What They’re Saying About the Inky’s New Non-Profit Ownership

inquirer daily news newspapers

As expected, the news industry is taking notice of Gerry Lenfest’s decision to transfer ownership of Philly’s major newspapers — the Inquirer and Daily News, along with Philly.com — to a newly created non-profit institute.

After years of declining revenues and staff cuts, newspapers around the country want to see if Lenfest has hit upon the answer — finally — to guaranteeing the future of large-scale community news coverage. The verdict? There seem to be as many questions as answers.

Here’s what they’re saying: Read more »

10 Burning Questions About the Inquirer‘s New Nonprofit Ownership

Gerry Lenfest enters Tuesday's ownership announcement at the National Constitution Center | Joel Mathis for Philly Mag.

Gerry Lenfest enters Tuesday’s ownership announcement at the National Constitution Center. Photo | Joel Mathis

Three themes emerged from Tuesday morning’s formal announcement that Philadelphia Media Network — owner of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — is being placed under the ownership of a new non-profit institute.

First: The new ownership structure will halt the revolving-door ownership that has afflicted the company with five different ownership groups over the last decade or so. That, in turn, should provide stability for a news organization that has been mired in chaos and, at times, bankruptcy during that time.

“It is, I think, a perfect combination for the future of journalism in Philadelphia,” said Gerry Lenfest, who created the nonprofit — the Institute for Journalism in New Media (IJNM) — and “donated” the papers to it.

Second: The non-profit structure will make it easier for the papers to seek financial sustainability by attracting grant funding to help pay for their journalism.

And third: There’s still a lot of work to be done to figure out how to make large-scale journalism pay for itself in the 21st century. Today’s announcement doesn’t preclude the possibility that there could be layoffs at the papers later this year if advertising revenues continue to decline.

In the short term, PMN publisher Terry Egger said, the new ownership structure “doesn’t solve our problems.” Richard Fox, the Dilworth Paxson attorney who oversaw the arrangements, added: “This is not a short-term measure. It’s a long-term measure.”

So what does the new ownership structure do? We’ll try to answer the biggest questions raised by this situation based on public documents and discussions with various officials involved in the transaction, including Egger and Fox. Read more »

Lenfest “Donates” Philly Newspapers to New Nonprofit Media Foundation

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News newspapers sit on display on a newsstand in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News newspapers sit on display on a newsstand in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Gerry Lenfest has created a nonprofit foundation to own Philadelphia Media Network — the company that owns the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com — and endowed the new institute with $20 million as it oversees the newspapers’ continued operation.

The move places the papers under the auspices of the Philadelphia Foundation, transforming the biggest news operation in America’s fifth-largest city into an unprecedented experiment in preserving large-scale newsgathering in the fast-changing — and fast-diminishing — newspaper industry.

The news was first reported Monday night at Philly.com. A formal announcement will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the National Constitution Center.

“I think it’s unprecedented for a big American newspaper to be turned into a nonprofit,” Rosental C. Alves, Director of Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, told Philly Mag late Monday night. Read more »

“Gerry the Grinch” Website Receives Cease-and-Desist Letter

gerry lenfest parody site

It would appear the fake Gerry Lenfest has the real Gerry Lenfest’s attention.

In the aftermath of the layoffs at Philadelphia Media Network — which owns the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com — an anonymous critic created the “Gerry the Grinch” Twitter account, and posted longer-form missives at GerryLenfest.com, both criticizing (and sometimes pleading with) Lenfest for the job reductions. Now a lawyer from PMN has sent the site’s owner a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that website’s domain name be transferred to the ownership of Lenfest himself.

The letter was posted Thursday afternoon at the Twitter account.

Read more »

“Gerry the Grinch” Parody Takes Aim at Newspaper Layoffs

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. Read more »

WATCH: Mayor Nutter Joins Inky Staff for Air Guitar Video

Here’s the Inquirer staff — joined by an incredibly game Mayor Nutter — playing air guitar to a classic ZZ Top song.

The video is part of the Rock Out Brain Tumors Challenge to raise money and awareness for brain tumors. You can make donations to the National Brain Tumor Society here. The Daily News started the wave of air guitar videos last week, when it made its own to honor Gar Joseph, the paper’s city editor who is being treated for such tumors. Read more »

Mike Dunn on the Empty Desks in City Hall’s Pressroom

An old news clipping — provenance is unknown — about City Hall's once robust and now-depleted press corps. | Clipping courtesy of Mike Dunn.

An old news clipping — provenance is unknown — about City Hall’s once robust and now-depleted press corps. | Clipping courtesy of Mike Dunn.

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from former KYW City Hall reporter Mike Dunn.)

Decades of history can be found in the press room at Philadelphia City Hall, Room 212: typewritten stories stuffed into rusty file cabinets, yellowed newspaper clips and editorial cartoons taped to the walls, a bulletin board crammed with buttons from political campaigns long past. One day I found a manual typewriter, still functional, and I set it aside in case the power goes out.

Then there was a fraying clip of a magazine article, date and source unclear — perhaps from the 1950s — about the reporters who covered City Hall in the ‘20s and ‘30s. The article included a photograph of the press corp that toiled in Room 212 in 1928.

It is no surprise that the reporters are all male and white; that was, unfortunately, the American workplace of the time. But what is most striking was the sheer number of reporters: 15 (with Administration officials mingled in), representing five newspapers. And while they’re smiling in the photo, its easy to imagine that they spent each day scurrying through the Hall, chasing elected officials, and competing among themselves to break stories about the mayor and City Council.

Competition, of course, has long been the engine of journalism. In my time covering City Hall, I was awed by the dogged, ceaseless competition between reporters posted here for the Inquirer and Daily News. Sure, they keep an eye on what those in the broadcast media were doing, as well the weeklies and, more recently, the bloggers and politically-minded websites like phillymag.com. But for decades, the fiercest competition that drove the dailies was simply between each other. It was the Inquirer versus the Daily News. Read more »

Newspaper Guild Offers to Buy Philadelphia Daily News

Daily News

The union that represents journalists at Philly’s biggest newspapers is — once again — offering to buy the Daily News, this time in the wake of announced layoffs at the company. A spokesman for owner Gerry Lenfest, however, said he is uninterested in selling.

“We would like to commence negotiations for a sale of the Daily News immediately,” Lisa A. Lori, the guild’s attorney, wrote in a Thursday letter (below) to Terry Egger, the new publisher at Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the paper.

Such a purchase, she wrote, “will help mitigate the loss of employment for a substantial number of individuals and it will help PMN shed an asset that, based on the number of layoffs of Daily News employees … it appears PMN has little interest in.”

The letter was obtained Thursday afternoon by Philadelphia magazine. Bill Ross, executive director of the guild, confirmed the letter’s authenticity, but offered few details.

“At this point it’s probably premature for me to comment,” he said.

A spokesman for PMN, however, said the offer would be rejected: “Mr. Lenfest has consistently made it clear he has no interest in selling the Daily News.” (See the official response letter, below.) Read more »

Layoffs Slam Philly.com, Daily News Hardest

inquirer-daily-news-philly-com-940x540

As expected, layoffs were announced at Philadelphia Media Network on Wednesday afternoon — nearly 50 journalists and other workers at the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com told they will lose their jobs as the company restructures.

The Newspaper Guild said Philly.com and the Daily News were the most heavily hit, each losing 17 staffers — the website losing roughly half its production staff — while the Inquirer was slated to lose a dozen people. The list of journalists losing their jobs included a number of familiar bylines, as well as behind-the-scenes staffers.

“I think it devastates the whole operation,” said Bill Ross, director of the guild, which represents journalists at the papers. “They wiped out the whole Daily News copy desk. It’s ridiculous.”

A Daily News journalist added: “DN is left with literally a handful of people. It’s staggering.”

“A blood bath,” added a Philly.com staffer.

Read more »

Big Layoffs to Hit Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com

inquirer-daily-news-philly-com-940x540Philadelphia Media Network will lay off 46 members of the Newspaper Guild, the guild notified members Monday afternoon.

Journalists at the company — which owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — had been prepared for news of layoffs since Friday, when new publisher Terry Egger said job reductions would be part of a restructuring that includes the merging of the three newsrooms. Read more »

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