There are too many bosses at #PhiladelphiaInquirer

Let’s set aside the issue about whether Bill Marimow deserved to be fired as the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and discuss a more troubling question:  Who’s the boss?

Former New York Nets owner Lewis Katz. H. F. “Jerry” Lenfest,  South Jersey political boss George E. Norcross III; Krishna Singh, chief executive of the Holtec International Corp.; William Hankowsky, chief executive of Liberty Property Trust; and Joseph Buckelew, chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew, joined forces last year to buy the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News and website for $55 million.

What made them think they would be able to set aside their considerable egos and work together to run one of the largest U.S. newspaper, an industry which none of them had any experience?   I know they spoke of their desire to own the papers for the “benefit of the community”, but what does that mean?    It’s doubtful that they appreciated the depth of the paper’s problems.

Every business needs a boss.   In theory, the boss of Interstate General Media is supposed to be Publisher Robert Hall.    In reality, it remains unclear who is running the company. Norcross has installed his daughter Lexi as the head of and has decided to concern himself with such mundane details such as the brand of coffee employees drink in their break room.

About the only thing that the owners all agreed on was that they should hire Marimow, who had done two other tours with the Inquirer.  Former Inquirer columnist Gail Shister noted in Philadelphia Magazine that Marimiow isn’t universally beloved. “As a newsman, Marimow’s moral authority is beyond question,” she writes. “As a manager, the same cannot be said.”

Katz and Lenfest are suing their fellow owners over their decision to fire Marimow.   Given the level of animosity that is evident among the paper’s owners, I don’t see how they can continue to work together.   Winding down this partnership isn’t going to be easy or cheap.  This distraction is the last thing the paper needs.

Further complicating the situation is the long-time romance between Katz and Nancy Philips, a veteran Inquirer editor.  That explains why Marimow was blocking needed change at the paper, according to his critics.  Norcross  told the  New York Times, that Katz “wants to control the newsroom to satisfy his friends and punish his enemies.”  That’s a ludicrous idea.

First of all, herding cats is easier than getting a large group of journalists to agree on anything Katz and Philips  have made little effort to hide their relationship. Robert Hall,who has been associated with the paper for years, must have mentioned it at some point to the company’s owners. Continue reading

Ever wonder when #StorageWars jumped the shark?

“Storage Wars” is chock full of awesomely fake moments that it’s hard to choose just one.

My favorite, though, has to be Dave Hester’s Elvis newspaper find from 2011. The show said the stack of papers announcing the death of “The King” was worth $90,000. That’s a load of crap.

Newspapers aren’t scarce. Millions of copies of them are sold on a daily basis even in today’s Internet-dominated world. People hold onto papers when something especially newsworthy happens for years if not decades. Finding an Elvis newspaper isn’t hard, A quick check on eBay underscores this point.   None of the auctions, by the way, had any bids.

If you still want one of the actual Elvis newspapers found by Hester, check out Storage, which is giving them away.   The site was founded by “Storage Wars” auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson. Supplies appear to be plentiful.

Interestingly,  the Elvis paper episode happened several years before Hester complained that he was fired for complaining the show was rigged.

#Newspapers ain’t dead yet

In my first piece for Investopedia, I note that stock of newspaper publishers have been doing surprisingly well even though the fundamentals for the industry remain horrible.  From the story:

Indeed, the sector that every investing pundit loves to hate has been beaten to a bloody pulp over the last few years is starting to show signs of life, faint though they may be. Some investors, such as Warren Buffett see value here. Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, the soon-to-be-owner of the Washington Post, seems to as well as does Southeastern Asset Management, a hedge fund that recently disclosed a 12% stake in the new News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), Rupert Murdoch’s print holdings such as the Wall Street Journal.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that good times are near just less godawful ones.   Publishers are diversifying into faster-growing businesses such as television.   Some papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are benefiting from paywalls. The Washington Post didn’t start charging to access its website until this year, a huge blunder.

Attention #BarneyMiller fans: I need your help

Few people know that getting “Barney Miller”, one of the most popular and groundbreaking television programs of the 1970s and 1980s, on the air was nothing short of a miracle.   This is a largely unknown story that I want to tell in a book I am planning to write.l

Executive Producer Danny Arnold, a largely unknown sitcom pioneer, who pushed “Barney Miller” to address many hot-button political issues including gay rights, one of the first shows to do so. He clashed with ABC, which aired the show for 8 seasons and even threatened to pull the show from the network if he didn’t get his way.

Arnold’s story is a complex one. On the one hand, he could be charming and generous, lavishing extravagant gifts such as an Aston Martin on people who worked for him. But many found him to be intimidating. He was known to have unpredictable, volcanic mood swings. Few were spared his wrath, even people who he otherwise liked. Arnold had a low opinion of the human race and often said that smiling was a sign of stupidity.

A perfectionist who demanded so many changes to scripts at the last minute that they were never completed before an episode was filmed, Arnold drove the cast and crew crazy, He also snuck off the watch the races at Santa Anita when otherwise should have been working. To top it off, Arnold had to cope with feuds among the cast and a decade-long legal fight over the show’s ownership with co-creator Theodore J. Flicker which he lost at a cost of millions. He died in 1995.

As an award-winning journalist who has written about the media for more than a decade, I am qualified to tell the “Barney Miller” story. My book will offer the first comprehensive account of the “Barney Miller” story, which has been told so far on a piecemeal basis in anthologies. have interviewed members of the cast and crew along with scholars who will help me put the show in its proper historical context.

I want to hear from “Barney Miller” fans.  What   What have you always want to know about the show?  What are your favorite episodes?  What were the qualities about the show you especially liked?

By the way, Abe Vigoda is alive, at least he was when I spoke with him a few months ago.   The clip I put in this post is from the classic “Hash Brownies” episode, one of the many “Barney Miller” classics.  Enjoy.

Why NBC’s `Million Second Quiz’ is the `Biggest Loser’

If you haven’t been caught up in the excitement over NBC’s “Million Second Quiz”,  you aren’t alone.

As I noted on MSN moneyNow, “total viewership fell to 3 million on Saturday, down from the 6.5 million who watched its debut Monday.”   MSQ, as it calls itself, has got to be one of the most confusing game shows in history.  I have watched it a few times and I don’t get it.

For those wondering if there is such a thing as too much Ryan Seacrest, the answer seems to be a million times yes.