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.
David

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. 







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