Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Newspaper Guild Complains About Meddling, Standing Ovation

By Ralph Cipriano

After a judge ordered his immediate reinstatement on Nov. 22nd, Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow made a triumphant return to the newsroom, where he was greeted by a standing ovation from staffers.

Now, the union that represents those staffers, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, is complaining that the standing ovation wasn't  a spontaneous event.

In a Dec. 7th email to Chris Bonanducci, vice president of human resources, Bill Ross, the Guild's executive director, wrote, "when Bill Marimow's return to the newsroom was announced, [Inquirer City Editor] Nancy Phillips went around the newsroom telling employees to give him a standing ovation."

"Some members were uncomfortable with this request, which of course seemed like an order when asked by the city editor," Ross wrote. "Others have asked about her credibility after she admitted concocting a cover story about Marimow's rehire during her testimony in the recent court case."

"As you might imagine, people are fearful for reprisal or punishment so I am not attaching any members names to this," Ross wrote, "but I thought you should know what is out there, while also trying to help avoid anyone feeling like they are working in a hostile environment."

Phillips and Marimow did not respond to a request for comment. In her testimony in Common Pleas Court, Phillips explained how she had recruited Marimow to return as Inquirer editor, on behalf of new owners Lewis Katz and George Norcross. And how, around the time the new owners were drafting a non-interference pledge when it came to editorial operations, she came up with an "official story" about how former publisher Greg Osberg had been involved in the decision to rehire Marimow. Even though Osberg testified that he was not part of the decision-making process, and did not want Marimow to return.

In his email to Bonanducci, Ross also brought up "various complaints" he had received from Guild members about alleged meddling in the Inky newsroom by owner Lewis Katz.

"I have been asked by several members how Mr. Katz attending an editors' meeting would be allowed under the ownership pledge that the owners would not be involved with newsroom matters," Ross wrote. "Mr. Katz was also involved by a funeral director placing an obit for actress Kim Delaney's father who passed away. In Mr. Katz's defense, it could have been a name-dropping, but the Guild member involved informed me they felt it was interference."

Katz raised eyebrows by appearing at an editors' news meeting, where owners don't normally tread. He's one of six new owners who've taken that non-interference pledge when it comes to the newsroom.

Despite the pledge, a local funeral director used Katz's name to get an obituary published on behalf of the father of actress and Philadelphia native Kim Delaney. The funeral director told an Inquirer obit writer that Katz had already approved the obit, which previously ran in the Atlantic City Press. The  funeral director included Katz's cell phone to show that Katz had supposedly approved publishing the obituary.

A ten-paragraph obituary published Dec. 4th in the Inquirer noted the passing of John S. Delaney, 83, worker and union leader at an electrical firm, and also a Purple Heart-decorated Army veteran of the Korean War. The only mention of the actress came when she was listed among  survivors as "daughter Kim."

Katz did not respond to a request for comment.

Ross declined comment on his email, but Howard Gensler, Guild president, said, "The Guild is firmly against the owners having a carte blanche policy with regard to the news coverage, and without knowing more about this particular isolated incident, I just hope it's an isolated incident."

Regarding the controversy over the Delaney obit, Gensler said, "that's troubling if somebody calls up and says the owner wants you to run that story. We hope it doesn't happen again. If it happens on a regular basis, then it's something we're gonna have to deal with."

Gensler, a Daily News columnist, didn't have much to say over the standing ovation for Marimow.

"I have no personal knowledge of this," he said. "I hope it's not an accurate representation of what occurred."

Jay Devine, a public relations consultant employed by Marimow during the recent court battle over the editor's job, did not respond to a request for comment. But he did post a comment on this blog:

"We chose not to respond to your inquiry today based on our belief that your blog has consistently reported biased, one-sided and defamatory information. It is not a credible journalistic entity that subscribes to the principles of quality, fair and unbiased journalism. -- Jay Devine."

Mr. Devine and I have a history. He's been making false accusations against me for 20 years. As a former spokesman for the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, Devine was part of an archdiocese spin machine that employed a couple of predator priests to burnish the cardinal's image. The archdiocese spin machine was responsible for concocting a phony story about why the cardinal couldn't sell his mansion, an alibi that unraveled a few years ago when the mansion was finally sold. In 2009, Devine  invented another phony story and hired a lawyer to threaten a phony libel suit against me in a vain attempt to cover up an incredibly stupid comment that Devine actually made to one of my editors back in 1998.

Feel free to read these stories, and then make up your mind about the truthfulness of Mr. Devine's latest charges. It's amazing he can show his face in this town after the way he's been exposed.

It's also amazing that any credible journalist or newspaper like the Inquirer would have ever employed a guy with such a wretched track record when it comes to the truth.


  1. Rerunning your greatest hits, eh? I know reporters who got personal complaint calls from that other owner, the one you're flacking for.

    1. Please send along their names and I'll be happy to contact them.

    2. Anonymity guaranteed.

  2. We chose not to respond to your inquiry today based on our belief that your blog has consistently reported biased, one-sided and defamatory information. It is not a credible journalistic entity that subscribes to the principles of quality, fair and unbiased journalism.
    ---Jay Devine

    1. Jay, you and I have been down this road before:

      I'm calling you out. Please tell me what material on this blog has been defamatory. You are not a credible spokesman for the truth, as the above story amply demonstrates.

      It's put up or shut up time.

  3. More past Ralph Cipriano stories about Mr. Devine, the truth, and the archdiocese spin machine:

  4. Dear Ralph,

    For the sake of full disclosure, shouldn't you note somewhere on any reporting you do about the Inquirer that you were a former employee there that had an acrimonious split from the newspaper? I'm sure a lot of people who read your blog know that, but certainly not everyone does.

  5. I would think Anonymous (above, and not me) has a point. Business journalists on some Websites, for example, note their personal holdings as a post-scrpt, or preface, to everything they write. (See So could you.

    1. As would I. By Ralph's logic, he does not have to reveal, but Katz does. Doesn't everyone know that Katz owns what he owns? No. He should disclose. Here's an interesting one for you Ralph: Should the inquirer disclose Norcross involvement in every NJ political story it does? He doesn't have to. You don't have to. But Katz does. Rich. Why aren't you writing about Norcross infringements?

    2. We've got a lot of misdirection going here. Congrats to Jay for starting it. I'm not the issue guys; what's going on at the Inky, that's the issue. Nice try.


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