In early April, local businessmen acquired the Philadelphia Inquirer and related media properties for $55 million. Led by Lewis Katz and George E. Norcross III, the investors purchased Philadelphia Media Network (PMN) for a fraction of the $515 million paid in 2006 by a previous local investor group. The sale attracted national attention for its emblematic status as poster child for the ailing American newspaper business.
In an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Victor Pickard of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, has made the case that much more is at stake than the jobs in the Inquirer newsroom or printing plant — indeed, nothing less than the future of democracy.
“The plight of newspapers is treated as some sort of business tragedy, or perhaps as about technological progress,” Pickard tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “But as many of us learned in grade school, journalism is absolutely vital to the prospects of democratic society. So whenever we’re seeing newspapers suffering in the way that they are today, this is also about the loss of journalism.”
Along with Robert McChesney, Victor Pickard is the co-editor of the book Will the Last Reporter Please Turn out the Lights (The New Press). His research explores the intersections of U.S. and global media activism and politics, media history, democratic theory, and communications policy. He is currently working on a book on the history and future of news.