For the last decade, it felt like Philadelphia Media Network, and the vital information it provides to the Greater Philadelphia area, has been up in the air.
The network was sold yet again last week, marking its sixth change of ownership in the last 10 years, this time to a nonprofit institute.
Much like the employees of PMN, we have a lot of questions about the new hierarchy, and our concerns about transparency are at the forefront.
The most common ownership structure of a media outlet features a primary owner—almost always a wealthy figure who identifies his or her conflict of interest and vows to keep those interests out of the editorial content of the paper. If the outlet fails to separate the owner’s interests from its editorial decisions, the information about the potential bias is easily attainable to the public.
But the potential lack of information on multiple outside donors makes for a murky landscape. It sets a frightening precedent.
In an op-ed published on Philly.com Sunday, David Boardman, the dean of Temple’s School of Media and Communication, assured readers the transition will ensure the longevity and sanctity of Philadelphia’s largest media outlet.
Boardman, who will serve on the board of managers for the new institution, insisted the structure will indeed separate business interests of the institution from the operations of PMN.
These are promising expectations, but we hope to hear more to define the new ethical boundaries.
If the institution expectedly accepts donations from all, it should be exhaustive in providing information on each patron. It should never conceal those who donate funds, and should never allow those who donate to do so with expectations of a variation in coverage.
The Inquirer and its sister publications serve vital, vigilant roles in the city’s political, social and economical landscape. For that reason, it’s survival through the most adverse time print media has seen since it’s inception must be achieved.
We, as Philadelphia citizens and faithful readers, just hope it can remain a product worth saving.