Philadelphia’s newspapers have been sold. Now what?
• The paper’s new owners say they’ve invested “patient capital” that will be take a longer view than a hedge fund’s needs. They’ve also pledged not to interfere in editorial decisions. In the Inquirer, Craig R. McCoy and Nathan Gorenstein outline the new owners’ business and political interests and quote Buzz Bissinger, who says that new owner George Norcross‘ involvement “is (a) beyond me, and (b) an absolute disaster for the city and the region.”
• The Daily News’ David Gambacorta goes wide-angle on the announcement and describes “a familiar scene: a roomful of cameras and microphones, some awkward smiles and a handful of local wealthy guys in dark suits who talked about doing something big, something real big.” The new guys say they’re “willing to” put $10 million of “working capital” (that’s different from patient capital) into the papers. “No one’s going to intimidate anybody. That would be suicidal for the enterprise,” new owner Lewis Katz says; Gambacorta notes Katz’s “longtime companion is Inquirer reporter Nancy Phillips.”
• “Everyone in the Philadelphia area is rooting for you,” Mark Segal, the publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, tells the new owners. Former owner Brian Tierney says Monday “was a great day for the loyal readers and employees of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.”
• Strong coverage from the just-sold newsrooms continues with profiles of new owners:
» Peter Dobrin profiles new board chairman H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, who as a young lawyer worked for former Inquirer owner Walter Annenberg. Lenfest tells him he got involved not “for an investment but for a public purpose.”
» Edward Colimore and Joseph Tanfani on Katz: “Katz said he knows how to turn businesses around. When he took them over, he said, Kinney was bankrupt, the Nets were in last place, and one of his banks was fourth on a list of the nation’s worst.”
» McCoy (again) and James Osborne on Norcross: “There are things that I believe are important to the region and I’d like to continue focusing accordingly,” he tells them. Osborne and McCoy recently published an unflattering (and long-simmering) piece about how Norcross’ political clout benefited a hospital he runs, for which he did agree to be interviewed.
• Dave Davies asks how the new owners could keep publisher Greg Osberg: “They couldn’t credibly hire a publisher who’d so vividly demonstrated that he just doesn’t get it. Could they?” Osberg tells Davies his recent attempts to muzzle the paper’s newsroom were really botched attempts at insuring editorial accuracy: “he explained he’d ‘delayed’ stories,” Davies writes, “because he felt the bidders were misleading reporters, and he – Osberg – was the only one with the facts about what was happening in the sale process.” Former Gov. Ed Rendell tells Davies how he came to lead the original group seeking ownership — Osberg asked him — and why he got out: “There was enough push back from the working reporters and I guess editorial board people about having someone who’s active in politics – although I don’t intend to be a candidate again,” Rendell tells him. || Related: Rendell buys Pat’s Cheese Steaks, promises not to “influence or interfere with culinary policies or cheese decisions” (note date this was published).
Also: Cartoonist Tony Auth says goodbye to the paper, which he’s leaving to go work at WHYY: “I have never set out to annoy anyone, just to describe what’s going on as best I can….I’ve never begrudged any response from any of the people I’ve tried to stir, inform, and inflame.” Here’s a retrospective of his work.