You shouldn’t lie to David Carr and NYT

The passage on the right is from and Amy Chozick and David Carr’s New York Times story on the Philadelphia newspapers saga.

New York Times reporters David Carr and Amy Chozick started working on their Philadelphia newspapers story on Sunday, and heard “persistent reports” of a meeting taking place during which Philadelphia Media Network CEO Greg Osberg told editors that he’d be overseeing articles about the impending sale of the Inquirer and Daily News.

“I got in touch with [PMN spokesman] Mark Block on Tuesday,” Carr says in a phone interview. “He was spinning some, but he was helpful and direct and he was also trying to keep his boss’s exposure sort of at a minimum. I knew Osberg from his time at Newsweek and had always had good dealings with him. I heard some bad things [from Philadelphia sources], but I had an open mind about talking with him.”

By Wednesday morning, Chozick and Carr had multiple sources confirming Osberg’s meeting with editors, and the two knew they were going to use it in their story. “So that was one of my first questions [to Osberg]: ‘Did you hold the meeting with the three editors?’ and he said no. I said, ‘You know this is going to be in the newspaper, so I’m going to give you one freebie. I’m going to give you a chance to amend that answer.’”

Greg Osberg

Again, Osberg denied there was meeting.

Just before ending the interview, Carr gave Osberg yet another opportunity to admit that the meeting took place. He wouldn’t do it.

Carr says: “I asked Amy afterwards, ‘Do you think he choked? Why did he do that?’ We really couldn’t figure it out because word of that meeting was all over the building.”

Later Wednesday afternoon, Philadelphia Daily News editor Larry Platt said on the record that the meeting took place. “He wouldn’t go into details,” says Carr, “but those we already had.”

Carr then told Block in an email that Platt confirmed the meeting that Osberg said never took place.

“He said, ‘What time are you closing?’ I said 7:30, and so at 7:50 he sent me a 200-word statement from Osberg acknowledging that the meeting had taken place.”

Here is Osberg’s statement to the Times reporters, time-stamped 7:56 p.m.:

I made it very clear in this February 7 meeting, that I was not suggesting ever taking control of the editorial process, nor was I planning to change any reporting policies going forward. Any suggestions to the contrary of that position are categorically denied, as I stated to you during our interview this morning.

What I did tell the editors that attended this meeting is that I would like to be advised before any articles are published on the subject of Philadelphia Media Network’s possible sale, so that as Publisher, I would not be blind-sided by a story publicly, without receiving advance notice. In view of the sensitive subject matter of the sale, as Publisher, I would have the prerogative to make such a request and it would not be uncommon to receive such notification.

Carr called the desk — after his deadline — and told editors about the statement. They were able to add a sentence to the story.

“It made me angry,” says the reporter. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been through something like that before: No, it didn’t happen; no, it didn’t happen; no, it didn’t happen; and then, yes it did.”

“I was angry.”

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2 comments
  1. ac said:

    Osberg’s handling of this is pathetic, but you know what? Even if he had been completely stand-up about it, the 37 people he’s planning to cut would be just as unemployed. The editorial-interference story here is a sideshow; the real question is whether any real buyer exists for the Inky & Daily News, and if not, whether the current owners plan to dump it on the curb for scrap.

  2. Ppaul said:

    When it comes to wealth and power that’s what these guys do. They lie. No big surprise here.