The new owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer have made a public pledge not to interfere in the editorial operations of the newspaper.
Last week, however, owners, editors, and publishers of the Inquirer were placed under oath in Courtroom 630 at City Hall, and asked to explain what that pledge really meant.
To editor Bill Marimow, it meant that although Publisher Bob Hall had basically accused him of being a racist and a sexist, there was no need to worry, because under the new regime, the two principal owners had to be in agreement to fire him.
To Nancy Phillips, the Inquirer city editor and girlfriend of owner Lewis Katz, the pledge was carefully constructed so that it didn't apply to important decisions -- like hiring the editor of the Inquirer-- because that was a business decision rather than an editorial decision.
To owner Lew Katz, that non-interference pledge didn't put a wall up around the newsroom; instead the pledge amounted to an open door. Katz explained on the witness stand that he had the right to show up in the newsroom whenever he wanted to. And when it came to hiring and firing any editor in the newsroom, Katz had a "blocking right."
Welcome to Courtroom 630, where the Inky's much-publicized non-interference pledge was revealed to be a license to meddle. And where we learned that two award-winning journalists conspired to spin a story to conceal that meddling.