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 »

New Editor Named at Philly.com

Eric Ulken wide

Eric Ulken is the new editor of Philly.com, the website’s parent company announced today.

The announcement came one day after Mike Topel announced he is departing the position. Ulken had served at Topel’s side as Philly.com’s director of digital strategy since 2014. His old position will be consolidated with his new duties.

“Effective immediately, Eric Ulken will take on oversight of the editorial operations of Philly.com in addition to his existing product strategy and audience development responsibilities,” Stan Wischnowski, vice president of news operations for Philadelphia Media Network, said in a memo distributed today to the newsroom. “In this expanded role, Eric will be a more active presence in the newsroom, helping to guide our digital transformation and build our capacity to deliver the most relevant and useful journalism to the right audiences in the right formats at the right time.”

Ulken previously served in digital posts at the Seattle Times and L.A. Times.

“Philly.com has great traffic, and a great audience in the sense that it’s a desirable audience for advertisers,” he told Philly Mag in 2014. “It’s an audience that we think has a lot of potential to grow and to engage.  I think of Philly.com as having a lot of potential as a premium product, both for users and advertisers. A place where we can run the big Sunday stories and we can also cover breaking news in an effective and compelling way.”

Read Wischnowski’s full memorandum below:

From Stan Wischnowski, Vice President of News Operations for PMN:

As you may have heard, Mike Topel will be leaving PMN for a new editing opportunity at NBC in New York. His last day will be Jan. 15. Mike, an Inquirer veteran who held many editing roles here before working a short time at Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome, brought new energy and instilled a collaborative spirit to Philly.com and the other newsrooms during his time as the website’s executive editor. I’m grateful for his contributions and wish him the best.

Effective immediately, Eric Ulken will take on oversight of the editorial operations of Philly.com in addition to his existing product strategy and audience development responsibilities. In this expanded role, Eric will be a more active presence in the newsroom, helping to guide our digital transformation and build our capacity to deliver the most relevant and useful journalism to the right audiences in the right formats at the right time. He brings to this effort years of experience in change management initiatives in other newsrooms.

Eric came to Philly from The Seattle Times, where he was the director of product management for seattletimes.com, overseeing the business performance of The Times’ flagship digital product, including revenue from advertising and subscriptions. Before that he served as the paper’s assistant managing editor for digital, directing the producer team and coordinating the newsroom’s overall digital strategy.

Eric was previously the editor for interactive technology at the Los Angeles Times, where he led the creation of the Data Desk, a cross-functional team of developers, designers, and reporters responsible for producing data-driven journalism projects. He also served as the managing editor for news at latimes.com

Under Eric’s direction, Philly.com successfully unveiled a mobile site relaunch last month and will launch a full redesign by the end of March. He is one of the team leaders of the Temple-Knight digital transformation project involving PMN, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Miami Herald and The Dallas Morning News.

Some details of the transition remain to be worked out. The critical real-time desk initiative that Mike has been overseeing proceeds apace under the direction of Gabe Escobar and Frank Kummer, and we will have more to share about that very soon.

Philly.com Editor Departs for NY Job

mike topel

Mike Topel, the executive editor of Philly.com, is departing that position for a job in New York.

A spokesperson for Philadelphia Media Network confirmed today that Topel will start his new job on Jan. 18. Details of the new venture are still under wraps.

“While we hate to lose him because of his significant impact here at PMN, we wish him the very best in his next chapter,” PMN’s Amy Buckman said in a statement emailed to Philly Mag. 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 »

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 »

Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News Newsrooms to Merge

inquirer daily news newspapers

Updated with comment from PMN. See below.

The newsrooms of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com will merge, the publisher of the papers told reporters today, part of a radical restructuring of parent company Philadelphia Media Network that will include job reduction in “every area” of the company, the city’s biggest news organization.

The Inquirer and Daily News will continue to publish as separate newspapers, however. Stan Wischnowski, the vice president of news operations for PMN, will reportedly be in charge of the combined newsroom.

Terry Egger, the new publisher of Philadelphia Media Network, made the announcement in a 10:30 a.m. meeting with the company’s journalists. A separate 3:30 p.m. meeting was scheduled for remaining employees unable to make the morning meeting. Read more »

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