At a time when so many papers are retreating from good journalism, we stepped on the gas. In one series after another, our investigative reporting exposed corruption, inequity, and waste. We curried favor with no politician, business, or civic leader, calling them as we saw them. And beyond the investigations, our day-to-day reporting on sports, the arts, and science and health has shown renewed energy.
Philly.com: When my ownership group arrived, the website was starved for resources and leadership. I recruited two talented individuals - Eric Grilly, from MediaNews Group, and then Ryan Davis, from McKinsey & Co. - to lead our online efforts. We built a new team and a vibrant, unique culture, we redesigned the site from top to bottom, and our traffic grew by almost 600 percent.
In fact, from March 2009 to March 2010, Philly.com was the fastest-growing news website in the world, according to Nielsen. (Huffington Post was No. 2.) And I'm excited that the recently launched Philly Dealyo service is turning out to be a success.
The community: With the support of devoted local owners as diverse as the region - African American and white, male and female, Democratic and Republican - our partnerships with community nonprofits went from 50 to more than 200. We brought in tens of thousands of toys in a week to save the local Toys for Tots campaign, ensuring that more boys and girls would find something under the tree. Both in Center City and at our printing plant in Conshohocken, our lobbies were full of toys and smiles as a result.
New initiatives: These included the Student Citizenship Award, highlighting exemplary young people, their families, and their teachers. We invented the Sudoku National Championship. And we reflected the diversity and breadth of the nonprofit community by bringing back the old Society Page with a new twist, as well as I Magazine.
And I will always be grateful for the world-class talents who happen to live in the area and were willing to add their unique voices to the newspapers and website. They include Lisa Scottoline, Mark Bowden, Buzz Bissinger, and Michael Smerconish.
The challenge: Over the past four years, the newspaper industry has suffered a staggering 50 percent decline in advertising revenue. Our advertising team didn't wallow in the bad news, though; it rose to the occasion.
From the bottom of the advertising pack while part of the Knight Ridder chain, we reached the upper ranks of the 25 biggest metropolitan papers. In the critical category of national ad sales, we ranked in the top two for three consecutive years. That was a testament to the creativity of people like Ed Mahlman, The Inquirer's chief marketing officer, and the client-focused approach of our sales leaders. They simply never gave up.
The workforce: When I arrived, people warned me about the toxic labor environment of the previous 25 years. I recruited Daily News publisher Mark Frisby, then the publisher of our competitor, the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, to lead us in this critical area. We used fewer lawyers and more listening. We butted heads, for sure. But we also created an atmosphere of mutual respect and common purpose.
That led to extraordinarily positive relations, along with more than $100 million in savings. Often, it was the labor leaders who identified opportunities to cut costs. They knew we cared, and I knew they did. As a "reformed" lawyer, I learned a lot from the experience.
In a few days, I will finally choose from among several opportunities that have been presented to me over the last few months. Folks have been patient with me, knowing I didn't want to move on before the company emerged from bankruptcy. It didn't seem right to leave before the ship was safely docked.
What will I miss next week? Picking up my newspapers at 6 a.m., excited to see how our incredible journalists presented the news of the day. Driving to work down Route 23 and seeing one of our drivers flash his headlights in greeting. Getting a warm "Hello" from one of our dedicated security officers. Walking in through the just awakening Daily News newsroom. And, at the end of the day, walking out through the Inquirer newsroom and hearing what's hot for the next day's paper.
I've spent some time with Greg Osberg, who will be The Inquirer's next publisher. He strikes me as a very decent person, and I look forward to cheering for him and this world-class team over the coming years. Their continued success is our community's success.
Brian P. Tierney is the outgoing publisher of The Inquirer.