I usually write about matters Middle Eastern, but today, I'd like to draw your attention a little closer to home.
A consortium of investors is on the verge of buying the failing Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. The struggling papers have experienced a generation of decline -- battered hard by backsliding readership in an internet age and a flight of revenue dollars gone digital. The prescription is standard: streamline through merger and announce the inevitable layoffs. Nothing left but the crying. Just the latest nail in the coffin for print media. Right?
Nope. It's much worse than that.
The investment group in question is helmed by Edward G. Rendell, former district attorney and mayor of Philadelphia, governor of Pennsylvania and general chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In his column for the New York Times today, longtime Philadelphian and former Inky reporter Buzz Bissinger informs us that "the Guv" is backed by Lewis R. Katz and George E. Norcross III – two Democratic kingpins and local business magnates who bankroll the party bosses and political machines that run Philly and South Jersey.
Listen, it's no secret that regional newspapers are no longer reliable financial investments…so what interest could this powerful troupe of savvy Democratic investors have in salvaging a lead balloon like the Philly press?
Well, their own political and business interests, of course. Reports are surfacing of politically charged coverage of competing bids being silenced and backroom threats to not sour the sale in progress.
If Rendell and Co. are already swinging substantial weight around -- before purchasing the papers – imagine the control they'll wield when they take command of the most influential news conglomerate between New York and Washington...in one of the most important swing states on the electoral map...months before the 2012 elections.
As Bissinger puts it:
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.
As a native Philadelphian, it pains me to watch my city – this cradle of liberty – fall victim to the worst sort of propaganda and plutocracy. So much for the free press in the City of Brotherly Love.
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