Let Us Now Praise the Inquirer and Daily News

From Carl Greene to school district shenanigans, both papers are doing exactly what we need them to do: reporting the truth

“Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas.” —H.L. Mencken

I say, big ups to the Inquirer and Daily News!

And when’s the last time you heard somebody say that?

The reporting at both newspapers on the shenanigans of Carl Greene and the shadowy atmosphere that his presence precipitated inside the city’s housing authority has been nothing less than splendid. [SIGNUP]

All praise and glory to reporters Catherine Lucey, Craig R. McCoy, Nancy Phillips, Nathan Gorenstein, John Shiffman, Jennifer Lin, Mark Fazlollah, John Sullivan, Jeff Shields, Thomas Fitzgerald, Karen Heller, Paul Davies, Barbara Laker, Wendy Ruderman, Elmer Smith, Will Bunch, Christopher Hepp, Monica Yant Kinney, Ronnie Polaneczky, James Osborne, Mark Fazlollah, Jeff Gammage and Doron Taussig. (And if I missed anyone, email at once.)

The collective reporting by both newsrooms on Greene and his twisted reign at PHA has been riveting on its own merit, but it’s also produced unexpected sidebars filled with lots of entertaining reading. It’s even forced John Street back out in the open (where, love him or hate him, he most definitely belongs), and did I really read that he would like to see Sam Katz run for mayor?

Aggressive reporting does crazy things. It shakes things up, unravels truth, makes some people scramble for cover and others sing like canaries. Most importantly, though, it informs the public and gets people to read.

The getting people to read part couldn’t come at a better time. Then again you could say that about most any time over the last five years.

Few topics are more cheerlessly exhausting than the death spiral of print for those of us who once made a living at it, even more so for those who still do.

Yet speculation about what the passing of print will mean for all of us and what could come next (along with the wearisome corollary: how will the “next” be monetized?) goes on unabated.

Talk about the future of the written word takes place not just in newsrooms, on Romenesko and on bar stools at the Pen & Pencil, but among the non-journalist civilian set, too.

That’s because we’re all seeing with alarming alacrity and rapidity now what happens when political televangelists are watched more than journalists are read: inanity prevails, lies become truth and hate becomes justified.

The President becomes a Muslim who wasn’t born here.

The Koran justifies violence and calls for a jihad against Christianity.

Hispanics have no interest in learning the language or embracing our laws.

If we hadn’t bothered to read philly.com, would we know what’s alleged to have taken place inside our own housing authority?

If not for the relentless digging of both the Inquirer and Daily News, would we know what goes on inside our schools? Would we know about the self-interest that often engulfs the top of the school system?

Reporters, not commentators, have always done the heavy lifting. But with newsrooms depleted and ownership unsteady, there comes the inevitable question every reporter must ask: Will I be able to make a living doing this next year?

Boiled down, the trouble with newspapers is this: the print edition still brings in the bulk of the revenue but no one under 35 reads one.

So the business operators of newspapers work over their websites like they’re creating an amped-up video game, hoping and praying that a heaping dose of glitz and flash will grab younger eyes.

Thus we get pictures of sexy singles on the home page for months.

And videos of babes hopping around in bikinis from one Shore point to the other.

In their search for the magic bullet, newspaper websites misfire repeatedly. That’s been the case with philly.com more often than not in recent years.

But these days, the Inquirer, the Daily News, philly.com—singularly, together, in tandem—is going with what got ’em there, with the one thing nobody else is doing because it takes time and money and skill.

Tireless reporting.


I say, keep it up.

The clicks will follow.

Tim Whitaker (twhitaker@mightywriters.org), a writer and editor, is the executive director of Mighty Writers.