Is Nancy Phillips Really the Bad Guy of the Inquirer Performance Review Flap?

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

At this point, there’s probably no journalist in Philadelphia you’d want to trade places with less than Nancy Phillips. Trouble just seems to follow her around these days.

Phillips (below), the city editor of the Inquirer, is also — somewhat famously — the companion of Lewis Katz, one of the paper’s feuding co-owners. In her role as city editor, she has also been involved in delivering job evaluations to many of the paper’s journalists. Given that most of those journalists have never before been given a job evaluation until this year, the task was bound to be touchy even in the best of times.

These are not the best of times at the paper. And so Phillips finds herself, once again, at the center of controversy.

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First-Ever Inquirer and Daily News Performance Reviews Rankle Newsroom

inquirer boxIn many workplaces, job evaluations are part of the routine, a once-a-year cause for heartburn and/or celebration of another year of hard work completed. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, though, aren’t run-of-the mill workplaces — and journalists at both papers are receiving what, for many of them, is a first-ever job evaluation.

It’s a brand-new process that has fueled rumors, challenged morale, and further disturbed the equilibrium of newsrooms already unsettled by legal feuding among the newspapers’ owners.

“In general, there is nothing wrong with a company evaluating its employees,” said Diane Mastrull, an Inquirer business writer, and an officer in the Newspaper Guild that represents journalists at both papers. “The problem is the chaotic, demoralizing context of this maiden evaluation.”

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Black & White and Dead All Over? The “Darth Vader of Journalism” Strikes Back




In the fall of 2007, I was asked to interview Norman Mailer at a Free Library book event. At the cocktail reception beforehand, I found myself huddled in conversation with the legendary author. He was, by now, a kindly old man, unsteady on his feet. I peppered Mailer with questions: We talked about the march on the Pentagon in 1967 that was the setting of his greatest book, Armies of The Night, a stinging critique of establishment journalism. He was charming and self-deprecating. There was little of that rebellious, pugnacious spirit that had come to be his calling card. Until, that is, we segued to the subject of newspapers, which were increasingly imperiled. In the Sixties, Mailer had founded the Village Voice because something new was desperately needed. He wanted to know: Where was today’s journalistic disruption?

“They get what they deserve,” he spat out. “When was the last time you read something in a newspaper — even in the vaunted New York Times — that made you think? America is allergic to ideas, and that’s not unrelated to the principal failing of journalism: It’s as if they don’t see it as their mission to publish anything interesting or stimulating or challenging. So I say, let them go. Good riddance.”

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Can Philly Newspapers Be Saved?
Should the Daily News Close?
Is There a Hero in the Ownership Battle?

inquirer-dailynews-owners-norcross-katz-marquee

Writer Steve Volk is a longtime observer of the Philadelphia media scene — so he brings a substantial foundation to this month’s Philly Mag print story that takes readers inside the furious battle for control of the city’s two major daily newspapers.  It is also, he swears, the end of his media reporting days.

He talked this week about what he learned reporting the story, what he’s learned from his time on the beat, and what’s needed to finally, fully save the Inquirer and Daily News once and for all.

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Newspaper Guild Jumps Into Inquirer / Daily News Ownership Fray

The-inquirer-building-with-sunset-reflecting

The Philadelphia Newspaper Guild, which represents more than 500 employees at the company, filed a petition to intervene today in their parent company’s ongoing ownership dispute.

A status hearing took place this morning at which attorney Lisa Lori appeared, representing the Guild. “The Guild has seen nothing but pay cuts [in recent years]” she said afterward. “Unpaid furloughs. … They want an equity stake.”

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Inquirer Ownership Battle: “Darling … Eliminate the Daily News

Lewis Katz (center) walks to court in November. Photo | AP / Matt Rourke.

Lewis Katz (center) walks to court in November. Photo | AP / Matt Rourke.

According to an email leaked to Philadelphia magazine, Nancy Phillips, as her long-time companion Lewis Katz was contemplating purchasing a controlling interest in the city’s biggest media company, made sweeping recommendations about strategies for turning around the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, including specific executive firings and the possible elimination of the Daily News.

“Darling,” the March 17, 2012 email, from Phillips to Katz, begins.

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It’s Time to End the Inky Ownership Battle

George Norcross IIIIf you care about Philadelphia’s newspapers — if you want to see the Inquirer and Daily News on the stands at your local Wawa, say, five years from now — let me suggest, ever so gently, that you root against Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest today as they head into yet another court showdown with the other owners of Interstate General Media.

This, of course, means rooting for George Norcross, and that’s a difficult proposition to sell because, well, he’s George Norcross, and, well, what else is there to say? One might as well root for the Death Star.

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Journalism That Mattered in Philadelphia, 2013

shutterstock_6397891

When I started the process of trying to determine the year’s top Philadelphia journalism, something surprising happened: I ran into a whole lotta “meh.”

To create the list, I undertook much the same process I did last year, reaching out to dozens of people in journalism, civic activism and politics to give me nominees. And what I heard from a few of my correspondents was this: It wasn’t much of a year for Philly journalism.

I have a theory about that: This may have been a year Philadelphia journalism simply disappeared too far up its own ass.

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Did Bill Marimow Ask for $1 Million to Leave the Inquirer?

Bill Marimow. Photo | AP / Joseph Kaczmarek

Bill Marimow. Photo | AP / Joseph Kaczmarek

The two sides in the dispute among owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com got hung up on one issue in last-ditch settlement talks: the fate of Inquirer editor Bill Marimow.

According to a person with knowledge of the negotiations, Marimow requested four years salary, equal to about $1 million, to vacate his editor’s position.

Attorney William Chadwick, who represented Marimow, rejects this account.

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Did Inquirer Editor Stage a Fake Standing Ovation for Bill Marimow?

BigTrial.net’s Ralph Cipriano has an intriguing scoop on what we over here at Philly Mag like to call the Inky Mess. When Bill Marimow returned to the Inquirer last week, he got a standing ovation. Reportedly, it wasn’t exactly spontaneous.

In a Dec. 7th email to Chris Bonanducci, vice president of human resources, Bill Ross, the Guild’s executive director, wrote, “when Bill Marimow’s return to the newsroom was announced, [Inquirer City Editor] Nancy Phillips went around the newsroom telling employees to give him a standing ovation.”"Some members were uncomfortable with this request, which of course seemed like an order when asked by the city editor,” Ross wrote. “Others have asked about her credibility after she admitted concocting a cover story about Marimow’s rehire during her testimony in the recent court case.”

Jay Devine, the PR man representing Marimow, showed his disdain for Cipriano’s reporting–where else?–in the comments section. ”We chose not to respond to your inquiry today based on our belief that your blog has consistently reported biased, one-sided and defamatory information. It is not a credible journalistic entity that subscribes to the principles of quality, fair and unbiased journalism. — Jay Devine.”

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