The publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Bob Hall, is being sued by two of the six owners of the paper over last week’s firing of editor-in-chief Bill Marimow.
Lewis Katz and H.F. Lenfest, who together own 42 percent of the Philadelphia Media Network, say they should have been consulted about the firing. They accuse Hall of going beyond his jurisdiction. The lawsuit calls for Marimow’s return.
The Philadelphia Media Network was bought by six investors in April 2012 for $55 million. Katz paid $16 million for 26 percent, and Lenfest bought 16 percent for $10 million. The private equity company includes The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com.
The cause of Marimow’s termination is reportedly his refusal to fire five senior staff members, as required by Hall. One of the people on the firing list was Dan Biddle, who won a Pulitzer for Investigative Reporting in 1987. Bill Marimow also earned the paper a Pulitzer in 1985.
In an editorial on Newsworks, blogger Dave Davies says: “Since none of the people targeted for dismissal have been fired since Marimow left, one might conclude those orders were given with the knowledge Marimow would refuse, giving the publisher cause to sack Marimow.”
Whether that is valid or not, Marimow’s firing seemingly has nothing to do with his journalistic choices as editor. Marimow served as editor from 2006 to 2010, when he was demoted to reporter for not having enough knowledge in digital media to advance the paper, according to Poynter. Marimow quit to teach at Arizona State University. He was replaced by Stan Wischnowski, and then in April 2012 was asked to come back as editor. He returned as editor from April 2012 to last week, when he was replaced by Wischnowski again.
Bob Hall gave Marimow a memo of a number of things he wanted him to do, specifically “to embrace the redesign of the paper, eliminate police blotter filler, promote staff writing rather than wire service copy in the A section, strengthen suburban coverage, and improve relations between the newspaper staff and Philly.com,” according to Newsworks. Marimow apparently did everything on the memo except the five layoffs.