Philly press fights back

Troubled reporters and staff members at Philadelphia newspapers began circulating a petition against censorship this past Thursday night. By Saturday, about 300 newsroom employees (80 percent of the newsroom) had signed the petition.

The petition came in response to actions taken by former governor and mayor Ed Rendell and his party, including Flyers owner Ed Snider and George Norcross, who are currently in negotiations with the Philadelphia Media Network.

Petitioning journalists said the group censored  a blog post written by reporter David Gambacorta of the Daily News in Philly on Feb. 7. The post originally stated that “mega-developer” Bart Blanstein intended to bid against Rendell for ownership of PMN.

According to Philadelphia Citypaper online, Gambacorta soon found his post replaced with a “mysterious statement” that read: “The company is not in discussion with Bart Blastein.”

Journalists working for PMN already harbored concerns about welcoming such powerful owners.

The censorship, therefore, only added fuel to the fire. Their petition includes a public statement which reminds current and future owners that “newspapers serve more than private ends. The news we publish is crucial to civic life, to holding the powerful accountable, to democracy itself.”

The petition goes on to say: “Regardless of who emerges as our new owners, they must guarantee that the integrity of our reporting will never be sacrificed to serve their private or political interests.”

Rendell, however, shows no signs of receiving the message.

“You’d think this was the first time some political people owned a newspaper,” he said in an interview with Inquirer. “People are shocked that we would take over a newspaper and maybe have some editorial input.”

This comment as well as comments that he is “sickened” by press coverage and refuses to converse with the press concerning the sale of PMT anymore simply add fuel to the fire for concerned journalists.

At first, editors warned that journalists speaking out against censorship on Twitter and other forums would be fired.

Clearly, this man does not grasp or respect the mission of the press. There is virtually no way the Philly press can operate effectively to protect its citizens against big business and government when big business and government are using the press for their own gains.

By petitioning, journalists are, essentially, fighting for the integrity of their jobs. Should the petition fail in its mission, the Philadelphia press may simply become a puppet of Rendell and his cronies.

A bit of a dramatic outlook – but essentially true.

What do you guys think? What does this incident say about ownership of newspapers by big businesses? How could Rendell have handled the situation differently? Should he even be allowed to buy the paper now that he has shown such biases against free speech?

Is it really fair that somebody can buy a paper and tamper with its freedom of speech simply because they have power and money?

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2 Comments on “Philly press fights back”

  1. ugakramer425 says:

    Nice piece. The past few weeks’ blog posts seem to have sparked theme “where to draw the line” and this topic is no different.

    The highest responsibility of a journalist is to not only be accurate, but fair. This ensures that the audience obtains all the facts needed in order to make rational decisions (and/or opinions). Limiting that seems extremely corrupt. This Philadelphia newspaper story is somewhat similar to mine on the death of Marie Colvin. In both scenarios, there is someone attempting to prevent the spread of news. The only vast difference is that in Syria (my blog), they’re willing to kill in order to get what they want. Other than that, these two stories parallel in many aspects.

  2. dws1210 says:

    It sounds like Rendell is essentially attempting to buy the news. However, I agree with the concerned Philadelphia journalists in that the news is not something that should be bought. It is a matter of public concern and should be left out of by greedy politicians’ biases such as Rendell’s. Of course, news media has to be owned by somebody, but it is my opinion that they should have as little influence over the actual content of the news as possible. Journalists should be able to report on subjects as they see fit, within reason. Editing something as trivial as a blog post concerning a competitor buying out his market is not necessary and shows how selfish Rendell is. The way that he said “and maybe have some editorial input” is a definite understatement to the way he handled this situation. Yes, owners should have editorial input, but only when it is absolutely necessary.


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