New owners bring Bill Marimow back to The Philadelphia Inquirer

Bill Marimow is returning to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Marimow, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, was editor of the Inquirer from 2006 to October 2010, when he was removed from the position by Greg Osberg the day before new owners took over.

The Inquirer’s Bob Warner reported at the time that Osberg wanted a leader with expertise in digital and print journalism.

Marimow said then, “The new CEO has the absolute prerogative to select an editor, and Greg has exercised his prerogative. … It’s a prerogative I understand and respect.”

In June 2011, Marimow went to Arizona State University to lead the Carnegie-Knight News21 digital journalism program.

Now the new owners are bringing him back.

In a telephone interview, Lewis Katz and George Norcross, two of the local investors who now own the papers, spoke of the need to restore the Philadelphia properties.

“First, you build employee morale,” said Katz. “You get a team going, the team buys into the business model or recommends changes. Secondly, you have patient capital so the banks don’t get in the way. Third, you need luck. Luck that your business model doesn’t face terrible economic times or terrible high interest times.”

They need to make sure, Norcross said, that the newspapers can “compete with the nation’s great publications.”

“There’s no conflict between making money and having a civic responsibility,” said Katz. “To exercise a civic responsibility you have to make money.” Newspapering, he said, “is a very expensive proposition.”

“I think you’re going to find specific evidence of our investment in this enterprise in a multimillion-dollar way,” Norcross said. “We’re not cutters, we’re people who want to grow.”

Contrary to recent reporting, Norcross said, the company is not planning future layoffs. That “was one of the things that was written about in blogs and picked up by the mainstream media that frankly was not accurate.”

Previous layoffs had committed the former owners to a certain amount of severance, Norcross said. “We wanted to be certain that money would be escrowed.”

“We really don’t know until we get into the nuts and bolts whether there will be any more cuts,” Katz said. “It’s not our intent to start cutting.”

The new owners’ pledge not to interfere with editorial, Katz says, came about because “there was some controversy. We knew we weren’t going to interfere. Frankly, I thought a public statement was enough, but George felt stronger that it ought to be in writing.”

Both say they’re committed to putting money into the paper, which Norcross said could take the form of increased personnel or physical improvements. The news organizations’ new headquarters, he says, will occasion “almost $25 million” in capital spending; they have pledged up to $10 million on top of that.

Here’s the memo to staff from Greg Osberg:

I just met with Stan and his Editorial Management to announce that Bill Marimow will be rejoining The Inquirer as Editor. Coming off the IRE award for investigative journalism and a decision to increase our commitment and resources to investigative journalism, we decided that Bill would be an excellent choice to lead that charge. As many of you know, Bill did an outstanding job for us in his investigative reporting of the SRC and former Superintendent Ackerman before leaving us to teach at ASU’s Walter Cronkite’s School of Journalism last year. We’re happy he has decided to rejoin The Inquirer and we welcome him back to his hometown….Philadelphia.

Stan will remain with The Inquirer as one of the key Executive Editors on Bill’s team. I want to personally thank him for his leadership through a challenging period in our company’s history and for deciding to help us as we go forward with new ownership.

Bill will be starting on May 1st. Please join me in welcoming him back to PMN and thanking Stan for his many contributions. The press release is attached for your review.

Press release

WILLIAM K. MARIMOW TO RETURN AS EDITOR OF THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

Signaling to readers and leaders alike that investigative journalism will be a key to the company’s revival, Philadelphia Media Network Publisher and CEO Greg Osberg announced today that William K. Marimow, one of the most distinguished journalists in the company’s history, will return as Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Marimow, who earned two Pulitzer Prizes as an Inquirer reporter in 1978 and 1985 before returning to serve as the newspaper’s Editor from 2006 to 2010, will return again to lead an expansion of the newspaper’s investigative journalism work – a central element in the company’s plan to produce ever-more compelling content to boost circulation and readership.

Marimow’s rehiring was announced just two days after the company’s new local ownership group pledged a policy of strict non-interference with news decisions.

“Bill Marimow is one of the most respected journalists in the nation, and his return reinforces the company’s commitment to aggressive investigative reporting,” said Osberg. “The message today is that we are going to devote even more time and resources to reporting the high-quality stories that our readers deserve and demand. And to be clear: When the facts warrant it, nobody will get a free pass.”
“Bill is the best in the business to lead this effort, and it is great news for our readers and for our journalists that he is back in the fold.”

Current Inquirer Editor Stan Wischnowski will remain with the newspaper and continue working as part of the newspaper’s editorial leadership team, serving as one of Marimow’s top deputies. Marimow is expected to begin work on May 1.

“I’m tremendously excited about returning, once again, to my home town and to The Inquirer,” Marimow said. “It will be a privilege to work alongside newsroom colleagues who have continued to produce great journalism despite the toughest economic conditions I’ve ever experienced.

“My goal is to make sure that we’re producing indispensable content in print and on-line that our audience will have to read,” he said. “We have to be excellent in every nook and cranny of our coverage – whether it’s scrutinizing our schools, the quality of the Eagles draft choices, or the Van Gogh exhibition at The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“I’m also looking forward to continuing my close working relationship with Stan Wischnowski, who has led The Inquirer newsroom with skill and determination over the past 18 months,” Marimow said. “During my time as editor, I relied on Stan for his guidance, creativity and expertise, and I know I’ll be doing so again in the months to come.”

Marimow, 64, has been teaching journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University since last year. Before that, he worked as an investigative reporter for the paper after stepping down as Editor in 2010. Marimow was Managing Editor and Vice President of news for National Public Radio from 2004 to 2006, and served as metropolitan editor, managing editor and Editor of The Baltimore Sun from 1993 to 2004.

His journalism career in Philadelphia reaches back over four decades to April 1970, when he joined The Evening Bulletin as the assistant to syndicated economics columnist J.A. Livingston. He joined The Inquirer in July 1972 as a reporter covering business. For the next 15 years he reported on a variety of issues, including economics, labor, City Hall, and the courts. Marimow and a partner, Jonathan Neumann, wrote a series of stories about criminal violence by Philadelphia police officers that earned The Inquirer the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1978. Seven years later, he won the Pulitzer for Investigative Reporting for a series of stories about police K-9 officers whose dogs attacked and mauled innocent, unarmed citizens.

He will return to a newspaper that has continued to produce outstanding investigative journalism. Most recently, on Monday it was announced that The Inquirer won the prestigious Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Award for its seven-part series “Assault on Learning,” focusing on violence in Philadelphia schools.

“We believe that Philadelphia Media Network can become the most dominant regional media company in America,” Osberg said. “Bill Marimow’s return is an important step in the right direction, and we are delighted to have him back.”

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