When a new ownership team, including South Jersey Democratic Party boss George Norcross, took over at the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com last year, many feared the owners would meddle in the newsroom. Now, it appears that those predictions have come to pass. On Sept. 9, the Inquirer’s opinion section will be cut from two pages to one, according to multiple newsroom sources. That means the editorial page will be cut in half, and there will be half as much space for op-eds and letters to the editor.
Most reporters blame Norcross. “I have heard from a number of credible places that there was a desire to eliminate the entire opinion section,” says a newsroom source, “that at least one person in the ownership wanted that.”
Management, however, told staffers the move was spurred by a survey, which found that readers perceive the Inquirer as “biased.” Cutting down on opinion is the supposed remedy. In response to an inquiry from City Paper, Interstate General Media, the ownership group that also includes parking magnate Lewis Katz and philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, issued a statement that editorial decisions are “at the discretion and direction of the Publisher Bob Hall and/or Editor Bill Marimow,” who “consider the interest of readers, first and foremost, in their mission to best preserve the integrity” of the paper.
IGM has steadfastly refused to explain where it is taking the company and this city’s two daily newspapers. That could be because there is disagreement at the top. “We were told there was a war between two owners, Norcross and Katz, and that this was a compromise,” says one source. “The implication being that they wanted to get rid of [the section] altogether.” Reporters have been discussing taking some sort of protest action against the company; editorial page editor Harold Jackson circulated an email on Monday urging contributors to complain about the change, WHYY reported. “We’re not happy,” says one source. “The worst thing about it is that this is the public’s section. This is their voice. They write us letters. All sorts of folks write op-eds.”
Parts of this story were originally published on our blog Naked City.
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