TCBH! Staff Tell the Philadelphia Inquirer to Start Acting Like a Real Newspaper

Journalists from ThisCantBeHappening! took on the Philadelphia Inquirer. the nation’s third-oldest surviving daily, this morning, conducting a leafletting “happening” in front of the paper’s soon-to-be-sold headquarters building on Broad Street.

A one-page flyer, written in Old English and featuring a replica of the masthead of Benjamin Franklin’s original one-page broadsheet, the Pennsylvania Gazette, accused the oft re-sold and steadily downsized and gutted Inquirer of abandoning its Fourth Estate role in favor of entertainment and profits.

Inquirer editors, reporters and other workers entering and leaving the building for the most part willingly accepted the fliers, sometimes reading them on the spot, and sometimes carrying them off to read later. A few stopped to talk with the TCBH! leafleters, who included one activist from the Philadelphia Independent Media Center.
TCBH 'Red Squad' Challenges the Philly Inquirer: Ron Ridenour, John Grant and Dave Lindorff (from left), photo by Rich GardnerTCBH 'Red Squad' garbed in their new TCBH! T-shirts, challenges the Philly Inquirer: Ron Ridenour, John Grant and Dave Lindorff (from left), (photo by Rich Gardner)

One man, asked if he was an Inquirer worker, laughed wryly, saying, “I am until November 18.” He explained that after working at the paper for nearly three decades, he had received notice two weeks ago that he was being sacked. “28 years,” he said, shaking his head. Reading the short broadsheet, which was published on antique-looking fake parchment, and which listed some of the news stories and issues that the Inquirer has consistently ignored, blacked-out or grossly misreported, he said, “It’s true. Every time this paper has changed hands things have gotten worse.”

Others agreed.

Workers passing by on the way to jobs in Center City or at the neighboring Board of Education building just up the street from the Inquirer were nearly unanimous in agreeing that the Inquirer–and other local media — were doing a poor job of informing the public about many important issues. Only a handful of people refused to accept a copy of the flyer, shown below:

(with apologies to Ben Franklin) (apologies to Ben F.)

We Philadelphians, like our fellow citizens across this nation, are being ill-served by our local “news” media. The insatiable pursuit of profits has systematically despoiled a core institution–the press–which is a crucial cornerstone of freedom and democracy.

We journalists who over a year ago banded together to publish ThisCantBeHappening!, an online alternative “paper,” have gathered here this morning to point out some examples of how our local media are failing us all. We highlight the Philadelphia Inquirer, because it should be setting an example for the rest of the local media, not just lowering the bar.

A few examples of the Inquirer’s failure to do its job:

* Not once has the Inquirer bothered to do a report on the People’s Budget proposed by progressive Democrats in Congress as an alternative to the vicious cut-back-ridden budget backed by Republicans, conservative Democrats and President Obama alike.

* Not once has the Inquirer assigned an investigative reporting team to examine the many lies and falsehoods in the district attorneys’ case against Philadelphia journalist and death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Example: If Jamal stood over Officer Daniel Faulkner and fired four bullets, point blank, down at Faulkner on the sidewalk, only hitting him once, as claimed, where are the other three bullet marks in the sidewalk around him? Police photos and reports indicate there were none.

* When Turkish forensics experts found that Israeli commandos had executed 19-year-old American Furkan Dogan on the Mavi Marmara last year, and notified the US State Dept., only to have that news buried by the White House for weeks, the Inquirer totally ignored the story.

* Though the nuclear reactors at Peach Bottom are identical to the failed plants at Fukushima, the Inquirer has not reported on the catastrophic risks this poses to Pennsylvanians–a journalistic failure all the more outrageous in light of yesterday’s 5.9 earthquake!

* The Inquirer blacks out nearly all anti-war protests. Take the Aug. 9 anniversary of Hiroshima. The paper had articles about the 1945 bombing, but it didn’t send a reporter or even a photographer to cover a commemorative protest outside war-profiteer Lockheed-Martin in King Of Prussia, where protesters put “crime scene” tape across the driveway, and were subjected to arrest.

Not important stories to cover? We disagree. This is not journalism; it is propaganda. We know that there are plenty of dedicated journalists at the Inquirer and at other news organizations, but they cannot do their jobs when the media owners and editors only care about entertainment and profit.