"Our employers promise this won't happen again," the statement reads. "That must be the case."
Craig R. McCoy and Joseph Tanfani, members of The Inquirer's investigative-reporting team, e-mailed the statement Thursday to staffers in the newsrooms.
"As The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com have gone up for sale once again, we watched with dismay as our own coverage of the process was compromised and censored," the statement reads.
Gregory J. Osberg, PMN chief executive officer and publisher, responded with his own statement expressing support for the journalists' "clear message" but disagreeing that censorship had occurred.
"While we don't agree that censorship has taken place at PMN, we support our journalists in a unified pledge upholding the Bill of Rights," Osberg said in the statement.
Both statements referred to three incidents involving articles about the potential sale of the media properties.
First, a paragraph about the 2011 financial results of PMN was removed from the online version of a Feb. 4 Inquirer article about a group of local investors assembled by former Gov. Ed Rendell to potentially buy the company.
Next, an article by an Inquirer reporter about the developer Bart Blatstein's organizing a rival investor group to attempt to buy PMN was not permitted to be published in the Feb. 7 issue. (An updated version was published Feb. 9). On Feb. 7, a blog post about the same topic that had been written by a Daily News reporter was removed from Philly.com.
Word of the actions ordered by PMN's top management quickly spread via social media, blogs, and journalism websites. It was the subject of both an article and a column in Thursday's New York Times.
PMN is owned by a group of hedge funds and financial investors that acquired the company in a bankruptcy auction in 2010. News of a possible sale of the media properties broke in late January.
In a Feb. 3 conference call, Rendell acknowledged that he had organized a group of local investors to buy PMN. It includes Comcast-Spectacor chairman Edward N. Snider, New Jersey businessman Lewis Katz, and George E. Norcross III, an insurance executive and New Jersey Democratic leader.
The prospect of new ownership that might include individuals influential in local politics and business has been the source of concern for many journalists in PMN's newsrooms, as well as fodder for debate among media pundits and ethicists.
The journalists' statement, written by McCoy and Tanfani, was intended to give voice to a staff that "was searching for some opportunity to speak out," McCoy said.
Tanfani said he was "extremely gratified" that so many employees across a broad spectrum of duties had signed on in such a short period of time.
On Friday, Osberg held his first meetings with editors from the three newsrooms to discuss the events of the last two weeks. He later issued his own statement about the message, which garnered widespread newsroom support.
"There is no city where a pledge to both protect and advance the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is more important than in Philadelphia," Osberg wrote. "Philadelphia Media Network is honored to serve this city and region."
Contact staff writer Mike Armstrong at 215-854-2980, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @PhillyInc on Twitter.