HOT DOCUMENT: Tossing Bricks In A Glass House

NOTE: The following post was brought to you by the swell folks at…*


As expected, the Inquirer is experiencing some blowback from its decision to let Citizens Bank sponsor the the front page of the business section. Some of that blowback is coming from within:

From: Lavin, Carl [Inquirer Deputy Managing Editor For News]
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2007 1:57 PM
To: Inquirer
Subject: Newsroom ethics

To the staff

A version of this is on the Romenesko blog, but I wanted to be sure you have a copy. Please note that all the examples cited here are very recent. There will be more strong journalism tomorrow, and on Sunday and for decades to come — in print and online. Many thanks to each of you,


A writer for The Houston Chronicle and a columnist in The Nation have written critically about our decision to run advertising with a new business column on our section front. Neither writer contacted me, and there is no evidence that these writers regularly read our work or talk to our journalists. What these writers, and other commentators, are doing, though, is raising doubts about the integrity of everyone in this newsroom. I’ve worked here more than three years, under every imaginable stress, and I have absolutely no doubt about the dedication or ethics of this staff. Are we pulling punches? Will we? Of course not. The evidence is in black and white, and it is in front of readers every day. Some recent examples: We went to court to force Rohm & Haas to release sealed evidence in a legal battle. We uncovered allegations of serious conflicts of interest involving one of the city’s biggest builders in a development plan for the post office site. We published a front-page investigation about moonlighting by the head of the local Chamber of Commerce. We revealed outsize compensation packages for the board members of one of our largest local businesses. The work we do has value because it is built on a foundation of fair and responsible inquiry. We answer to our readers. Anyone who has a question about our ethics is welcome to call. We will continue to provide answers every day.

Thank you for reading,

Carl Lavin
Deputy managing editor, news
The Philadelphia Inquirer

From: Larrick, Bruce [Assistant National Foreign Editor]
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2007 2:15 PM
To: Inquirer
Subject: RE: Newsroom ethics

I suppose it wouldn’t do much good to suggest that we shouldn’t have headed down this road in the first place. We’re now being gored because, as everyone knows, the appearance of a conflict of interest is just as bad as an actual conflict. We can declaim all we want about how ethical we are, but as long as we keep pairing our news content with advertisers (as in the Comcast TV book), others will think we doth protest too much.

I find the situation deplorable and, frankly, think we’re getting exactly what we deserve.

*This is satire, the rest is not.


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