Journalists at Philly papers sign statement opposing “censored” coverage as Rendell expresses surprise over reaction

Inquirer | Philadelphia City Paper | Business Insider
Journalists at the Philadelphia papers are speaking out against editorial interference they say has “compromised and censored” coverage of the company’s likely sale to a group of owners led by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Rendell told the Inquirer, “You’d think this was the first time some political people owned a newspaper … People are shocked that we would take over a newspaper and maybe have editorial input.”

Nearly 300 editorial employees of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com — about 80 percent of the newsroom — are publicly opposing the interference and ask that the new owners commit to editorial independence. That contingent includes two former managing editors of the papers and nine Pulitzer Prize winners. And now dozens of former staffers have signed on to the statement as well, including four former top editors of the Inquirer and the author of “Black Hawk Down.”

Three journalists are credited with circulating the statement: Craig McCoy, Joseph Tanfani and Wendy Ruderman, who spoke with Philadelphia City Paper about the impetus for it.

“Initially there was a lot of fear and people were very timid. And then when the New York Times thing hit, it was just a free-for-all,” says Wendy Ruderman, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the Daily News and petition organizer. “Larry Platt essentially called Osberg a liar, and nothing happened to Larry.”

The Philly journalists’ full statement is below.The Inquirer’s Mike Armstrong reports that publisher Greg Osberg denies the censorship but supports the journalists’ commitment to the Bill of Rights. His statement is also below. || Update: Blogger Laura Goldman says she saw Ed Rendell on Saturday and he told her, “I don’t think that we will buying” the papers. But Rendell spokesperson Kirstin Snow told Daily News reporter David Gambacorta that his group is still bidding for the papers, and that he didn’t expect the “offhand comment” to be published. Rendell also told Gambacorta he was “sickened” by the coverage and wouldn’t speak to the press any more about the sale. The Inquirer reports Sunday that there may be another bidder for the papers, who could have offered to pay more than Rendell’s group.  || Timeline: Philadelphia newspapers have five owners in six years || Related: Inquirer, Daily News to share content, raising questions about future of separate Philly papers | Philly papers to lose 37 positions through buyouts, layoffs | Sale of Philly papers will test whether local owners can stay out of the newsroom

Updated statement from Philadelphia Media Network Journalists

As Philadelphia Media Network goes up for sale, hundreds of journalists at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com have signed a public statement insisting that the integrity of news reporting at the papers and web site must be guaranteed.

In a statement signed by nearly 300 editorial employees – an overwhelming majority – the journalists said they had “watched with dismay” as coverage of the sales process was “compromised and censored” in recent weeks. Articles dealing with the sale were ordered killed or had content removed by corporate management over the objections of editors.

The statement said that any new ownership must pledge that the paper’s reporting would never be improperly altered to reflect the “private or political interests of owners.”

Influential business and political figures, including former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, have been bidding to buy the papers.

The public statement was signed by a broad array of staffers, from top editors to reporters to news assistants. Those signing included nine Pulitzer Prize winners. UPDATE: More than 100 alumni of The Inquirer and Daily News have now signed on in support; their names are below.

Here is the statement:

As the only business mentioned in the Bill of Rights, newspapers serve more than private ends. The news we publish is crucial to civic life, to holding the powerful accountable, to democracy itself.

That information must be gathered and printed without fear or favor. As The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com have gone up for sale once again, we watched with dismay as our own coverage of the process was compromised and censored. Our employers promise this won’t happen again. That must be the case.

Top political and business leaders are now competing to buy Philadelphia Media Network. 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. One thing must be non-negotiable in any sale: our bond of trust with our readers.

Here are the signers of the public statement.

Alejandro Alvarez, George Anastasia, Phil Anastasia, Ann Applegate, Mike Armstrong, Jenice Armstrong, Tony Auth, Tom Avril, John Baer, Ed Barkowitz, Richard Barron, Karin Barry, Becky Batcha, Sandy Bauers, Chuck Bausman, William Bender, Joe Berkery, Frank Bertucci, Kevin Bevan, Daniel Biddle, Michelle Bjork, Kathy Boccella, Les Bowen, Kamala Boyer, Barbara Boyer, Kathy Brady Shea, Chris Brennan, Bob Brookover, Harold Brubaker, Michael Bryant, Will Bunch, Kevin Burkett, Stacey Burling, Melanie Burney, Cynthia Burton, Julie Busby, Stu Bykofsky, Anthony Campisi, Sam Carchidi, George Carter, Bob Caughron, Sterling Chen, Rose Ciotta, Sandy Clark, Ed Colimore, Russell Cooke, Bob Cooney, Porus Cooper, Joshua Cornfield, Ron Cortes, Angela Couloumbis, Nick Cristiano, Chuck Darrow, Carolyn Davis, Michael Days, Virginia Delavan, Francisco Delgado, Dan DeLuca, Tirdad Derakhshani, Jim DeStefano, Rhonda Dickey, Dana DiFilippo, Joseph DiStefano, Hai Do, Peter Dobrin, Sam Donnellon, Lidija Dorjkhand, Sally Downey, Melissa Dribben, John Duchneskie and Ellen Dunkel.

Molly Eichel, Steve Elliott, Jenny Ewing Elliott, Stephen Falk, Stephanie Farr, Joelle Farrell, Mark Fazlollah, Bob Fernandez, Kevin Ferris, Robert Filarsky, Tony Fitts, Thomas Fitzgerald, Maureen Fitzgerald, Faye Flam, Bob Ford, Chip Fox, Paula Fuchsberg, T.J. Furman, Kerith Gabriel, David Gambacorta, Joe Gambardello, John Gayusky, Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel, Matt Gelb, Jeffrey Gelles, Howard Gensler, Dan Geringer, Rita Giordano, Sarah Glover, Steve Glynn, Josh Gohlke, Michael Gold, Nathan Gorenstein, Troy Graham, Kristen Graham, Tom Gralish, Ellen Gray, Cynthia Greer, Kia Gregory, Donald Groff, Dan Gross, Thom Guarnieri, Kathy Hacker, Dan Hardy, Denise Harper, Michael Harrington, Al Hasbrouck, Linda Hasert, Alan Heavens, Jan Hefler, Karen Heller, Cynthia Henry, Chris Hepp, Miriam Hill, Ed Hille, Michael Hinkelman, Rich Hofmann, Kristin Holmes, Harold Jackson, Michael Jensen, Annette John-Hall, Gar Joseph, Joe Juliano, Amy Junod, Reid Kanaley, Rob Kandel, Vincent Kasper, Matt Katz, Richard Kauffman, Steve Kelly, Larry Kesterson, William Kettelberger, Yong Kim, Michael Klein, Rebecca Klock, Tracy Koontz, aMark Kram, Frank Kummer and Chris Kupferer.

Craig LaBan, Barbara Laker, Brent Larson, Mike Leary, Esther Lee, Vance Lehmkuhl, Brian Leighton, Debi Licklider, Jennifer Lin, Ken Lockerby, Emilie Lounsberry, Linda Loyd, Alfred Lubrano, Phillip Lucas, Catherine Lucey, Tom Mahon, David Maialetti, Alen Malott, Dianna Marder, Kelly Margolis, John Martin, Diane Mastrull, Michael Matza, Andrew Maykuth, Pat Mazurek, Craig McCoy, Marie McCullough, Lauren McCutcheon, Jeffrey McLane, Joanne McLaughlin, Pat McLoone, Tom McNamara, Drew McQuade, Regina Medina, Michael Mercanti, David Merrell, Virginia Micke, Gary Miles, John Mitchell, Chris Mondics, Robert Moran, Jack Morrison, Peter Mucha, Matt Mullin, David Murphy, Clem Murray, Walter Naedele, Jason Nark, Michael Newall, Paul Nussbaum, Rick O’Brien, David O’Reilly, James Osborne, Maria Panaritis, Suzette Parmley, Mark Perner, Ryan Petzar, Nancy Phillips, Sinclair Pitts, Mike Placentra, Michael Plunkett, Ronnie Polaneczky, Keith Pompey, Gary Potosky, Michael Potter, David Lee Preston, Leigh Primavera, Ashley Primis, Dylan Purcell, Andrew Putz and John Quinn.

Lou Rabito, David Ralis, Jan Ransom, Amy Raudenbush, Steven Rea, Kevin Riordan, Jim Remsen, Daniel Rodgers, Jeremy Roebuck, Matt Romanoski, Avery Rome, Amy S. Rosenberg, Lynn Ross, Michael Rozansky, Dan Rubin, Trudy Rubin, Cathy Rubin, Wendy Ruderman, Roslyn Rudolph, Valeria Russ, Inga Saffron, Stephan Salisbury, Don Sapatkin, April Saul, Mari Schaefer, Michael Schaffer, Addam Schwartz, David Sell, Frank Seravalli, Howard Shapiro, Julie Shaw, Phil Sheridan, Jeff Shields, Cheryl Shugars, Ted Silary, Darran Simon, Joseph Slobodzian, Elizabeth Slocum, John Smallwood, Robin Smith, Virginia Smith, Susan Snyder, Jon Snyder, Allison Steele, Albert Stumm, Scott Sturgis, David Sullivan, David Swanson, Susan Syrnick, Jonathan Tamari, Joseph Tanfani, Jonathan Tannenwald, Miriam Tarver, John Tierno, Brian Toolan, Michele Tranquilli, Reid Tuvim, Jacqueline Urgo, Claudia Vargas, Bob Vetrone, Michael Vitez, Jane M. Von Bergen, Bob Warner, David Warren, Ed Weiner, Jonathan Weir, Elizabeth Wellington, Suzanne Weston, Frank Wiese, Signe Wilkinson, Michael Wirtz, Tony Wood, Martha Woodall, Deb Woodell, Amy Worden, Monica Yant Kinney, Morgan Zalot, Mike Zebe and Barry Zukerman.

UPDATE: The statement has also now been signed by a number of former journalists at The Inquirer and Daily News. These include: Eugene Roberts, Maxwell King, Robert J. Rosenthal, William K. Marimow, Gene Foreman, Thomas J. Gibbons Jr., David Zucchino, Tom Ginsberg, Anthony Gnoffo, Yvonne Latty, Christine Johnson-Hall, Phaedra Trethan, Paula Goff, Jeff Weinstein, David Bianculli, Mary Bishop, Ken Bookman, Clea Benson, Marguerite Del Giudice, Clark DeLeon, Donald Drake, Tim Dwyer, Carole Fleck, Bob Frump, Bill Eddins, William Thomas Cain, Liz Lacey-Osler, Jim Naughton, Jodi Enda, Dick Polman, Luisita Lopez Torregrosa, Jeff Brown, Mark Wagenveld, Ann Kolson, Joyce Gemperlein, Henry J. Holcomb, Murray Dubin, Thomas J. Walsh, Rich Aregood, Linda K. Harris, Hank Klibanoff, Margaret Grace, Kathleen Shea Aregood, Howard Goodman, Peter Nicholas, Bob Schwabach, Glenn Guzzo, Gerald Jordan, Bill Lyons, Frederick Mann, Bob Martin, Dan Meyers, Arlene Morgan, Rick Nichols, Michael Pakenham, Charles Petzoid, Dana Reddington, John Russial, Joel Shurkin, Jane Shoemaker, Michael Sokolove, Trish Wilson, Bill Wunsch, Doreen Carvajal, Gwen Florio, Leslie West Hoffecker, Dan LeDuc, Gary Farrugia, Debbie M. Price, Larry C. Price, Joe Logan, Stephen Seplow, Joyce Gemperlein, Jill Gerston, Butch Ward, Mark Bowden, CS Manegold, Rick Lyman, Tim Weiner, Jill Kirschenbaum, Chris Gray Faust, Fran Dauth, Monica Rhor, Sharon O’Neal, Patricia McLaughlin, David Cohen, Tom Ferrick Jr., Don Clippinger.

Statement from Greg Osberg

The public statement issued by journalists at Philadelphia Media Network is a clear message, embracing the protection and promotion of free speech. We join all journalists in support of this mission, with an unwavering commitment to preserving a bond of continued trust and loyalty with our print and digital readers. There is no city where a pledge to both protect and advance the first amendment of the Bill of Rights is more important than in Philadelphia. Philadelphia Media Network is honored to serve this city and region. While we don’t agree that censorship has taken place at PMN, we support our journalists in a unified pledge upholding the Bill of Rights.

Watch former Inquirer journalist Buzz Bissinger on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with Howard Kurtz

Bissinger tells host Howard Kurtz, “William Randolph Hearst didn’t have the pedigree that Ed [Rendell] has”:

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