[UPDATED] No ‘Welcome Back!’ signs for Brian Tierney at Philadelphia’s newspapers

Brian Tierney has returned the Philadelphia Inquirer as the publisher’s adviser and, according to reports, staffers aren’t holding up “Welcome Back!” signs.

Brian Tierney

Brian Tierney

Two reasons why: As CEO of Philly’s newspapers, Tierney paid himself a $350,000 bonus while his Inquirer and Daily News were struggling; and he once asked the bankruptcy court to dismiss a $50 million payment due the pension fund of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia.

Ex-Inquirer reporter Ralph Cipriano also points out that Tierney “was brought back as a sales consultant last year, collected $87,500 in salary over four months, and in exchange, brought in exactly $0 in revenues.”

I asked one of my Philadelphia newspaper sources if Tierney has any newsroom fans. That journalist responded:

I don’t think he has much support from rank and file reporters. There’s a lot on pent up resentment about a lot of things — our pensions. The bonus he paid himself, his return last year at $25k a month after our pay cuts. His support is basically Marimow and Friends of Bill.

So Tierney is now advising Philadelphia’s newspapers, running his marketing firm Brian Communications and serving as Poynter Foundation chairman.

Poynter announced Tierney’s appointment in June of 2012. For the entire year of 2012, the foundation raised $0, according to its IRS Form 990. (Fundraising figures for 2013 aren’t available.) Update – Poynter Foundation president Chris Martin writes in an email: “I started at Poynter in Feb. 2013. I had to build a staff and had no infrastructure, initially. It was my job to build the Foundation and its work. The Foundation did not achieve tax exempt status until June 2013. So since there was no actual Foundation in place until very recently, and no tax-exempt status until June 2013, there was no activity recorded on the IRS form in 2012.”

I asked Martin about Tierney’s duties. Her response:

As Chairman, Brian is the chief cheerleader to the other Board members — encouraging them to help us build networks and relationships, encouraging them to be ambassadors for Poynter’s work across the county (and world), urging them to be generous in all ways.

Brian consults with me often — with fund-raising ideas, with leads on folks who have an interest in our work, with ideas for building affinity and awareness across audiences and constituents.

I invited Tierney to comment on Cipriano’s article and got this response from Brian Communications executive vice president Matt Broscious: “Regarding Brian’s interim role at the papers, we’ve only provided a statement to media upon request. He’s not doing any interviews on the announcement or the subsequent coverage. …As for Poynter Foundation, Brian plans to continue in his role as chairman.”

Tierney says in his statement that “if during this transition period [for the newspapers] my expertise and qualifications can help the organization, I want to do so.”

* Inky sale not official but new publisher making moves (bigtrial.net)
* Brian Tierney returns to the Inquirer (phillymag.com)
* June 2012: Philly Catholic Church cover-up and Poynter’s Brian Tierney (jimromenesko.com)

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