Inky Forcing Out the Over-50 Crowd to Hire Younger, Cheaper Reporters?

Late yesterday, longtime Philadelphia Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro found out that he’s been reassigned … to South Jersey. The 64-year-old Wyncote resident isn’t the only Inquirer staffer to get a new job. According to sources, other veteran staffers being moved include obituary writer Walter Naedele (West Chester), projects editor Kathy Hacker (South Jersey), and reporter Carolyn Davis (destination unknown), none of whom could be reached for comment. And more are expected.

Why the reassignments? A memo went out to Inquirer staff on Friday, stating: ” … we need to dramatically bolster our coverage in the South Jersey and Pennsylvania suburbs, and Business news in order to better serve our print and online readers and expand our audience.”

That’s certainly one motivation for yesterday’s reassignments. But some insiders have suspicions that newspaper management is just trying to make the older, longtime (read: expensive) staffers’ lives miserable so that they’ll quit, making room for cheaper replacements. “But I don’t think that’s going to work,” says one employee of Philadelphia Media Network Interstate General Media., the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News and “A lot of people need their jobs, and they will just do their best in their new assignments. This is a foolish play by the company, if, in fact, that is what they are trying to do.”

Bill Ross, executive director of the Newspaper Guild, the union representing the Inquirer staffers, says that he’s currently looking at the contract to “make sure that the company is in compliance.” He points out that reassignments are generally allowed in the contract and that they’ve occurred before. “And I’m sure this isn’t the end of all the moves,” he adds.

IGM spokesman Mark Block did not immediately return a call seeking comment.