On Sept. 9, the Inquirer's opinion section will be cut from two pages to one, according to multiple newsroom sources. That means that editorials will likewise be cut in half, and there will be less space for op-eds and letters to the editor. One of two editorial writers, Melanie Burney, will be moved to an Inquirer bureau in New Jersey.
Most reporters blame co-owner George Norcross, a powerful South Jersey Democratic Party political boss.
"I have heard from a number of credible places that there was a desire to eliminate the entire opinion section — all of the opinion pages —going back quite a while," says one newsroom source. "That at least one person in the ownership wanted that."
The rationale that management is offering, however, is that a recent survey found that readers think the Inquirer is "biased." Cutting down on opinion is the supposed remedy.
"In terms of those ostensible explanations, I don't think anybody really believes it," says a source. "I don't know if anyone is even asking anyone to believe it."
Interstate General Media, which owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, did not respond to a request for comment.
It would be hard to overstate Inquirer reporters' current anger and sadness over the new ownership group, which includes Norcross, parking magnate Lewis Katz, and philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest.
Philly.com, which was initially created as a vehicle to promote Inquirer and Daily News content, has become a rival news-gathering organization under the control of Norcross' 25-year old daughter, Lexie Norcross. Earlier this month, veteran Inquirer reporter Jennifer Lin threatened to quit after Philly.com re-reported a major gaming scoop instead of showcasing her original story.
Reporters complain that Inquirer and Daily News content is sometimes nowhere to be found on Philly.com while the papers' new websites are locked behind hard paywalls and receive few visitors. To many, the new web arrangement seems intentionally engineered to empower Philly.com and marginalize the papers.
Reporters have been discussing taking some sort of protest action against the company. But the newsroom is currently demoralized.
"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."
Many points of view remain available in Philly.com's notorious and racially loaded comments sections.
Over on the news side, the Inquirer is down to just two metro columnists: Karen Heller, who writes about Philly and Pennsylvania, and Jersey writer Kevin Riordan. Meanwhile, Philly.com has been promoting "Voices of Philly.com," an online opinion section made up of writers who are not journalists. One of those voices, controversially, is Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Another notable voice includes former Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent, who earlier this year advised that readers "stay horny."
IGM has steadfastly refused to explain where they are taking their 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 us altogether. And that's just insane."
The Saturday opinion section was quietly eliminated months ago.
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