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Saturday, 18 March 2006

If I Owned The Inquirer

So You Asked
By Richard Carreño in Philadelphia
Like politics, journalism is local -- especially for a shrinking regional paper like The Philadelphia Inquirer. So, first, lose the 'Philadelphia' in the name. Then localize news content throughout. Besides a daily summary of national and international news, all other such news should be viewed through a local prism.

Play to The Inquirer's established strengths in arts news. Hello! A real books section highlighting local authors and reviewed by local literary talent. And sports. But stop shilling for local professional teams. Meantime, upgrade sports coverage to include popular niche sports. Racing? Boating? Thousands of Main Line suburbanites (and a lot of Off Line Jerseyans) are involved in equestrian sports, for example. Still nary a word about horse-shows, polo, and foxhunting, etc.

More local political coverage and investigative journalism. (Increase City Hall and other such beat staffing. In Chicago, the local papers would have chewed up and spit out a Street-like hizzoner by now). Nothing sells papers and garners awards like top-flight public service reporting. More local columnists like Ferrick. Ditch feel-good, pantywaist columns from Jersey. Only the kick-ass need apply -- who, incidentally, aren't afraid (like your current editorial board) to discuss race and Philadelphia's black-white divisions. A couple of Harrisburg columnists would also be nice -- keeping an eye and Fumo, Pertzel and their ilk.

More niche columnists/analysts like Saffron. A subway reporter, perhaps? How about a restaurant reviewer who isn't boring? Understand that The Inquirer's audience is a rough mix of second-tier readers (suburban women and TV viewers) and first-tier readers (mid-to-upper class professionals who rely on the national papers like The New York Times, The Financial Times for global news). Tailor, accordingly.

Bring back the Sunday magazine. Lose Parade. Include The Washington Post's weekly edition as supplement to the Friday paper. Convert to tab format. Scrap your sacred-cow list (Bye-bye Vallas, Pew Charities, etc.) A reader ombudsman.... But enough already. Good luck!