Monday, April 23, 2007

Why Philadelphia Newspaper Reporters Should Not Be Making Any Long-Term Plans

When Brian Tierney Speaks, Time To Run and Hide

At least give Brian Tierney a little bit of credit. First, he leads a group that buys the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, then quickly realizes he's in over his head and starts dismantling an already-decimated staff and shoves an onerous contract down their throats.
Then he had the good sense to hire William Marimow, a Pulitzer winner during his younger days at the Inky, who had put himself out to pasture as the NPR ombudsman after getting dumped by bean counters at the Baltimore Sun.
So, the ship's righted, right? Nah, given the desultory financial results most newspaper companies are reporting (Tierney's company is private).
Still, in a New York Times article, Tierney is pledging not to take his knife to the newsroom budget, Good luck with that.
This one paragraph is especially telling:

Mr. Marimow has set about reorganizing the newsroom, learning to do less with a lot less. While saying that The Inquirer is a work in progress, he saw “signs of promise,” first in his reshaping of the paper and second in interest expressed to him by former Inquirer editors and reporters in coming back. To make it easier to recruit talent, Mr. Tierney has pledged that there would be no more layoffs.

Quick show of hands: how many Inky and DN staffers believe him? Exactly.

As evidence that the Inky still has the will and the manpower to put out a newspaper worth giving a damn about, Tierney cited the work of a photographer who grabbed a compelling shot after last year's Amish school shooting:

“The photojournalist who took this slept in a car, walked across a field where she wasn’t supposed to be and hid in a tree to get this shot,” he said proudly. “As long as I have folks who are that committed to what we’re trying to do, we are going to be very, very successful.”

Tierney may need a fresh dose of hubris. Given his track record thus far, such enterprising newsgathering will be done in spite of him, not because of him.

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