Teamsters protest meddling by papers' ownership

Posted: February 15, 2012

ABOUT 50 TEAMSTERS protested in front of the Daily News and Inquirer building yesterday, complaining that company managers imperiled "journalistic integrity" - and therefore Teamster 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."

The saga began about two weeks ago, when news broke that some investors wanted to sell their stakes in PMN, which owns the newspapers and philly.com. The papers and website later revealed that 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 removal of the blog post.

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

Blatstein and philanthropist Raymond Perelman, who is also interested in buying the company, say that Evercore Partners Inc., the investment- banking company managing the sale of PMN, has rebuffed their requests to participate in bidding.

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."

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