... the midnight strike deadline, I want to return to this, posted by John Brumfield while I was unwell: In view of Frank's position (supine, I assume).....
First, let it be understood that, though I come from a union family - my mother was a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and my father a member of the Fraternal Order of Police - I am not by any stretch of the imagination a kneejerk opponent of all things management. I think unions do have tendency to get out of touch with economic reality and to forget that it's 2006, not 1936.
That said, I was dismayed by one of publisher Brian Tierney's quoted remarks: "We don't need a Jerusalem bureau." This dismayed me for three reasons. First, we have a very fine reporter, Ned Warwick, in Jerusalem right now, doing superb work at no little risk.
Second, we do have a large Jewish population in this area, and a lot of news comes out of the Middle East these days that might be of interest to them.
Third, as a native Philadelphian, I resent the presumption that my city is a parochial backwater that can settle for getting its national and international news from the New York Times or the Washington Post or various wire services. I think the city deserves a world-class newspaper to match its world-class orchestra and world-class art museum. Philadelphia is within an hour's drive of more degree-conferring institutions than any other city in the nation (86 within a 25-mile radius of Center City). The inhabitants of those institutions are unlikely to be content with a strictly provincial newspaper - which, of course, is why so many of them already prefer the New York Times.
Where is the hard evidence that the local, local, local mantra has actually boosted any paper's circulation? And speaking of mantras, one that I've heard here for almost as long as I've been here is that we have to appeal to the young, we have to appeal to the young. I can find no evidence that people under 35 have ever constituted a major part of the newspaper-reading public. Moreover, people over 35 constitute a huge demographic. In fact 25 percent of the U.S. population was born between 1946 and 1964 - those unforgettable Baby Boomers - and they control by far the largest portion of the nation's disposable income. Doesn't it make sense to tailor your product to a large group with a lot of money to spend?
The easiest - and cheapest - way for The Inquirer to signal to its readers that it intends to make itself into a newspaper worthy of a sophisticated city is to restore to the paper its stand-alone book section. Remember, such a section, precisely because it deals with a product available anywhere - books - can be sold anywhere. It can be a separate publication that people in other cities might want to subscribe to. The Inquirer's book pages already feature reviewers from around the nation and globe. This blog attracts comments from all over. A real book section offered to subscribers everywhere ought to be able to attract sufficient advertising to cover its cost of production.
The Inquirer should not be surrendering readers to the Times. It should take up the challenge to compete with the Times. That will attract advertising and that will make money, enough money for it eventually to put out a weekly competitor to the City Paper or the the Philadelphia Weekly - in fact, that's what the Weekend section, which already exists, could easily become.
So let's stop selling the paper short. And let's stop selling the city short. Who needs local owners operating on the assumption that Philadelphia is third-rate?