Can the Inquirer Survive on Aging Testosterone?
For a news organization that says it’s all about the future, the Inquirer continues to be stuck in a boys-club mentality from the ’70s.
Two more members joined last week, as contributing columnists—Clark DeLeon, an Inky Golden Oldie, and Larry Platt, just replaced as editor of the Daily News. DeLeon wrote the daily “Scene” column for 20 years, until ’94. Platt was succeeded after 16 months by Michael Days, a DN Golden Oldie by way of the Inky.
DeLeon and Platt will take turns in the Sunday “Currents” section, a male-driven forum that has long featured only one woman, staffer Trudy Rubin. In a city the size of Philadelphia, it defies reason that the paper of record has not sought out more women’s voices.
Full disclosure: I worked at the Inquirer for 30 years, until 2009.
Under new ownership (again), the Inky masthead is still dominated by men: Bill Marimow and Bob Hall, brought back as editor and publisher. Newsroom buzz is that former owner Brian Tierney, who drove the papers into bankruptcy, may return as a consultant. The Three B-Boys ride again.
Newspapers are notoriously resistant to change, particularly when it involves gender. The New York Times named its first female executive editor only last year—37 years after women at the Times filed an historic federal class-action suit over inequities in salary, assignments and advancement.
The Inky’s first—and only—woman editor, Amanda Bennett, held the job from ’03 to ’06.
It’s not all bad news for women at the Inky, however. Ace investigative reporter Nancy Phillips was just named assistant to the publisher, a job Marimow once held, also under Hall. It’s a power position, to be sure, albeit not one with authority over the newsroom.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Phillips. She and Marimow have long been a mutual admiration society.
While Platt’s resignation from the People’s Paper, as of June 8th, came as no surprise to his staff, his repatriation to the Inky was unexpected.
“What kind of message does that send?” says longtime DN columnist Stu Bykofsky, a 40-year survivor. “‘I love the Daily News but I’d rather appear in the Inquirer?’ I don’t like that message very much. The Inquirer is still the enemy, in a way. You don’t go play on the enemy’s team.”
Platt did not see the Inky as the enemy. He was known to have said frequently to his troops: “Our competition is not the Inquirer. Our competition is extinction.”
During his short DN tenure, particularly toward the end, Platt appeared to have checked out, according to Bykofsky. “It didn’t seem to me that he had ever really become part of the Daily News DNA. He seemed somehow apart from it, even while he was leading it.”
Platt, whom sources say signed a non-disclosure agreement, has only this to say: “I came in to change a culture at a place … historically allergic to change, and the level of frustration and fear [by staff] is understandable. I was frustrated, too, by some of the changes we had to undertake, such as shrinking an already depleted staff by nearly 20 percent in less than a year.”
Still, Platt insists, “it’s all good. I’m a challenge addict, and now I’m on to the next one.” (He’s crashing on the manuscript for his book on ex-Phillies star pitcher Jamie Moyer; it’s due November 1st.)
Days, named Inky managing editor when Platt became DN editor, is universally liked and respected at both papers. Moments after his return was announced by Hall at a hastily called DN staff meeting, Days was greeted by thunderous applause. Earlier, when Hall had thanked Platt for his efforts, “there was not a sound,” Bykofsky says. “It was deafening.”
Equally deafening are the odds for the DN’s long-term survival. At the Inky, it’s a safe bet that it will be around for years to come, and that boys will still be calling the shots.