Pulse: Let Them Eat Cookies

When Amanda Bennett came to the Inquirer in 2003, reporters were excited by their new editor’s résumé: a career at the Wall Street Journal, authorship of thoughtful books, two Pulitzers. But since then, she has drifted out of view. (Staffwide e-mails slowed to a trickle in 2004 without explanation.) With newsroom enthusiasm waning, the editor has turned to a grandmatronly solution: baking cookies.

After the newspaper eliminated 15 percent of its employees last fall, Bennett, 53, invited the remaining staff to join her for a chat over “milk and cookies” near the copy desk. “No agenda,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Just Fig Newtons and Oreos.” A few days later, Bennett sent another invitation to the staff, this time for a holiday party of “punch and cookies” at her Queen Village home. Invitees were asked to register for one of five shifts — an effort, she wrote, to help move the large staff through her small house. Plus, “It will also let me know how many cookies to bake!”

When Bennett held a similar party in 2004, reporters rushed to sign up; this year, it appears few did. Two days after the initial invite, Bennett sent a reminder and an increasingly desperate appeal for RSVPs, and two days after that, a message headed “last chance” — “to tell me your favorite kind of cookie.” Attendees were treated to alcoholic punch and a wide variety of cookies described by one reporter as “fine, but not remarkable. And one would think, with all the baking she’s been doing lately, that they would be.”