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. 

1 comment:

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