What Can We Do About The Failure of The Inquirer To Present All Points of View?

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In the last week, the pro-corporate direction of the Philadelphia Inquirer has been made more apparent. It’s not just that the Editorial board gives the pro-corporate, pro-right-wing Commonwealth Foundation its op-ed page twice a week; the Inquirer refuses to publish left-leaning voices, and corporate bias even appears in some of their reporting.

Last week, the Inquirer ran a story discussing the role of the Mayor, what the office is, and its responsibilities. Hall Monitor contacted the Inquirer regarding the piece but has yet to receive a response.

In describing the Mayor’s role, the piece failed to mention serving the people. The only “expert” quoted was from the business-controlled, suburban living “Committee of 70,” which said, “The hiring is probably the first and most important job of any new mayor.” It was reported without even the question: Isn’t the Mayor’s most important function serving the people of Philadelphia?

The problem isn’t this individual piece. It’s the direction of the Inquirer itself. It’s getting rid of reporters with institutional memories and reassigning reporters out of their field of expertise. A case in point is when Jeff Brown, the owner of numerous Shoprites, announced his candidacy; the Inquirer reporter failed to note that all of his stores are unionized, and the union, UFCW 1776, would be supporting Mr. Brown’s campaign. Subsequent stories did include those facts, but a reporter with an institutional memory of Philadelphia’s political landscape would not have overlooked such an important point and just how powerful UFCW 1776 was when Mr. Brown announced. (The union represents not only supermarket workers but also all the employees of the State Store system and has been supporting winning candidates for many, many years. Ask Governor Shapiro if you have any doubts.)

Sunday’s editorial underscores just how much of a problem the direction of the Inquirer has become. Its leads with, “One of the principal reasons Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country is because it is also one of the most heavily taxed.”

The story links to a PEW foundation’s study that didn’t come close to saying what the Inquirer claims. Right there in the link is the fact that there are four other cities with higher tax burdens, whose citizens are better off on a per capita basis than Philadelphians. Nor does the editorial board bother itself with looking at other cities, like Baltimore, Detroit, St Louis, and Cleveland, which have suffered losses of population and jobs but have much lower wage taxes than Philadelphia.

A little research would have shown that a lower wage tax does not guarantee more jobs or an increase in population. Just ask Sun Belt City, Pine Bluff, Ak, which has no wage tax and continues to lose its residents.

Taxes are a complicated issue, and of course, the goal should be a fair and just system. What we should reject is a tax policy based on “trickle-down” economics, which does not create a fair distribution of wealth.

Clearly, the City State, and National governments are not doing enough. And to chart a new course, we need honest conversations and accurate reporting.

How do we urge the Lenfest Foundation, the non-profit owner of the Inquirer, to improve the quality of reporting and opining? What can we, as readers, do to change the direction of the paper? We can’t suggest anyone boycott the paper; daily newspapers are just too important. (We can suggest you read Hall Monitor as you are now and share it with your contacts, as well as read the Inquirer. )

We desperately need the Inquirer and an informed editorial board that weighs different points of view. A board that opens its editorial pages to different ideas without favoring the Commonwealth Foundation as it currently does. (No other group gets two op-eds a week).

Do you have an idea of how to help the Inquirer do a better job? If so, let us know, and we will do our best to publicize your ideas.

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