Inquirer Art Critic Edward J. Sozanski Dead at 77

Sad news about 30-year art critic Edward J. Sozanski from The Inquirer:

ed_sozanskiEdward J. Sozanski, 77, art critic for The Inquirer who, over the course of three decades, became a major figure in describing and documenting the city’s cultural transformation from regional by-way to national mainstage, died suddenly Tuesday in Gladwyne of as-yet-undetermined causes.

Whether writing about America’s first sculptor, William Rush, or art from Korea’s Joseon Dynasty or the way John Cage’s musical “scores” looked on the page, Mr. Sozanski always sought to directly engage the art and to provide his readers with an utterly independent critical judgment.

And despite his substantial stature and influence as a critic, his focus always remained on the integrity of the art; he was not distracted by institutional marketing efforts or by the city’s cultural boosterism.

Find the rest of Sozanki’s obituary here.

Katz Pledges $77 Million for Inquirer, Daily News

Businessman and co-owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer Lewis Katz, center, walks to Judge Patricia McInerney's courtroom, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, at City Hall in Philadelphia. McInerney is scheduled to hear arguments over who should control The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Businessman and co-owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer Lewis Katz, center, walks to Judge Patricia McInerney’s courtroom, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, at City Hall in Philadelphia. McInerney is scheduled to hear arguments over who should control The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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?

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Inga’s Zingers: Nine Great Quips from Pulitzer Winner Inga Saffron

Yesterday, the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were announced, and Inga Saffron of the Inquirer won the Pulitzer for criticism!

Saffron’s one of my favorite local writers, and I’m thrilled to see her win the prize after being a finalist several times before. (Unlike many other journalism awards, the Pulitzers are legit because they come with a cash prize — $10,000!) It’s extra cool because, well, how many American newspapers have an architecture critic on staff any more? Or ever?

As a big enthusiast of city living, I’m thrilled the Inquirer has such a passionate advocate for urbanism on its staff. Critics are important. The best critics have the opportunity to praise worthy subjects and call out crap. There’s just so much crap out there, in every field, and so much of it goes un-criticized — whether it’s because the people behind it are nice, or because they’re powerful, or whatever. Not all that crap deserves to be called out, but a lot of it does. And Inga Saffron is one of the best at it. I’d put her ability to call out crap at the level of another great critic and Pulitzer winner, Roger Ebert. She is that good.

To commemorate one of my favorite critics receiving such a prestigious award, I went through Saffron’s archives and found some of my favorite lines of hers.

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Inga Saffron Wins a Pulitzer Prize

She’d been a finalist several times, now the award is hers: Inky architecture critic Inga Saffron has been awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in criticism. The citation:

Awarded to Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer for her criticism of architecture that blends expertise, civic passion and sheer readability into arguments that consistently stimulate and surprise.

We at Philly Mag sometimes like to have fun with Saffron’s particular way of viewing the world — but Philadelphia would be poorer without her commentary. For some of us new to town, reading Saffron’s critiques have offered insight into what makes Philly Philly, in terms of culture and history, that simple thumbs-up thumbs-down reviews of buildings couldn’t do on their own. Congratulations to her.

(Oh, and Saffron is featured on Philly Mag’s list of the city’s 75 most powerful people. Check it out on newsstands now!)

Inky Owners Return to Court to Settle Sale

The Inquirer’s feuding owners returned to court in Delaware today to decide if the paper’s future will be decided with a private auction among its current owners or a public auction that brings in outsiders.

George Norcross, who leads the majority faction of owners arguing for a private auction, got first crack at making his argument.

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Out-of-County Judge Will Get McCaffery-Inky Case

An out-of-county judge will be appointed to preside over Seamus McCaffery’s lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer. Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, the presiding judge in the civil division of the Philadelphia Court of Common Please, made the order Friday afternoon.

The order is a victory for defendants in the case, who had argued that McCaffery’s ties to the district’s judges and lawyers —he’s a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice from Philadelphia — would create the appearance of a conflict of interest to every judge here.

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McCaffery Opposes Out-of-County Judge in Inky Lawsuit

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice suing the Inquirer is opposing a move to bring a non-Philadelphia judge in to try the case.

Dion Rassias, the lawyer for Justice Seamus McCaffery and McCaffery’s wife, Lise Rapaport, this week filed a motion objecting the defense request that an out-of-county judge be assigned to the case. Lawyers for the defendants had previously suggested that McCaffery’s close ties to Philadelphia courts could give local judges the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Not so, Rassias wrote in passionate defense of the impartiality of Philadelphia judges.

“There are no actual facts, either direct or implied, that support such a wild and wide-sweeping condemnation of the integrity of all of the judges in the First Judicial District,” Rassias wrote.

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More Lawyers Ask for Out-of-County Judge in Inky Lawsuit

More defendants in Seamus McCaffery’s lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer are asking that an out-of-county judge be assigned to the case, according to court filings.

But there is one party to the proceedings that has been noticeably silent in the matter: Interstate General Media, owner of the paper, has made no filings and hasn’t even had a lawyer enter an appearance in the matter.

A lawyer for Lewis Katz, a minority owner of the paper, in mid-March asked for the recusal of every judge in Philadelphia, citing the close ties of McCaffery — now a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice — to the district and nearly every judge in it. Katz was joined late last week by lawyers for Inky editor Bill Marimow, reporter Craig McCoy, Daily News editor Michael Days, and Daily News editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson in requesting an out-of-county judge be assigned to the case.

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The Best Daily Paper in Town Is the Philadelphia Daily News*

dailynewsFirst 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?

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