Is “Tainted Justice” Now Tainted?

It would appear that an Inquirer story killed last month by publisher Gerry Lenfest is back from the dead.

The Inquirer today has a lengthy front-page story examining why Thomas Tolstoy, a Philadelphia Police officer accused of sexually assaulting women in the Daily News’ Pulitzer-winning “Tainted Justice” series in 2009, is still on the force.

The Inky’s answer? A main witness gave federal officials inconsistent accounts of her encounter with Tolstoy. And her already shaky credibility was hurt when she told federal officials that Daily News reporters Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker had helped with bills and bought her gifts.

If true, investigators said, Ruderman and Laker could be seen as “enticing” the victim’s story, harming her credibility in court. And journalistic ethics generally prohibit giving gifts to sources. Ruderman said she did buy a bag of groceries for the woman, but that was the extent of the help.

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Are Good Phillies Teams Good for Newspapers?

Our pal Randy LoBasso has an interesting cover story this week at Philadelphia Weekly, suggesting that when the Philadelphia Phillies play poorly — as they are this season — there are economic ramifications:

For many of Citizens Bank Park’s workers, it’s simple trickle-down economics: pay rises and falls with the team’s fortune. These workers, who vend beer section-by-section, aisle-by-aisle, are paid based on tips and commission. Poor teams mean fewer fans. Fewer fans means less product moved. Less product means less pay—and as the team gets worse, for lots of these workers, their wallets get emptier.

Makes sense. And you know who else seems to suffer when the Phillies play poorly? The city’s newspapers.
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Stu Bykofsky’s Baggage

Byko's greatest hits, according to a recent Storify presentation about him.

Byko’s greatest hits, according to a recent Storify presentation about him.

I don’t think Stu Bykofsky is a bigot.

Let me rephrase: I don’t know if Stu Bykofsky is a bigot, because answering that question definitively requires knowing Stu’s heart — and nobody knows Stu’s heart (or, really, if he has one) except Stu.

Helen Gym did a thorough takedown last week of the longtime Daily News columnist’s rhetorical proclivities, but I suspect Bykofsky isn’t a bigot as the term is normally understood. Hating other groups of people requires caring, on some level, that they exist. I’m not so sure that’s the case with Stu.

He’s a provocateur. A troll, in the modern parlance. A naughty child in the body of a cranky old man. A commenter given pro status. Other people don’t seem to be “other people” in Stu’s columns so much as they are targets for his gleeful, unending bomb-throwing. (Full disclosure: He’s aimed those bombs at me on at least one occasion.)

The question, then, is this: Is he a worthy newspaper columnist?

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How the Daily News Cover Changed Overnight — Then Changed Again


It may be that this morning’s news is the first you’re hearing of the events in Ferguson, Mo. — how a young unarmed black man was shot by police, how residents protested, and how a militarized police force evidently overreacted — and if it is, well, prepare to get angry.

What’s interesting, from a Philly perspective, is how those events forced changes to the cover of today’s Philadelphia Daily News. Twice. And how that happened says a lot about how media works in 2014.

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Will Steacy: Chronicling Difficult Times at the Inquirer and Daily News

"DON SAPATKIN, DEPUTY SCIENCE & MEDICINE EDITOR, 6:44PM, 2009" by Will Steacy. Used with permission.

“DON SAPATKIN, DEPUTY SCIENCE & MEDICINE EDITOR, 6:44PM, 2009″ by Will Steacy. Used with permission.

Will Steacy isn’t a newspaper man, but he comes from a long line of them: Five generations’ worth — including an ancestor who started The Evening Dispatch in York nearly 140 years ago, and his own father, Thomas, a former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer who was laid off in 2011. “Since I am not in the newspaper business, I fear that this tradition will now come to an end,” he says.

Not that he isn’t an experienced media hand. While his father was still with the paper, Steacy began what turned into a five-year-project to photograph workers at the Inquirer and Daily News as they struggled with layoffs and other changes wrought by the collapse of the industry.

He’s now attempting to turn that project into a book — Deadline — and raising funds to complete it through Kickstarter.

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Metro Buys City Paper; Layoffs Ensue



[Update 2:35 pm] Jennifer Clark, who will be the associate publisher of both newspapers, said they will continue to operate with separate editorial identities.

“We are very much committed to maintaining separate editiorial style and function … with some obvious sharing of resources in the back office and production,” Clark told Philly Mag. “City Paper is great at investigative journalism, that’s a weekly format. Metro’s great at news you can use, quick bites of information. We plan to continue those unique styles, and the voice that they each have.”

Clark would not comment on the terms of the sale — no word on how much money changed hands — nor would she comment on the layoffs at City Paper that accompanied the sale. Publisher Nancy Stuski was reportedly out as part of the sale, as well as a staff writer, some sales and art staffers. Clark said only: “That was done by the selling party.”

She also declined to describe the process that culminated in the sale, saying discussions proceeded during “a pretty condensed period.”

“I think it’s a great thing for both parties to have a stronger collaboration, potential to work together where it matters, but to maintain two important brands in Philadelphia. It’ll provide a great service to our readers and our advertisers.”

[Original 2:09 pm] As expected,  Metro US, owner of the free Metro Philadelphia daily tabloid, has purchased City Paper, an alt-weekly and longtime fixture of the city’s media scene. A number of City Paper staffers were reportedly laid off as part of the deal.

Here’s the press release announcing the deal:

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The Long Fall of Philly Newspapers

Oh, what an ugly difference a dozen years can make.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the newspaper business was a happy one, fed by fat profit margins and a lack of competition in most cities. Philadelphia was no different: Yes, it had two major daily papers, but they shared an owner, reached different audiences — and maximized revenue.

What’s happened since then has been brutal. Everybody knows about the bankruptcy, revolving door ownership, and multiple rounds of layoffs that the Inquirer and Daily News — along with their digital cousin, — have experienced in recent years. But a new document obtained by Philadelphia magazine shows just how deep the pain went.

The document is called “Interstate General Media: EBITDA Trend – 2000-2012.” (EBITDA stands for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization” and is one way to measure a company’s profitability.) And it reveals how the finances of Philadelphia’s leading newspapers imploded during that time — a period covering four owners: Knight Ridder, McClatchy, Brian Tierney, and finally the hedge fund owners who brought the newspapers out of bankruptcy. The last two years — that include two different sets of local ownership, one headed by George Norcross, the more recent one by Gerry Lenfest — are not included.

The document reveals:

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