The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia

Grievance over two recent contract violations

February 9, 2012billrossInquirer

Dear Guild member,

On Tuesday, the Newspaper Guild filed a grievance over two recent contract violations involving stories partially or entirely removed from without the advance knowledge of the writers. Article 35, Section A of our contract states that in the event of any retraction: “The employee involved will be consulted prior to the retraction of any material involved.”

On Feb. 4, a paragraph related to Philadelphia Media Network’s earnings was mysteriously removed from the online version of Inquirer reporter Andrew Maykuth’s story about Ed Rendell’s group of investors seeking to purchase the company. The paragraph, about the company’s finances, appeared in the print edition of the Feb. 4 Inquirer, but was edited out of the online version. Maykuth was not told in advance, nor has anyone mentioned to him since, that the paragraph was removed after publication.

On Feb. 7, Philadelphia Media Network Vice President for External Affairs Mark Block told the journalism web site that he ordered a blog post from, by Daily News reporter David Gambacorta, to be removed from the site. Gambacorta was never consulted that his post was to be removed from the site and then replaced by an anonymously posted statement from the company. Block went on to suggest to Poynter that there were inaccuracies in Gambacorta’s story, which there were not, and commented that what appeared in Gambacorta’s post was “dishonest.”

A grievance meeting was held Tuesday afternoon in which the company said it wasn’t prepared to fully discuss the Maykuth situation, but stated that the paragraph was not removed due to inaccuracy but over concerns of the reporting of the earnings of the privately-held company and whether that may violate its fiduciary obligations. The Guild and PMN agreed to reconvene to discuss the matter.

In the case of the Gambacorta blog post, whose removal from the website led other media outlets to cast doubt on the integrity of the company, which in turn undermined the work of Gambacorta and all of our journalists, Block claimed he did not malign Gambacorta’s reporting, rather took issue with a press release issued by developer Bart Blatstein about his interest in purchasing the company.

During the meeting Guild leaders and Gambacorta stressed that had the company merely provided comment for Gambacorta’s story, as it regularly provides comment for our own and other media outlets, rather than nefariously remove his blog post and replace it with its own statement, it would not have faced ridicule in national and local media outlets some of which questioned whether current management is trying to control the sale process. This was a public embarrassment that could have easily been avoided.

We thank the company for meeting promptly to discuss the grievance and Block for agreeing to the Guild’s request that he publicly apologize for casting doubt on Gambacorta’s accurate reporting. His quotes to this effect from Block appear in today’s Inquirer and Daily News stories about Blatstein’s interest in the company.

Block’s publicly clarified remarks and defense of Gambacorta’s professional integrity resolves that portion of the grievance. We look forward to meeting on the Maykuth matter and discussing other instances we are looking into about other material being removed from blog posts without advance consultation of the writer. If you are aware of an example of this nature, please get in touch.

In solidarity,

Dan Gross, President
Bill Ross, Executive Director
Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia/Communications Workers of America Local 38010