Inquirer Situation Officially an “Ugly Melodrama”

Says USA Today: "a Harvard Business School case study of how not to run a company."

USA Today weighed in on the “messy soap opera” that is the current goings-on at the Inquirer, saying that the whole situation “reads like a Harvard Business School case study of how not to run a company.” Not as bad as Stu Bykofsky’s invective against Joel Mathis, but still, ouch.

Rem Rieder, the author of the piece and a former Inky reporter and deputy metro editor at the Philadelphia Bulletin, breaks down all the missteps he’s noted, ranging from concerns about Lexie Norcross’s management capabilities with to the “war” between Interstate General Media’s competing products:

• The only two members of the management committee that runs the newspaper’s parent company — two of its six wealthy owners — are at war.

• The paper’s publisher and editor were at war until the publisher abruptly fired the editor last week, triggering a firestorm. Actually, they still are at war.

• The Inquirer and the Daily News, its sister paper, are at war with the company’s dominant website,

• The daughter of one of those dueling management committee members runs that website.

• The longtime companion of the other management committee member is the city editor of the Inquirer and a staunch ally of the now-fired editor.

• One of the management committee members and another of the owners have filed a suit seeking to reinstate the editor and kick the publisher to the curb.

• A petition to bring back the editor has been signed by scores of distinguished journalists. On Tuesday, Teamsters who work for the paper picketed their employer.

• And the company’s human resources department has directed the staff not to talk about all of this astonishing turmoil. That’s right: A newspaper company is telling its staff to stiff-arm reporters.

All that adds up to an ever-weakening city paper that “feels like a rebel province that needed to be put down,” and all at a time when a city like Philadelphia needs nothing more than strong reportage from a cohesive unit of reporters and editors. Though, to be fair, there’s never been a time when that wasn’t true.

Rieder is right, however, when he says we don’t need a news outlet that is “transfixed by its own melodrama,” but rather one focused on providing us with information about the city’s most prevalent issues. Ditto goes for much of the media covering the apparent demise of the Inky, blog post after blog post hitting the web looking to simply admonish the situation, or ruminate about it, or lament. Or, in some cases, hurl ad hominem attacks with a “get off my lawn” tone.

Some day soom, though, if we don’t starting taking the advice of guys like Rieder over the invective of guys like Stu, there won’t be a lawn to stand on. But, hey, at least the blogs will have something to write about. [USA Today]