Is Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic’s job safe now that she’s won a Pulitzer?

The Philadelphia Inquirer won a Pulitzer on Monday for architecture criticism – a beat that one of the paper’s owners wants eliminated, according to two Inquirer sources.

Twice in late 2012, I’m told, George Norcross criticized Inga Saffron – she won the paper’s Pulitzer this week – for not being a Philadelphia booster. He told an Inquirer journalist that “she brings down every major building in the city” in her reviews, one of my sources reports.
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“Who needs an architecture critic?” Norcross reportedly said. I’m told that she was among the columnists that the newspaper co-owner wanted reassigned to reporting duties.

Norcross spokesman Daniel Fee tells me: “I guarantee you no one has spoken to George Norcross about Inga Saffron. George is happy that Inga’s work was recognized, and believes it was well deserved.

“Anonymous statements are worthless. If someone wants to attach their name to it, along with the details of when they assert these conversations occurred, I’d be really interested in knowing it – because then we’d know who is willing to make things up out of whole cloth.”

Saffron has heard that Norcross isn’t a fan, “but honestly I have no way of knowing if it’s true,” she says.

Her columns are posted on Philly.com – Norcross’s daughter, Lexie, is digital operations director – along with news stories and aren’t marked as architecture criticism.

“I think that policy is a huge mistake,” Saffron tells me. “Columnists are a brand that helps attract eyeballs. We should be doing everything we can trade on their identities.”

She adds in an email:

The title “architecture critic” is an old one that doesn’t reflect the breadth of what we do today. We’re really city critics and this is a time of profound change for American cities. We’re seeing quite a few big cities like Philadelphia rebound from years of depopulation and disinvestment, while others like Detroit struggle to find their footing. Pulitzer awards can’t help but tap into trends, so I think it’s no accident that both my work and [Detroit Free Press editorial page editor] Stephen Henderson’s were cited this year.

* Three-time finalist Saffron was surprised by her Pulitzer win (philly.com)
* Saffron’s on Philadelphia magazine’s “most powerful” list (phillymag.com)

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