Teamsters protest papers, Rendell group

Posted: February 14, 2012

About 50 Teamsters protested in front of the Daily News and Inquirer building this morning, complaining that company managers imperiled "journalistic integrity" - and therefore their jobs - by meddling last week with news stories about the sale of Philadelphia Media Network.

"They're scrubbing stuff out of the paper," said John Laigaie, president of the Teamsters Local 628, which represents about 400 drivers, security guards and custodians who work for PMN. "They're scrubbing off the website. They want to kill the journalistic integrity of the papers. Without that [integrity], nobody will want to read the papers. We won't have jobs."

"Just because you don't like the news, you're not going to print it?" agreed protester Carl Hoyt, a company driver for 37 years. "We feel they should be more upfront and honest with the public."

Passing motorists honked horns in support as the protesters waved signs with slogans such as "First the Hedgers stole our pensions. Now they want to steal our paper's reputation."

The saga started about two weeks ago, when news emerged that some investors wanted to sell their stakes in PMN, which owns the newspapers and The papers and website ran stories revealing that former mayor and governor Ed Rendell had gathered a group of local investors interested in buying the company.

Days later, reporters at both papers learned that developer Bart Blatstein also was interested. But management initially killed an Inquirer story about it, and twice removed a blog post by the Daily News.

Company spokesman Mark Block later explained that the owners were not negotiating with Blatstein, prompting the story-squashing.

The papers and website ultimately ran the stories, on Thursday. But critics say current management supports the Rendell group. Rendell has praised CEO Greg Osberg's stewardship of the papers and

Evercore Partners Inc., the investment banking company managing the sale of PMN, has rebuffed requests by Blatstein and philanthropist Raymond Perelman to participate in bidding.

"Instead of opening the process to all interested bidders, PMN is trying to stack the deck [in favor of] Ed Rendell," announced a flier the Teamsters distributed today. "When it comes to PMN management's self-interest, principle goes out the window."

Laigaie said his union favored no specific buyer, but had concerns about the Rendell group.

Spokesman Block said, "The right to protest is a First Amendment right, and as a major newspaper, we certainly wouldn't have any right nor desire to suppress that." But "in response to the handout that was circulated at the protest, we don't have a comment for that."

Blatstein last week said he will consider creating his own newspaper company if he is shutout of the bidding for PMN.

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