Inquirer editor steps down a day before new owners step in

Posted: October 08, 2010

On the eve of new owners taking control of the Inquirer and Daily News, Inquirer editor William K. Marimow announced yesterday that he is giving up the post to become a reporter - a job in which he won two Pulitzer Prizes early in his career.

Stan Wischnowski, a deputy managing editor, was named by the incoming publisher and chief executive officer Gregory J. Osberg to take Marimow's place on an interim basis.

Marimow's announcement stunned his newsroom late yesterday afternoon, just when it was looking as if the transfer of the papers to new ownership, the result of a 20-month bankruptcy reorganization, would be an uneventful exchange of e-mail documents and wired bank deposits.

Instead, Marimow informed 15 of his top editors of the impending leadership change at a management meeting. Osberg said that he wants a newsroom leader with a strong background in print and digital journalism.

"The new CEO has the absolute prerogative to select an editor, and Greg has exercised his prerogative," Marimow said in a brief telephone interview. "It's a prerogative I understand and respect."

"Bill has made the Inquirer a better newspaper and we're excited that he will stick around and help us take it to the next level," Osberg said.

Marimow was a celebrated reporter at the Inquirer in the 1970s and '80s, winning both his Pulitzers for exposing abuse by the Philadelphia police. He left in 1993 for top jobs at the Baltimore Sun and National Public Radio.

He returned as the top editor in late 2006, after a group of local investors led by Brian P. Tierney purchased the Inquirer and Daily News from the McClatchy Co. for more than $500 million.

The new owners of the newspapers and Philly.com are a group of 32 hedge funds and other investment firms led by Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Alden Global Capital, both based in New York City, which held most of the newspapers' secured debt.

The group bid $105 million in cash last month to buy virtually all the assets of the company.

Osberg, former president of Newsweek magazine, will appear on the mastheads of both newspapers tomorrow as publisher and CEO. Bob Hall, who was publisher for 13 years under Knight-Ridder, will be chief operating officer.

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