OLD Media Moves

How Philly Inquirer biz coverage changed with new owner

November 22, 2006

Editor & Publisher’s Joe Strupp examined how business news coverage changed at the Philadelphia Inquirer after the paper was sold in the Knight-Ridder/McClatchy deal to local owners, including Bruce Toll, whose brother is the CEO of local homebuilder Toll Bros.
Toll Bros.Strupp wrote, “The Philadelphia Inquirer had written about Horsham, Pa.-based Toll Brothers Inc. numerous times over the years. A successful builder of luxury homes, the company’s doings were nearly as common in the paper as the Phillies’ box score. But after the builder’s vice chairman, Bruce Toll, became a partner in the group that bought the Inquirer from Knight Ridder via the McClatchy Co., Toll Bros. coverage took on an entirely different context.

â€?Since the purchase was finalized in July, the Inquirer’s business writers have taken extra care in their coverage of Toll Bros., as well as other local business interests of Toll and his partner, Brian Tierney — who is also the paper’s new publisher. They form the power structure of Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC — and have a link to any number of potential news targets.

“’On many stories, we are having to ask ourselves if there is an ownership that has to be disclosed,’ says Henry Holcomb, an Inquirer business writer and president of the Greater Philadelphia Newspaper Guild. ‘We are thinking about that for the first time.’

â€?Holcomb has had to make such disclosures on several occasions since the newspaper’s sale, including the Aug. 23 story he wrote about Toll Bros.’ earnings falling 19% over the same period last year. Although Bruce Toll was not mentioned in the main elements of the story, his brother, Robert Toll, the company chair and CEO, was. He also included a line disclosing Bruce Toll’s link to the Inquirer. ‘That is how you are fair with the reader,’ Holcomb explains. ‘Letting them know there is this conflict.’”
Read more here.

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