Friday, June 22, 2012

Friend Defends Penn State's McQueary's Actions

Bryan Machamer played basketball for Penn State at the same time as former Penn State Coach Mike McQueary played football for the school. McQueary, who saw Jerry Sandusky with a young boy in the shower, and he were friends. The university's former athletic director, Tim Curley, was invited to Machamer's wedding. He characterizes the entire Pen State athletic community as "close knit".

Machamer, now an optometrist, assures me that McQueary is a "good guy" despite not reporting former coach Sandusky to the police.

He said, "He could not believe what he saw. Jerry was like his uncle. His father and Jerry were friends. Jerry was Linebacker U."

More troubling, he describes the culture in the athletic department as "military like." 

"McQueary did the right thing. This was Big 10 athletics. If there was a problem, you reported it to your coach. He followed the chain of command, which is what we were taught," said Machamer, who has often returned to campus for games after graduation.

Machhamer confided that it was an open secret among the Penn State community about Sandusky's activities. If that is the case, it is very disturbing that no one went to the police. 

Sandusky most likely will soon be punished, but that does not guarantee that the these horrible transgression will not be repeated against other innocent victims. I am wondering what Penn State is doing to change their hierarchical culture. 

Comedian Bill Maher has noted that all male cultures, such as the church and the military, seem to run into this kind of trouble. I suspect women question a chain of command culture. 

If legendary coach Paterno insisted or perpetuated this type of culture, then Penn State was right to fire him. His players should have always known that their first loyalty was to protecting the abused.

Monday, June 18, 2012

$1 million raised for Alex's Lemonade Stand

Daniel Stern of R2L
Alex's Lemonade Stand, which benefits pediatric cancer, raised $1 million dollars at the Great Chef's event on Tuesday night at the Urban Outfitter's offices in the Naval Yard. Alexandra Scott, who later died of cancer started the charity with one lemonade stand when she was four years old. Credit for the success of the event should go to Alex's parents, Liz and Jay Scott, and chef Marc Vetri and his business partner Jeff Benjamin.

Alcohol was the star this year. The bartenders outdid themselves with creative concoctions.

Everything else was a disappointment. Call me a food snob, but Shake Shack does not belong at a Great Chef's event. The tiny portions and wooden forks made it difficult to enjoy the food. There was an hour wait to get your car at the end of the night.

Enjoy the pictures.

Jose Garces, the fiery Spanish chef. Have you ever seen a Jose that is not sexy?

It was fun to see the chefs.

This woman took the lemon theme seriously

The Glamorous Amorosis
Govberg's Jewelers cleverly turned a boring jewelry case into a  lemonade stand

Add caption
Some people asked me why it is still called the Naval Yard. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Steinhardt: I am voting for the third one

When I had a chance to talk to legendary hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt this week, I asked him his thoughts on the election. 

He said, "I am voting for the third one."

In other words, he is not planning to vote for Obama or Romney. I naturally assumed that he was opposed to Obama because of the Buffett rule. 

"I do not know anything about that," answered Steinhardt, the Jewish philanthropist that founded Birthright. "He is not good for our people. He has not been an effective president."

Emanuel Bets on Favorable Supreme Court Ruling

Knowing the serious side of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the University of Pennsylvania's Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, I was surprised when he disclosed at the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) annual meeting that he had placed 5 bets speculating that the insurance mandate in the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would survive the Supreme Court. Despite making dinner for him, he does not expect that his good friend Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will vote yes. 

Emanuel, who served as a Special Advisor on Health Policy to the administration when the bill was being drafted, said, "I believe that the mandate will survive. I think the vote will be 6:3 in favor with Kennedy and Roberts voting for. Otherwise, it will be 5:4 against. If that happens, the country will have bigger problems because then it will be a partisan ruling along party lines."

He argues that the commerce clause of the constitution makes the healthcare mandate constitutional. 

"The constitutionality of this clause has been upheld many times," said the doctor. "One example is Heart of Atlanta Motel vs United States. The owner of the hotel, which was on an interstate highway, was forced to integrate."

He continues, "There are already plenty of healthcare mandates. "Vaccinations. No Smoking Laws."

He has a ready answer for those that fear mandating health insurance will mean more mandates, such as requiring funeral coverage. 

"What is so wrong about that? Funerals are expensive," said Emanuel. "I had a poor patient who could not afford to bury her husband. She wanted to donate his body to science. To avoid the costs of a funeral home, she just wanted to drive the body to MIT herself. I had to tell her that it was illegal to transport a dead body in Massachusetts without a special license."

Emanuel is emphatic that if the Supreme Court rules that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional that this country will never again see comprehensive health reform. 

"We have been trying to trying to reform healthcare since Teddy Roosevelt's administration and never succeeded until now," he noted. "If it is over turned again, no one will have the political will to attempt it again."

Emanuel, who is the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy Professor, blames the Republicans for the lack of medical malpractice reform included in the bill. 

"There was no Republican support for the bill so there was no incentive for malpractice reform," explained the doctor. "We talked to Olympia Snowe. We made the changes that she wanted, but she still did not vote for the bill."

According to Emanuel, there is still hope for malpractice reform. A trial program in Michigan, which allows doctors to apologize to patients but not allow the apology be admitted into court, has shown encouraging results. 

Dr. Emanuel turned serious when the discussion turned to end of life counseling aka death panels. 

"My critics named me Dr. Death," said Emanuel. "I am an oncologist. I love to talk, but even I avoid having this talk with my patients. Patients want to have that talk with their doctor."

Emanuel is always ahead of the curve in his thinking about medicine. He is now suggesting that both medical school and residency be cut by one year.  

My one question for Emanuel- Is it ethical for the renowned bioethicist to bet on the outcome of a Supreme Court ruling? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Two Philadelphia Greats: Shanks Painting Lenfest

Shanks at easel, Lenfest looking patrician in coral chair, Thatcher  overseeing from  corner

I stopped by Freeman's auction house today to watch renowned painter Nelson Shanks, who has painted the portraits of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, President Ronald Reagan, and Princess Diana, at work. Taking a break from giving money away, philanthropist Gerry Lenfest was scheduled to sit for three hours while Shanks painted his portrait. The portrait painting was a program of Studio Incamminati, a Chinatown art school devoted to realism that was founded by Shanks. 

You could have heard a pin drop while the master was at work. I am guessing that the audience was afraid to make too much noise for fear that Shanks, known for his irascibility, would throw them out. Or it could have been because they were awed to be in the presence of two Philadelphia greats, Shanks and Lenfest. 

For sitting patiently, Shanks was giving the portrait to Lenfest for free. I am not sure where Lenfest is going to put it since he still in the same house that he originally bought 45 years ago for his growing family. 

BTW, it is no accident that I chose this particular picture. It was quite fitting to juxtapose Lenfest with Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady would have approved of him. 

I got a chance to take a picture of Shanks when he was taking a smoke break. A portrait of the portrait painter- totally Meta.

Boo For The Woman Suing The Phillie Phanatic

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Suzanne Peirce is suing the Phillie Phanatic and Phillies for injuries sustained when the Phanatic threw her in a pool in 2010 at the Jersey shore. While Philadelphians are always down on their city, everyone is united in their love of the Phanatic. I would hate to see this lawsuit curb his friendliness.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guv's Wife Kisses Lenfest For $40 Million Grant

Pennsylvania's First Lady thanking Gerry Lenfest for his $40 million  challenge  grant

Gerry Lenfest, dubbed "a modern day founding father" by the Museum of the American Revolution President and CEO Michael Quinn, has announced a $40 million challenge grant to that museum. After a contentious dispute with the National Park Service, the Museum of the American Revolution finally owns the building at 3rd and Chestnut.

There are plans to erect a $150 million building on the site to tell the story of the American Revolution. The museum already owns an impressive collection of artifacts, such as weapons, personal correspondence and flags, from the era. Robert A. M. Stern, the dean of Yale's School of Architecture, has been chosen to design the building.

If Philadelphia ever becomes a world class city, it would be due to the generosity and tireless efforts of Gerry Lenfest. He is behind the move of the magnificent Barnes Collection to Philadelphia and is a beneficent supporter of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Curtis Institute.

Lenfest explained this donation, "I am an American. That is why the story of the American Revolution is important to me."

His favorite artifact in the museum's collection is George Washington's tent. "He not only slept there in Pennsylvania. It is where he commanded the war."

Susan Corbett, the wife of Governor Corbett, called the gift 'breathtaking". After kindly re kissing Lenfest for the cameras, she joked, "I have not kissed that much in a long time." I was tempted to ask about the governor. (BTW, our First Lady is a lot prettier and relaxed in person.)

Corbett explained that her love of history came from studying English and being an English teacher.

"I love stories. History is stories of people."

Nutter probably gave the best reason to build the Museum of the American Revolution.

"I would not be mayor of Philadelphia without the foresight of our founding fathers."

Of course, George Washington made an appearance. Michael  Quinn, the museum's  president and CEO on  right,
Nutter said that Gerry Lenfest called and personally asked him to come today. "Gerry rarely calls. The calls go the other day. When he calls, I pay attention."

I am not surprised that Lenfest does not demand much from elected officials. Other than writing checks, he never acts like he has money. When I asked where his lovely wife Marguerite was, Lenfest answered, "She had to stay home to wash the kitchen floor." That probably is not a joke. The Lenfests do not have a maid.

Nutter has a real knack for making pro forma speeches funny, which is a talent I wished that more politicians had. "Hearing the Curtis Institute student sing the national anthem at the beginning of the program, I wish I had gone to Curtis. Even if I had, I still would not be able to sing."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Publisher Tried To Get Independent Blogger (Me) Fired

Last week, I wrote a post, "The Audacity of Philadelphia Magazine," on my personal blog suggesting that Philadelphia magazine should stay away from media criticism until they get their own ethical house in order. One of my complaints was that they employ a freelancer that accepts money from the people that he covers. 

I sent the link to the publisher of Philadelphia magazine, David Lipson, not really expecting a response. Lipson was so upset about I wrote that he sent this email to the publisher of Metro, where I freelance, attempting to get me fired. 

We dish it out and can certainly take what comes.  You should consider the background of your writers before unleashing them.

Obviously, I hit a nerve. His email, which he admitted to City Paper was an attempt to get me fired, seems an extreme overreaction to the post of a small time blogger. He is a publisher that does not respect the first amendment. 

Lipson was also being a little hypocritical. He wanted me to be fired for my ill fated attempt to get justice from my billionaire rapist. Yet, he was the first one to hire convicted felon Larry Mendte. The married newscaster was convicted of intentionally accessing the emails of his lover/co-anchor Alycia Lane.

While race baiting might not be classified as a crime, it is pretty disgusting. After Gene Marks penned the incendiary column, "If I were a poor black kid," that went viral, Philadelphia magazine promptly hired in hopes of luring racists to click on their site. That has to be one of the most disgusting editorial decisions of the year.
In my original post, I criticized Jason Fagone's recent article, "The Death (and Life) of  the Philadelphia Weekly and City Paper.

Jason was good enough to respond.

Basically, I disagree with your characterization of my article as some sort of anti-alt-weekly piece. It's not. In fact, I see it as a love letter to the weeklies and a plea for the owners to do something bold to ensure the papers' survival. Which is why it's so odd to me that you're quoting the Roberts family (!) to try to knock down my reporting. If you're really worried about the future of the Philadelphia Weekly, you should be asking the Roberts family some tough questions. Specifically, you should be asking tough questions of Anthony Clifton, who owns the Weekly and has been rather cluelessly hacking it down to the bone.

By the way, Clifton declined my request for comment. But to be as fair to him as possible, I used prior quotes to tell his own version of the story of how he came to buy the Weekly. Then I told an alternate version of the story that came to me from Dan Rottenberg, former editor of the Welcomat (the Weekly's forerunner) and a highly respected journalist in this city for many years.

You also say that I should have revealed that Metrocorp is starting a weekly. Are they? That's news to me. Maybe the fact that I didn't know will help convince you that a strong wall does exist at Philly mag between the editorial and business sides. In my almost ten years of writing for Philly mag, no one from the business side has ever told me to write something -- or not write something -- to please an advertiser. It just doesn't happen.

In a broader sense, yes, it's somewhat difficult to write completely disinterested media criticism in this town, because most of the journalism outlets in Philly are competitive with each other; to some extent, Philly mag competes with Metro, the Weekly, and the City Paper for advertisers. But the alternative is to simply not do media criticism, and that doesn't seem acceptable to me. I think media criticism is important, and I think you probably agree. I wasn't writing the article to boost Philly mag's position in the market. I was writing it because I love the weeklies and want to see them thrive. And again, I think the article is fair and accurate, and I stand by it.

You say that I didn't mention anything good about the papers. Frankly, I'm baffled. Please read my story again. The first section is *entirely* -- not partially, *entirely* -- about the great things that the papers have done in the past: the Welcomat's crusades for social justice, the City Paper's pioneering coverage of the Vince Fumo machine. And the last section is largely about the great things that the papers are doing now; see the material about Dan Denvir, Tara Murtha, Isaiah Thompson's coverage of police killings of the mentally ill, etc. I'm happy to take criticism of my writing, but I prefer that it be based on what I actually wrote and not some straw-man version of it.

Jason makes some good points in his heartfelt response. I appreciate him taking the time to defend his work. He obviously cares enough. 

I did re read the article as he suggested Since I love the weeklies, maybe I see it as negative story because it gives a dire forecast for the survival of the weeklies. While he did suggest that the two papers combine, which I strongly double will happen, he had no other recommendations for their survival.That could be because there is not anything that can save them. 

The article does mention the great reporting done by the two alternative weeklies, but devote to little space to the subject. 

I found the job ad by searching Google. Being cynical about Philadelphia magazine, I immediately suspected that they were knocking the weeklies because they were planning something. Jason's lack of knowledge about the ad tells me something about the culture of Metrocorp, Philadelphia magazine's parent company. They are not in the habit of hiring from within,which is a shame for their employees.

Fagone is right that I should have done more original reporting before I wrote my story. Maybe, I should not go with what I have when I do not have a complete story. 

Fagone's story was not the only media story that I objected to, I strongly object to the Philadelphia magazine profile that portrayed publisher Gregory Osberg as the savior of the Inquirer and Daily News. He has since been removed as publisher due to his attempts to censor coverage of sales of the Inquirer. 

Having met Osberg many times, the profile rang false to me. While Osberg and his wife have always gracious to me, it was clear that he was a corporate Ken Doll. Described as bold in the article, he is the opposite of bold. Anyone could see that did not bleed ink. He could have be a diaper executive for all the loves of news that he ever displayed. 

I also did not think Philadelphia magazine was in a position to criticize others. After Gene Marks penned the incendiary column, "If I were a poor black kid," that went viral, Philadelphia magazine promptly hired in hopes of luring racists to click on their site. That has to be one of the most disgusting editorial decisions of the year.

In his official response to me, Lipson describes Philadelphia magazine's journalism as "gutsy, no- holds barred." Memo to David: Printing the rumors that Ed Rendell has a girlfriend, which was an open secret in the city, does not qualify as gutsy. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Let's Stop Demanding the Release of Pollard

On Wednesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres will be awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that the United States can bestow on a civilian, in an elaborate White House ceremony and dinner that will be attended by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schulz. During his visit, Peres has promised to ask Obama the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. 70, 000 people have signed an online petition requesting the release of Pollard.

By contrast, American government officials, who have been longtime supporters of Israel, have opposed Pollard's release. Rumors have long circulated that Pollard sold information to countries like Pakistan. While I appreciate democracy, I am not sure that it is effective to run national security that way.

Still, I would not be against the release of Pollard and sympathize with all the reasons that he should be released. He is in failing health, has been imprisoned for 27 years for spying for a friendly country, and the Israeli military of not leaving any man behind.

This is just the wrong time to ask for his release. By demanding the release now, the Jewish people will be focusing on a low point of the Israeli- American relationship instead of celebrating the high point that this ceremony represents after several years of strain.This is not the way to keep friends.

The current release demands are just another example of Israel shooting themselves in the foot in the propaganda wars. Pollard is sucking up all the media oxygen. No one is talking about the remarkable achievements and life of the 88-year old Peres.

Pollard is Israel's mess not America's. When his arrest was imminent, he arrived at the Israeli embassy and was denied entrance and turned over to the Americans. If Israel had kept him in the embassy, his lawyers might have been able to negotiate a better deal for him.

At the end of Clinton's term, Israeli officials threw Pollard under the bus for billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. Instead of refusing the billionaire's request for help with his pardon until Pollard was released, Peres and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked Clinton to pardon Rich. In granting the Rich pardon, Clinton admitted that he granted the Rich pardon, in part, to appease the Israelis after denying Pollard's release.

Pollard, by his own actions, has made his request harder to grant. He has never shown remorse. While many   demonstrations of remorse are probably phony, prosecutors, judges, and presidents need some basis for granting the pardon. Pollard did do something wrong and needs to admit it. It is not okay to give classified documents to anyone even a friendly country.

All countries vigilantly protect their classified information. Israel is about to indict a Haaretz journalist for possessing classified information, Uri Blau, even though the final article was approved by the military censor. Isn't hypocritical for Israel to now minimize Pollard's infractions?

Some argue for presidential intervention because the prosecutors reneged on the original deal that Pollard was offered. Half the inmates that are sitting in America's jail complain about the malfeasance of prosecutors.  This is the ugly reality of the American justice system. I am not sure that it is fair that Pollard's complaint skips to the head of the line.

I sometimes worry that Israel is asking too much of America. There is a limit to how much you expect from someone, even a close friend. With the controversial continued building of settlements, maybe we are squandering too much political capital on Pollard.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lipson, Philadelphia Magazine Publisher, Running Scared

Yesterday, I suggested that Philadelphia Magazine should get out of the media criticism business until they get their own house in order. I was reacting to their recent article, "The Death (and Life) of the Philadelphia Weekly and Philadelphia City Paper," which attempted to start the death count of my beloved weeklies. The publisher, David Lipson, reacted to my blog post by attempting to get me fired from one of my freelance employers. He did not challenge any of the facts in my article. 

I wrote the piece to defend the newspapers not to attack Philadelphia magazine. For me, Philadelphia Weekly and City Paper are vital sources of information about what is going on in my city. They tell me about affordable restaurants in my neighborhood that I can regularly frequent. Both weeklies keep me informed about the political maneuvering behind issues that I care about like gun control and abortion. 

Philadelphia magazine is mostly irrelevant to my life. They will  review the very expensive Le Bec Fin, which I may go to once or twice a year. The magazine will devote 6 pages to the life of a pseudo socialite that they created. 

David Lipson responded to my initial post. He also copied one of my freelance employers in an an attempt to get me fired for expressing my personal opinions on my blog.

We dish it out and can certainly take what comes.  You should consider the background of your writers before unleashing them.

The link refers to my ill-advised attempts to get justice from my rapist. 

This is my answer. 

David Lipson must be running scared if he takes the time to smear me, a small time blogger. His attempts to get me fired indicate that he does not appreciate the first amendment as much as a magazine publisher should. It seems the act of a desperate man to pressure  my freelance employers to fire me for something that I did not write for them. 

 It is important to note that Lipson does not challenge any of my facts or hypothesis. My past does not change the facts. The facts speak for themselves, 

Credible journalists are prohibited from accepting money from the people that they cover. In the current free wheeling media culture, it seems to be the only inviolable rule of journalism that still remains. Besides the instance that I cited in my original post, Hugh E. Dillon accepts money from Cashman Associates and the Kimmel Center. Kimmel Center events and parties planned by Cashman and Associates regularly appear in his column for the magazine. 

Dillon often boasts that his editors do not require him to cover certain charity events. According to Dillon, they tell event organizers that he alone choose what events to put in his column. In other words, Philadelphia magazine allows him to utilize his employment at the magazine to line the pockets of his photography business without any editorial interference. 

People may wonder why this matters. Many charities and arts organizations depend on free media coverage to spread their message. If Dillon is filling up his column with events linked to people that pay him, worthwhile charities, which do not know to pay him, become invisible. 

The magazine article that heralded Gregory Osberg as the savior of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News was dead wrong. The reporter later admitted that he made a fatal error by omitting that the newspaper insisted he be escorted by a pr person when interviewing staffers. This fact would have been a good predictor of Osberg's later efforts to censor coverage of the sale of the papers. This tidbit was far more relevant to the story than revealing the publisher's sick child. His omission leads me to believe that he was pressured to write a positive article because Philadelphia magazine and Philadelphia Media Network team up for projects. 

I do not know if the alternative weeklies will survive. I do know that their advertising revenues have declined since Metro started publishing in Philadelphia. The article was flawed in its analysis by not mentioning Metro even though they have a different editorial model (I do not know anything about revenues from working at Metro. The publishing and editorial sides are kept separate. As a Wharton graduate, I am able to do my own analysis.) 

FYI, a Roberts family member assured me that Anthony Clifton was never in line to be Comcast CEO, which the article asserts. Ralph Roberts, the founder of Comcast, always planned to to make his son Brian CEO. 

Many staffers of the magazine have told me that they are demoralized by the pay to play standards of Philadelphia magazine. I urge them to insist that the magazine maintain minimal journalistic standards. The current lack of standards will mean the eventual death knell of the magazine.

David, by your recent actions, you are proving why nepotism in the media industry is a bad idea. 

UPDATE: David Lipson responded to this post. Such a child. 

(Pretty inarticulate for a magazine publisher. No wonder his father still writes the publisher's column in the magazine.)

Lipson still has not denied my allegations that people can pay to get favorable coverage in Philadelphia magazine. 

It is obvious that Lipson does not understand the journalistic principles that I am fighting for. I care about Philadelphia. A free press is vital to keeping our government and business leaders in check. Writers, who accept money from people that they cover, can not be counted to be objective or accurate in their reporting.The people of Philadelphia deserves better. 

I graduated the Wharton School and worked on Wall Street. I understand business. But allowing payment for coverage crosses the line. The taint of paid for journalism will doom the magazine in the end. 

When I am out and about, I often see David Lipson and he is always cordial. This is nothing personal. I am fighting for journalistic integrity.

David Lipson sent a new, more official response to me. (printed in its entirety below) Lipson told City Paper that employing a party photographer, who takes payments from the people that he covers, is not a big deal. 

I think that it is troublesome that a media outlet would admit that any of their staffers take money from the people that they report on. Lipson attacks me for only mentioning one conflict of interest. I wrote about the one journalistic conflict of interest at Philadelphia magazine that I was able to put on the record. From my experience on Wall Street, rarely does an organization have one unethical person. It is endemic to the organization. I am guessing that there are other employees that take bribes. These loose ethical standards might prevent tales of corruption from seeing the light of day. His staffers might have more gain by keeping quiet. 

Lipson is inaccurate when he says that party reporting is insignificant. Parties are no longer the stepchild of reporting. They are big business and used to enrich the reputations of businessmen.  

In Philadelphia magazine's profile of Tyrone Gilliams, who has been accused of fraud by the US Attorney, Lipson's own writer  details how Gilliams used philanthropy to enrich his reputation. (I am guessing that David does not read his own magazine.)The over top birthday party of leveraged buyout tycoon Stephen Schwarzman prompted the national debate on raising the carried interest tax. 

Lipson called my blog silly. He obviously has not read the inane Philly Post, the online presence of his magazine. Writers whine about the reasons that they haven't bought a iPhone or being stood up by VIPs. If my blog is so silly, why did he attempt to have me fired for a post on it? 

He should release the journalistic rules that staffers at the magazine have to abide by if David is serious about his integrity. 

This is Lipson's response. 

If anyone would take the time to review the list of winners of Best of Philly and compare that to who advertises, they would notice little correlation.  Our integrity is everything to us.  We have built a loyal following because of our gutsy, no-holds barred style of journalism.  We have won six National Magazine Awards and countless City and Regional Magazine Association awards.  Advertising Age once said that "Philadelphia magazine is the city magazine all others want to be when they grow up."  We receive this recognition because of our integrity, not in spite of it. When my father received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the CRMA this is what he said:
“God knows the market is tough these days, with a glut of media out there, from those endless racks at Barnes and Noble, to TV news and magazine shows, to USA Today, to local papers ... and, of course, the internet. But so many outlets respond to marketplace pressure by becoming less newsworthy, instead of more. Even on national network news, you only get 3 minutes of real news…I think we have a great opportunity to fill a real editorial need. Our kind of magazine can explain and interpret events, and describe trends. Trends always start locally, before they sweep the country. That's what we should be about — digging into our communities to see what's really going on. Too many city magazines are nothing more than promotional vehicles meant to sell advertising, with no real editorial purpose.”

“There are risks, of course. Committing to real journalism means that you'll get sued occasionally. A bigger risk is losing advertising, but that, too, is part of being a real voice in your market…But journalistic integrity is a challenge we have to continually meet-that simply comes with the territory...I can't tell you the number of times we've lost advertising over restaurants that were panned. Is the answer to go softer on bad food or shoddy service? Of course not. Our reviews would immediately become meaningless...a short-term saving but a long-term nightmare.

I'm more afraid of not having credibility than I am afraid of a few people not liking me, or someone pulling an ad, or even suing me. It is what makes us viable. It is what makes a magazine a strong business, so to me, it is the only way to go. It will take guts to set standards! It will cost you your friends to set standards! It will cost money to set standards — but in the end, if you want to succeed, you will have to have the courage of your convictions.”
We have been a fixture in town since Alan Halpern and my father dreamed up the idea of a local general interest magazine in the late 50's.  I believe we have our best years ahead of us. 

I appreciate your interest in our magazine.

Disclaimer: I freelance for Metro. I occasionally contribute to the arts calendar of Philadelphia Weekly. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Philadelphia Gaga Over Shake Shack

Shake Shack, the New York hamburger chain, opened in Philly this week. They make great, cheap hamburgers. To order one of these delicious hamburgers, it is necessary to stand in long lines that circle the block. I just never thought that Philadelphians would give up their cheese steaks to wait in line for a hamburger from New York.

The Audacity of Philadelphia Magazine

Philadelphia magazine is one of the better chroniclers of the rich in the Delaware Valley. Lately, they have veered into media criticism, which is the one subject that should not touch with a 10 foot pole. The magazine has always been beset with allegations that it favors advertisers in its editorial content. It is alleged that Best of Philly is really the Best of the Advertisers.

Philadelphia magazine itself does not adhere to basic journalistic standards such as forbidding journalists covering an event to accept payment from event organizers. At the very least, the magazine should include a disclaimer if the journalist was paid by someone connected with the event.

Hugh E. Dillon, one of the freelance photographers for their Philadelphia Scene column, also moonlights as an events photographer. At the Barnes opening, Dillon bragged that he was hired to cover by the committee for the Philadelphia Awards to cover the ceremonies the following week. Dillon's pictures of  Aileen Roberts, the wife of Comcast CEO, and Aramark CEO Joe Neubauer, the recipients of the award, were later featured prominently on the magazine's website.

Dillon is constantly blurring the boundaries between his photography gigs and his journalism assignments.  Advertisers (or their clients) on Dillon's website, Phillychitchat, often are covered in Philadelphia magazine by Dillon.

One local pr hot shot told me, "Everybody in pr knows that if you want coverage in Philadelphia magazine, you have to pay HughE."

A reader of mine contacted the publisher of Philadelphia magazine, David Lipson, alerted him to the journalistic conflict of interest. Lipson wrote back in an email, "I do not know anything about Hugh E's blog or other business ventures. Do I know you?"

When the reader urged him to check into it, the reader never heard from Lipson again. Erica Palan, the online editor, and Tom McGrath, the magazine editor did not answer the emails sent to them that questioned the propriety of payment of staffers accepting payment for coverage.

The magazine does not have particularly distinguished track record for their media criticism. In 2011, Steve Volk wrote an article about the Inquirer publisher, "Greg Osberg: Savior". A year later, Osberg is out as publisher partially due to his attempts to censor his own newsroom's coverage of the sale of the papers. 

Even worse, Volk later confessed to leaving out a crucial fact in his big story. When he was interviewing employees of the Inquirer, he was always escorted by a in-house public relations person. While that might be standard procedure for the business world, it does seem to indicate a newspaper publisher that does not value free press.

In this month's issue of Philadelphia Magazine, writer Jason Fagone starts the death watch for Philadelphia's two alternative weeklies, City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly. Both free papers rely solely on shrinking advertising revenues. In his analysis of their problems, he never once mentions the Metro newspapers. The   free daily has a completely different editorial model, but competes for the same advertisers and some of the same readers. He also did not reveal that Metrocorp, the parent company of Philadelphia magazine, is starting a weekly of some kind.

The two alternative weeklies fill a journalistic gap in the city. They are must reading for anyone that wants to know what is really going on in the city's neighborhoods and Harrisburg. Their arts calendars list affordable entertainment and events in the city. Fagone never mentioned that.

Suzanne Roberts, the wife of Comcast founder Ralph Roberts, expressed my sentiments about the article, "Wasn't it awful?'" She was objecting to how the article characterized the purchase of Philadelphia Weekly by her son-in-law, Anthony Clifton.

Philadelphia magazine, people in glass houses should not throw stones.

UPDATE David Lipson responded to my post: Thank you for sharing.  I am so pleased they spelled our name correctly.

The editor in chief of Philadelphia magazine, Tom McGrath's response was: "You spelled my name wrong." I had incorrectly identified him as Tim.

It is pretty obvious that journalistic ethics are not a priority there.

Disclaimer: I am a freelancer for Metro and sometimes contribute to Philadelphia Weekly. I have no knowledge of their publishing side because they are kept separate at Metro.Two bloggers for Philadelphia magazine objected to the coverage of my scoop that former Governor Ed Rendell was not going to buy the Inquirer, which proved accurate.  Hugh E. Dillon questioned my reporting that Sarah Madson, wife of former Phillie Ryan Madson hated the fans, which also was later proven to be accurate.