A Tough Day for Journalism in Philadelphia

As The Curmudgeon has written before, the past decade has been a pretty tough one for big newspapers in Philadelphia. The city’s two major dailies, jointly owned for many years, have been sold four times, and each sale has brought major cuts in the size of the newspapers and the size of the staff responsible for preparing and writing them. More cuts came last week: 46 people lost their jobs, among them 17 of the 29 people who work for the papers’ philly.com web site, 17 of the Daily News’s remaining 60 reporters, and 12 Inquirer reporters.

That was on Wednesday, and on Friday it looked as if those who remained decided to take out their frustration through shoddy work.

The Daily News has a political column that’s sort of a gossip column, so readers, including The Curmudgeon, have become accustomed to less formal writing – but on Friday, less formal became just plain boorish.

The column started by describing a candidate in next year’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary as

… a tattooed 6-8 behemoth from the Pittsburgh suburbs who looks like the bar bouncer in a drunken nightmare where you wake up in a cold sweat right before his bowling-ball-size fist collides with your face.

The paper also reported that the man elected mayor of Philadelphia on Tuesday, a Democrat, had lunch with the Republican head of the state Senate. Where?

Early lunch at the Union League (natch).

That’s what they wrote: “Natch.”

The article went on to report that

Kenney, we’re told, began the meeting by saying he’d actually met Scarnati some years ago at a golf outing/fundraiser for the senator in his home district way the eff out in the middle of nowhere.

That’s what it said: “…way the eff out in the middle of nowhere.”

As to the merits of such a meeting, the Daily News explained that

It was a smart, mayoral way for Kenney to open the conversation with a guy on the opposite end of the political spectrum who’s also a BFD in Harrisburg.

BFD. The Curmudgeon knows what that stands for and you probably know what that stands for but the question on The Curmudgeon’s mind is why someone felt it necessary to put that in a newspaper.

Next, a local public figure is trying to make hay about the local district attorney, who is African-American, and who dared prosecute – successfully – other African-American elected officials for corruption in office. He promised to divulge the juicy details at a news conference, and the paper wondered

Just imagine what he’ll say at the actual presser on Tuesday.

The “presser”? He’s going to divulge this information at his dry cleaner’s shop? (One-hour Martinizing, and news, too?)

The Inquirer was not going to be left out of this moratorium on what we all learned by sixth grade. Writing about the impact of the state going four months without a budget and therefore unable to provide its usual funding for state-funded county human services, an article about this challenge started by explaining that

Montgomery County stopped funding Thursday human services normally covered by the state, saying the four-month budget impasse had maxed out the county’s financial reserves.

This should leave a discerning reader wondering: if the county is no longer funding Thursday human services, does that mean it’s still funding human services for the other six days of the week?

Maybe the newspapers’ staff was just down in the dumps about the lay-offs; that would be understandable.

Or maybe the writers were trying to send a message to their bosses.

The only message The Curmudgeon received, though, is that a few of the papers’ remaining writers are making it easier to decide whose neck should be on the chopping block the next time the papers need to fire people so its owners can continue living in luxury.

And there WILL be a next time: that much is clear.




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