Will Bunch, longtime Philadelphia Daily News reporter, Attytood blogger and author of important recent books on Reagan and the current right-wing uprisings, alerted me tonight that he had published an “open letter” to the reported “next owners” of his paper and the Philly Inquirer. Much has been written in the past two weeks about their political ties (former Gov. Ed Rendell may be deeply involved, for starters) and other issues.
Buzz Bissinger’s op-ed in The New York Times a few days ago might have been headline "Friday Night Lights Out." He warned, "If the sale goes through, Philadelphia will become the first major city in the country to actually cease to have a real daily newspaper. There will still be print and online products, sure, but those products will be owned by a group of power-hungry politicians and politically connected businessmen who, far from respecting independent journalism, despise it."
Will mentions this angle in his letter, and raises some new issues, as well. Here are the highlights.
Dear next owner of Philadelphia Media Networks… whoever you are,
I’ve been meaning to write you for a couple of weeks—it’s been hard what with all the confusion not only about what we’re allowed or not allowed to say but also the non-stop swirl of events that seem to whipsaw back and forth on an almost hourly basis. For the last few days, the debate over the cloudy future of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Inquirer and Philly.com has focused almost entirely on closely intertwined issues surrounding “editorial integrity”—the extent to which current owners have interfered with the news side of operations and the fear that new owners, especially the widely discussed group of would-be buyers led by former Gov. Ed Rendell. will do more of the same, on behalf of their many overlapping political agendas in Philadelphia and the suburbs.
No one can ignore those issues, but I want to keep this part short. I proudly joined more than 300 journalists in signing our clarion call for editorial integrity, and I believe that while what’s happened in the immediate past cannot be undone, a pledge of non-interference in news operations going forward (the editorial page always has been, and always will be, a different story) that goes even beyond a similar promise made by Brian Tierney when his local group bought the papers in 2006 is a bottom-line minimum for any new owner.