FUMO DISAPPOINTED BY PUBLISHER’S REFUSAL TO MEET
PHILADELPHIA, September 29, 2005 – State Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) sent the attached letter to Joe Natoli yesterday after learning that the publisher would not meet with Governor Ed Rendell, Mayor John Street and him to discuss job cuts at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.
Natoli announced last week that Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. and its parent company, Knight Ridder, had decided to eliminate 100 reporter and editor jobs at the two daily newspapers through buyouts and/or layoffs. Fumo invited Natoli last Friday to a meeting to discuss ways that the jobs might be saved.
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(On Senate Stationary)
September 28, 2005
Joe Natoli, Publisher
I regret that you have declined to meet with Governor Rendell, Mayor Street and me regarding the heavy job reductions proposed at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. Although I understand your reluctance to be perceived as seeking special favors from government entities that your newspapers cover, I believe we could have at least discussed the problem and possible ways to save these jobs, without violating the editorial impartiality of the two newspapers.
I would point out the following:
I asked you to attend the meeting; you did not come to me or other government officials asking for help. I merely wished, as a first step, to discuss your situation as a major employer that is cutting its workforce in the city. It is conceivable that by exchanging information and bringing some of our staffs’ economic expertise to bear, we might have discovered potential solutions that did not amount to a government "handout" for your company. Who knows until we try? You would always have been free to reject any proposal that you believed would jeopardize your company’s journalistic integrity.
The newspaper industry already recognizes a distinction between the business side and editorial side. The Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association has long been a very active – and effective – lobbying organization on behalf of newspapers’ interests. Over the years, these have included financial interests as well as First Amendment and public information issues. If it is permissible for the newspaper publishers to lobby government, I don’t quite understand why you cannot at least discuss the economics of your operation without encountering a conflict of interest.
While I certainly respect the right of Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., as a private enterprise, to make its own decisions about the size of its workforce and its profit margin, no business operates in a vacuum. The loss of 100 jobs from Philadelphia affects the economy of the city and the region, in addition to impacting directly the lives of 100 families. Perhaps we could have saved those jobs in a way that met your journalistic ethics constraints, or perhaps not, but I think it is unfortunate that you are unwilling to explore possible ways to avoid the detrimental effect this action will have on your workers and on our community.
As an employer myself in both government and the private sector, I cannot express to you enough the importance of employee morale in building an effective organization. It is a shame that the executives of your parent company are not sensitive to such leadership issues, and that the workers who will lose their jobs will have to suffer. I would have expected your company to be concerned for the morale of the remaining employees, if not for the human cost to be borne by the families of the 100 workers whose jobs will be eliminated.
The governor’s office, the mayor’s office and I had already set aside a date and time this week to meet with you. We would have quickly tried to pick an alternate date in the near future if you had been willing to meet but had been unable to fit our appointment into your schedule. I remain willing to arrange such a meeting should you decide to reconsider.
VINCENT J. FUMO