Editor Bill Marimow was fired from The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday. Although the announcement from publisher Bill Hall came as a surprise to many staffers, it was viewed by many staffers as the inevitable result of long-brewing tension.
Mr. Marimow was fired after many months of infighting with Mr. Hall, Philadelphia magazine reported after internal documents purportedly from the publisher were anonymously delivered to the magazine yesterday afternoon.
But the fight between Mr. Marimow and Mr. Hall was really a proxy for the fight between two uneasy co-owners, a highly placed insider told The Observer.
“The battle is between Lewis Katz and George Norcross,” the source said. Mr. Katz, a parking lot magnate and former principal owner of the New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils, and Mr. Norcoss, an insurance executive and New Jersey Democratic fundraiser, along with four other local business leaders, bought the Philadelphia Media Network, which publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, in 2012.
Mr. Katz supported Mr. Marimow (Mr. Katz’s longtime girlfriend is Inquirer city editor Nancy Phillips. According to a former Inky employee with knowledge of the inner workings of the newsroom, Mr. Marimow was a strong mentor to Ms. Phillips).
Meanwhile, Mr. Norcross, for whatever reason, didn’t support the editor, explained the highly placed insider.
And the tension between the co-owners seeped into the newsroom.
“The 2 pm publisher meeting with [Mr.] Hall was the nastiest we’ve ever had. You know what newsrooms are like — you get tough questions,” the insider said. “But this was way beyond just ‘tough questions.’ It wasn’t the same old gang who like to hear themselves talk. This time it was a features person and an otherwise quiet business reporter who doesn’t even go to these things” who asked if Philly.com even makes money.
The relationship between Philly.com and the two newspapers has been strained since the website uses a lot of content from the two newspapers while sometimes competing against them.
“There’s a lot of concern over the digital strategy. Philly.com uses a lot of content from the two newspapers and there’s been a quiet war between the newspapers on the one hand and Philly.com on the other,” said the source.
Explained the source: “We got new web pages at Inky and DN but they’re not being promoted and the gateway is very frustrating for people. It’s the stupidest thing in the world. There’s a paywall to get to our content from our own website but then almost 100% of our content is taken by Philly.com, which has no paywall. And there’s a lack of interest in supporting the papers and people believe giving Philly.com our content is a way to develop Philly.com and also wean philly.com from needing so much newspaper content.”
There were hints of the war between the newspapers and the website.
“Under the Norcross’ leadership, Philly.com is increasingly competing against the dailies’ newsrooms with its own writers. Philly.com never announced that they were becoming a competing news operation — it just sort of happened,” City Paper, the alternative weekly, reported in August.
This was not Mr. Marimow’s first go around with the paper. In 2010, he was demoted from editor to reporter after the paper came under new management because, according to the new management, he lacked digital experience. When the Philadelphia Media Network was bought by Mr. Katz, Mr. Norcross and four other local business leaders in 2012, Mr. Marimow, who was teaching journalism at Arizona State University (he left the Inquirer in 2011) was brought back as editor.
“Look, Marimow is stuck in 1978. A talented reporter but def a ‘good ole boy’ who brought a sexist culture to the newsroom. Other women have noticed that too,” said another former employee. “He is stuck in Inquirers‘ glory days.”
But, as Jim Romenesko reported yesterday, Mr. Marimow isn’t capitulating.
“[Mr.] Marimow is not leaving the building – says he hopes for reversal,” a source told Mr. Romenesko.