Note to self: from this point forward, trust Philadelphia papers about as much as you trust Pravda (emphasis added).
A group of local investors bought Philadelphia Media Network Inc., the parent company of The Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, Monday for $55 million, with up to an additional $10 million in working capital for operations. The deal represents the fourth ownership change for the media properties in less than six years.
Led by businessman Lewis Katz, 70, and insurance executive and Democratic leader George E. Norcross III, 56, the group purchased PMN from a collection of hedge funds and other financial firms that have owned the daily newspapers and their related website since they emerged from bankruptcy in October 2010.
And Norcross isn’t going to be just a silent partner:
Katz and Norcross will serve as managing partners of Interstate General Media L.L.C., the new parent company; Lenfest will serve as chairman of the board. The enterprise will still do business as Philadelphia Media Network.
Even former editors of these papers aren’t buying the spin that Katz and Norcross will be hands-off with regard to the day-to-day running of the paper:
Faced by a newsroom wary of the group’s intentions, Norcross said at the news conference that he and his partners “want to own the paper, not run the paper” and referred to a signed pledge that they would not interfere in the newsroom operation.
Echoing Norcross, Katz said: “We will not in any way interfere with the management of news. Will never happen.”
But Zach Stahlberg, a former editor of the Daily News, dismissed the assurances of editorial independence and said in a telephone interview that a signed pledge would do little to blunt the public’s cynicism.
“People are just not going to buy that,” Stahlberg said.
Paul Davies, a former deputy editor of the editorial page at The Inquirer, said: “I don’t think George is buying this paper because he’s a big believer in the First Amendment or because he wants to hold the powerful accountable. He’s buying it to use it as a tool.”
Oh, and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell — also a long-term Democratic leader — will “whisper ideas in their ear.”
Rendell said that though he will continue to “whisper ideas in their ear,” he will have no formal role in the ownership group, and never intended to.
So, most of the Philly print media is now more or less an arm of the Democratic Party… not that it wasn’t before, but now it’s a lot more official, with Democratic leaders serving as managing partners and owners of the media.
Just imagine if one of the Bushes owned newspapers in Texas or Florida. The hue and cry from the leftymedia would be loud and long, plastered on CNN and MSNBC 24/7 with stories about how this is the Death of Journalism As We Know It. But Democratic operatives buying newspapers? Looks like just a big yawn from the Democrats and leftymedia (but I repeat myself).