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?

Lawsuit: McCaffery Lawyer Decries “Smear Campaign” by Inky

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Inquirer editor Bill Marimow (left, AP photo by Joseph Kaczmarek); Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery (right)

Philadelphia Inquirer editor Bill Marimow used the paper to conduct a “smear campaign” against Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and his wife, McCaffery’s lawyer said Tuesday in the official civil complaint filed against the paper.

Dion Rassias opened his blisteringly worded 60-page broadside (in full below) against the Inquirer and Daily News — alleging they defamed McCaffery and his wife, and cast them in a false light — with an attack on their shared ownership, Interstate General Media.

“Philadelphia is unfortunately a one-horse media town because both major daily newspapers are owned by the same entities; that means that the Defendants can write whatever they want, whenever they want to, and their publications can only be held in check by the legal system,” Rassias wrote. “This case is all about media accountability for publishing smear pieces.”

But on Wednesday, Marimow defended the paper and its reporting. “The Inquirer’s stories were accurate, thorough and fair and examined an important issue in the administration of justice in Pennsylvania,” he said in an email to Philadelphia magazine.

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The Inquirer’s Journalism Is in Real Trouble

AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Kathleen Kane. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewing an Inquirer journalist about some bit of newsroom dysfunction — there’s always some bit of newsroom dysfunction — when she expressed some concern that the company’s ownership fracas would end up undermining the paper’s journalism.

It wasn’t so much a fear of meddling by the paper’s owners; you can pretty much depend on newspaper journos to rebel at the first hint of editorial interference. The problem, she suggested, was an absence of strength: In the good old days of long-tenured, deep-pocketed owners who were in the business for the long haul, a journalist could go out and dig for muck, then print it, knowing there were plenty of resources to back him or her up if some offended party decided to get litigious.

With the Inquirer’s ownership divided against itself, she wondered, would there be enough resources to support those hard-nosed journalists? And if not, she said, what would become of the paper’s accountability journalism — the kind of investigations into public officials and their decisions that remains a hallmark of the paper even in its diminished state? She was fearful.

And now it seems we might find the answers to her questions.

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Is Kathleen Kane the Next Public Official to File Suit Involving the Inky?

NBC10 reports that PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane has hired a law firm to represent her in a possible defamation suit, following this week’s Philadelphia Inquirer report that she abandoned a sting operation in which several Philly Democrats were caught on tape taking cash payments. Attorney Tom Sprague told the station he has been hired, along with his father, Richard, to represent Kane in the matter:

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McCaffery’s Lawyer: Official Inquirer Complaint Coming Next Week

A defense lawyer’s motion to have every Philadelphia judge recused from a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice’s lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer has had at least one effect — the cancellation of a Wednesday afternoon hearing on motions in the case. Judge Nina Padilla said the recusal motion had forced her to kick the case up to a presiding judge in the district.

The hearing might’ve fizzled anyway. Lawyers were set to argue over motions requiring Justice Seamus McCaffery to file a specific complaint against the Inquirer. McCaffery’s lawyer, Dion Rassias, said after Wednesday’s short hearing that he had obtained needed information from the Inquirer to proceed with his filing.

“We’re moving full speed ahead on the complaint,” Rassias said, estimating it would be filed early next week.

Rassias was apparently the only representative of either party to attend Wednesday’s hearing.

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Defense Lawyer Seeks Recusal of Every Judge in Philly

A defense lawyer in Seamus McCaffery’s lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer is asking that every judge in Philadelphia be recused from the case.

Richard Sprague, lawyer for Intertrust GCN, a company owned by Inky co-owner Lewis Katz, filed the motion Friday (below). In it, he notes that McCaffery — now a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — was previously a judge in the First Judicial District that Philadelphia, between 1993 and 2003, and has since participated in judicial reform efforts here. McCaffery’s brother, Daniel, is currently a judge in the district.

Sprague cited other ties between McCaffery, his wife, and the Philadelphia courts — ties, he said, that would undermine public confidence unless the case were assigned to a judge from outside the county.

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Kane Sting Controversy Isn’t Going Away

PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane tried to clear the boards Monday, holding a press conference in which she said that Philly Democratic lawmakers who had been targeted in a sting operation had probably committed crimes — but reiterating that the investigation was too flawed to proceed with prosecution. That won’t be the end of the story.

The controversy began Sunday with a Philadelphia Inquirer story detailing how Kane had abandoned the sting operation, in which those lawmakers were heard on tape accepting large cash gifts that were never officially reported on state ethics forms. On Monday, the Committee of Seventy called for a new probe in the case.

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Kane Blasts Inky Story on Abandoned Sting

AP Photo | Matt Rourke

AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Sunday blasted a long and detailed Philadelphia Inquirer story reporting she had abandoned a sting operation—started under her predecessor—that had caught several Democratic Philadelphia-area state legislators  on tape accepting cash gifts. No one was charged in operation. Kane, also a Democrat, responded that the case had been “botched” and even racist in scope, adding that even federal officials had refused to prosecute the cases.

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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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