Journalism is near to the heart of most bloggers. I’ve worked as a reporter and as an editor at small newspapers (many years ago). I read lots of online news, in current affairs as well as professional and industry articles in my career areas. But I also still like to receive the Philadelphia Inquirer in my front yard, and read the actual paper paper.
I stopped getting the Inquirer somewhere around 2009 for several reasons. For many years the paper was owned by investment groups or large corporations that seemed to view the paper as a bloated investment failure that needed to be eviscerated to make it profitable. I suspect a lot of subscribers perceived a significant drop in quality and canceled their subscriptions as I did. In any event, subscription rates fell off dramatically, counteracting all the gains from the cutbacks. It seemed to be in a self-destructive downward spiral.
Surprisingly, and against all national and global trends, the Inquirer newspaper has gotten a lot better lately. One man is largely responsible: Gerry Lenfest.
In 2014, Billionaire Gerry Lenfest bought the media conglomerate “Philadelphia Media Network” (PMN), which includes the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, from a Philadelphia investment group. It was the best thing for PMN at the time, because Lenfest is not just an investor, but a passionate advocate for journalistic principles. That attitude trickles down. It elevates morale. The injection of money as well as the fresh face of a journalistic advocate at the helm, made a big difference.
Now Lenfest has made an even better longterm contribution to journalism. Last week Lenfest donated the whole PMN conglomerate to a nonprofit Journalism Institute, operating under the nonprofit Philadelphia Foundation.
Just when I thought Philly journalism was crumbling a couple of years ago, it now seems to have a healthy future. The nonprofit journalism institute has top defenders of journalism on the board who seem to be great choices to ensure longterm integrity. This saves the future of the media outlets from uncertainty as Lenfest ages, which would mean another sale to who-knows-who next. Philadelphia newspaper readers can breathe a sigh of relief, maybe even celebrate a little. I’m glad to be getting the paper in my yard again. It’s a rare bright day on the journalism landscape of today.