Billy Penn editor: Site ‘crossed that line’ with flip treatment of rape charge
In its newsletter Monday, the yet-to-launch Philadelphia news site Billy Penn wrote about a local lobbyist who's facing sexual assault charges.
Here's how it played that story:
WHAT IS THIS, A 'HOUSE OF CARDS' EPISODE?
You know the story: Boy meets girl, boy takes girl back to his office at 10 pm for a job interview (!), girl files rape charges. Or maybe you hadn't heard about the arrest of Andrew Marsico, a 40-year-old lobbyist for Greenlee Partners. He's accused of sexually assaulting a 27-year-old woman he met at the posh Union League on August 21; the alleged rape happened that same night, at his office at the Bellevue. Oh, and Mascio's married to Action News reporter Annie McCormick. Much more to come, but this sounds like the plot of a House of Cards episode...
— Erica Palan (@errrica) September 22, 2014
Reached by email, Billy Penn Editor Chris Krewson said he wrote the item, and said everyone on the publication's staff (which appears to have a 50/50 gender split) read the newsletter before it was published. "We're in the early stages of trying to find a voice for the newsletter -- and, when it launches, the site -- and one of our goals is to bring attention to important stories that might otherwise get lost in the relentless 24/7 news cycle."
"There's a natural tension when you combine voice with serious topics, and obviously, we crossed that line with some of our readers today," Krewson wrote. "That's why we want, need and will respond to that feedback."
"Obviously, we offended some people today in that effort, and we'll live and learn," Billy Penn founder Jim Brady said. "Anyone who gets the newsletter and visits the site -- when it's launched -- will see by our actions that we take all reader feedback seriously."
Billy Penn was originally named "Brother.ly" but changed it to Billy Penn. "Some people asked whether the site was going to be only for 'bros,' and whether it would cover women as well," Brady wrote last month. "Honestly, we didn't worry too much about that. The Greek translation of 'Philadelphia' is 'brotherly love,' so that concern seemed overcomable."
Disclosures: Brady hired me at TBD.com, and he's on Poynter's National Advisory Board.