the Delaware court that will revolve the fracas.

Ralph Cipriano reports at BigTrial.net that the Inquirer’s feuding ownership factions have filed their proposals on how to dissolve their partnership and sell the paper—along with the Daily News and Philly.com—to a potentially new owner.  The dire state of the newspapers was detailed in those documents. Cipriano quotes P. Clarkson Collins, a lawyer for the ownership faction led by George Norcross, who said the deadlock has delayed the hiring of new key personnel for the newspapers and website.

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Report: Rob Andrews to Leave Congress [Updated]

Update: That mystery law firm is Dilworth Paxon, and The Donald will indeed be running for Andrews’s seat.

South Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews will resign from Congress later this month, according to a report from the Inquirer‘s Jonathan Tamari. And in news that should surprise exactly no one, he will become a public affairs person at a (yet unnamed) leading Philadelphia law firm (read: lobbyist) and his interim replacement will be state senator Donald Norcross, brother of political boss and Inky co-owner George Norcross, is expected to run to replace him.

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The Fight for the Future of Philadelphia’s Newspapers

CRASH OF THE TITANS Clockwise from upper left, Lexie Norcross, Bob Hall, Bill Marimow, Nancy Phillips, Lewis Katz and George Norcross.  Illustration by Britt Spencer

CRASH OF THE TITANS
Clockwise from upper left, Lexie Norcross, Bob Hall, Bill Marimow, Nancy Phillips,
Lewis Katz and George Norcross.
Illustration by Britt Spencer

The meeting is lore, now: a story about a table for two that likely caused all South Jersey to wobble, ever so slightly, on its axis. The setting: Lamberti’s, aflutter with white tablecloths, occupied by the swellegant, an Italian seafood restaurant that serves as something of a home field for one of the men at the table, George Norcross III.

His name means different things to different people. Norcross earned millions in the insurance business, as executive chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew. He earned a scary reputation as the grinding stone of the Democratic Party in South Jersey, choosing who ran for what political office till he accumulated so much wealth and power that he became downright kingly.

Critics plaster Norcross with uncomplimentary terms, like “the Jersey Devil.” Admirers cite his more recent run of philanthropy, thanking him for building a better South Jersey. Friends and enemies often see his avalanche of thick white hair at Lamberti’s, in Cherry Hill, but the 57-year-old Norcross added this March 2012 stop to his calendar upon request, and reluctantly. He would maybe order a bowl of linguine or something.

Across from him sat Lewis Katz. His name also means different things to different people: An entrepreneur of many trades, Katz has worked, successfully, as an attorney, a political power broker to governors Jim Florio and Ed Rendell, a shareholder in the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets and Devils. But he made his biggest bundles of loot in comparatively schlubby businesses like parking lots and billboards. Tall and trim, with thinning hair he combs over a wide bald spot, Katz was the one who called and asked for this meeting.

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“No One Can Be Switzerland, and I’m on Norcross’s Side”

inquirer box

When Michael Lorenca was feeling anxious over escalating tension between warring Inquirer owners Lewis Katz and George Norcross, he sought advice.

“This lawsuit is allied versus axis powers,” publisher Bob Hall allegedly told him. “No one can be Switzerland. And I’m on Norcross’s side.”

Lorenca, Hall’s associate publisher, decided to simply vacate the map altogether, resigning, effectively, at the end of this month.

This story emerged today while Hall was under cross-examination from attorneys representing Katz and fellow owner H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest in their suit against Hall and Interstate General Media, a consortium of businessmen including Jersey political power broker and insurance titan Norcross. Hall said he could not recall his exact wording to Lorenca, but essentially confirmed the account given by Katz’s lawyers, adding that he supported Norcross because “Norcross was on my side” to do what he felt needed to be done.

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George Norcross Takes His Case to Inky, Daily News Journos

It’s come to this in the Great Philadelphia Newspaper War of 2013: George Norcross is lobbying his own employees.

Leaders of the Newspaper Guild that represents the journalists of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, said in a Monday afternoon memo that Norcross had urged them to “publicly support his campaign to get (his fellow) owners Lew Katz and Gerry (Lenfest) to sell their 42 percent minority ownership stake.”

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