Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Good News and Bad News

Yesterday, it was announced that an investor group led by Brian Tierney bought the local Philly papers, Phila. investors buy Inquirer, Daily News. As an interested "voyeur" of journalism (or at least a consumer), I have to add my comments. I have been a reader of the Inquirer since the mid-70s, when I worked in Harrisburg writing press releases. I have more recently come to appreciate the Daily News and it's offerings.

Certainly there is much to be happy about. Both papers will remain open and a 2-paper town (even if jointly owned) is better than one. At least the range of news is broadened. The papers no longer have to answer to Wall Street's lust for profits. And local ownership has its pluses, since they have more of an investment in the community.

Inquirer political analysist Dick Polman, whom I respect greatly, described it best in his American Debate blog, A fresh start:

This is a big deal. It means that the two papers will be freed from the dictates of Wall Street, where, under the destructive credo of capitalism run amok, publicly-traded media companies for decades have been under constant pressure to milk their products dry, diminish quality, slash costs, and generally violate the public trust, all in the interests of squeezing extra dollars for the next quarterly report. I, along with many others, have witnessed this process in action at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Two personal examples: I used to be a foreign correspondent based in London; now there is nobody in London. I used to write regularly for the Sunday magazine; now there is no Sunday magazine.

It would be foolish to think that the new [investor group], helmed by marketing/advertising executive Brian Tierney, will suddenly rain down money on the Inquirer newsroom, restore foreign bureaus, bring back the Sunday magazine, and hire scores of young and hungry reporters. That's not how the world works . . . .

So nirvana will not dawn tomorrow; nor will we know, in the short term, whether the various special interests that comprise [the investor group] will adhere to their signed pledge to keep their mitts off the newsroom. Nevertheless, there is a great sense of relief that we have avoided the worst of all outcomes -- being stripped, ravaged, and abandoned by some new absentees who know or care little about these papers and the community they serve. We had enough of that from the dying Knight Ridder, whose chairman, Tony Ridder, leaves the scene with his golden parachute. Tierney has the opportunity to play a key role at ground zero of a great national experiment, and those of us with a stake in that experiment wish him well. We would like nothing more than to see it succeed, and help make it happen.
Will Bunch of the Daily News and Attytood, who has written extensively (and with depth and passion) for the last several months on the future of journalism and the Daily News, was somewhat speechless (or wordless, if that's the written equivalent). His reaction:
After all that I've written in the last six months about saving the Daily News, you'd think I'd have a typically long and complicated reaction to the "stunning conclusion" of the saga, the purchase by "admitted Republican" Brian Tierney and his group of local investors.

Frankly, I don't.

Today, I'm happy. I'm keeping a job that I love (and a blog that I love), and will still be working here with some of the best journalists and best people I've ever known. There will be many battles ahead, to be sure, but you can't fight the good fight if you're not there. As for the big picture "norg" type stuff, my biggest hope was for an owner with a new way of thinking, willing to do things outside-the-box, who would seek to makeover news for the 21st Century. Tierney is an outsider who will try to do exactly that.

Beyond that, Bunch provides a survey of opinions (his and others) on the new owners and what they portend for the future. Dan Rubin of Blinq also provided a summary of blog reactions, View From The Cheap Seats.

For the bad news end of this, Editor & Publisher carried an article, Ex-'Inky' Editor: New Ownership Of Philly Papers Could Be 'Dangerous', quoting:

Former Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Robert Rosenthal, who spent 22 years at the paper, said the sale to a local investors group could prove problematic.

"It is a unique situation and I don't think it is necessarily a great one for journalism," said Rosenthal, who is currently managing editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. "Many of them are some of the most influential business people in Philadelphia and people who actively support politicians locally and nationally."

The veteran editor called the situation "very interesting and dangerous ... at times." He said it would be interesting "to see where the paths and relationships cross when it comes to the owners' relationships in the city and where the journalism leads." He added, "I don't think there is a situation like this in the country where the ownership group is so much a part of the political and economic power structure of a city."

In addition, Rosenthal called the leader of the investment group, Brian Tierney, a "fierce advocate who is used to getting his own way....I can't imagine a guy like Brian Tierney taking a back seat and letting things get in the paper that he is unhappy with," Rosenthal told E&P just hours after the deal was announced. "He was a very fierce advocate for his clients, there was nothing subtle about him -- elbows and knees."

* * * *

Rosenthal tangled with Tierney years ago when the Inquirer was sued by a former reporter, Ralph Cipriano, over a story Cipriano wrote about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The suit ended in a settlement in which the Inquirer paid Cipriano $7 million. Tierney, who runs a major public relations firm, had handled P.R. for the church and dealt with Rosenthal on that and other stories.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, in an interview with E&P then, praised Tierney for keeping one of Cipriano's critical stories out of the Inquirer. Tierney told E&P at that time that religious organizations and non-profits should be covered differently than other institutions.

Cipriano had sued the paper after Rosenthal made comments to The Washington Post that were critical of Cipriano's work on the Archdiocese story. The reporter, who was fired, had complained about the paper refusing to publish some elements of his reporting, which included accusations that money had been wrongly spent by the church.

* * * *

Rosenthal said the owners have their hands in such volatile issues as labor, politics, development and other business circles, which may cause problems with balanced coverage. "A lot of those people involved in owning the paper do have and will have involvement in those issues," he said. "The danger is whose toes are going to get stepped on. Perception is something very powerful, whether it is real or not. People who own the paper now are deeply embedded in many of the issues that confront Philadelphia and have a personal stake."

The Inquirer itself noted the controversial Tierney, in Frequent critic of media takes newspapers' helm. And, based upon his past dealings with the paper, that's putting it mildly, to say the least. As Attytood said several months ago,Be careful what you wish for?, when the hometown boys first expressed interest in the papers:

In the days since it was announced that the Daily News and the Inquirer have been thrown back on the market by our nominal new owner, the McClatchy Co., there's been a lot of speculation, much of it gushing, about the concept of local people buying Philadelphia's newspapers.

It's a great idea. The notion of a benevolent and patient Philadelphia millionaire/billionaire investor, willing to make a modest profit in return for the civic clout and the adventure of running the most influential hometown media outlet, is hard to resist. It certainly trumps the greedy Wall Street investor, demanding irrational profits while irrationally destroying the product to save it.

But the generic "local owner" is a lot like the generic Democrat or Republican they plug into congressional polls in off-years. They always do great, until the name of a real flesh-and-blood, flawed mortal has to be inserted. And in many of the news accounts so far, we've seen two local names -- two very flawed local names, Brian Tierney and Vince Fumo.

It's OK that they're flawed -- we all are. And even though they're political -- Tierney a Republican, Fumo a Democrat -- there's nothing wrong with that, either. In fact, the standards that I have for a local owner are ridiculously low. The only deal-breaker would be a record of hostility to the First Amendment and journalists' pursuit of the truth, a record of fighting for the protection of sacred cows instead of standing by while we shatter them.

And until now, Tierney and Fumo have flunked that test -- spectacularly.

In Tierney's case, there is considerable evidence that his aggressive PR campaigning for the Archdiocese crossed the line from advocacy into something more than that. The city's former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua told Editor and Publisher in 2001 that Tierney had "stopped the story" that Ralph Cipriano was trying to write about his spending practices. Cipriano, one of the best journalists we had in this city, was ultimately fired by the Inquirer. sued the newspaper for libel, and received a reported $7 million.

* * * *

Then, there's Vince Fumo. Sigh.

For Attytood readers here in Philly, Fumo needs no introduction. For out-of-towners, the longtime Democratic state senator is the top cog in this city's Democratic machine, a master of political hardball and patronage nicknamed "the Prince of Darkness." Last year, both the Daily News and Inquirer reported that federal agents had seized computer files from Fumo's legislative offices, in an effort to learn more about charities and non-profits with close ties to the senator.

That doesn't bother us, though, as much as Fumo's attitude toward Philadelphia's working press, highlighted by his active (and possibly successful) campaign to prevent the Inquirer from winning a Pulitizer in 1998. Fumo's best friend in town is attorney Richard Sprague, a man so quick with a libel suit that...well, that's just it, I can't really tell you what I really think of him.

* * * *

The sad thing is that there's a lot more I could write about Fumo and Tierney's hostility toward the medium that now say they want to rescue, but I think you get the idea.
Regarding of the Cipriano matter, that was a sordid tale that I followed at the time. I had recently moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh, as did Cardinal Bevilacqua, so I had some "history" with him and his ways. Cipriano's story about the Archdiocese was eventually published in the National Catholic Reporter, see Lavish spending in archdiocese skips inner city, which won a prize for the series. Cipriano also ended up suing the Inquirer over his termination and won a tidy settlement. I suppose it's only fitting that the person mainly responsible for the debacle -- Tierney -- should finally find a way to make amends. For anyone who's interested, in an aptly titled piece, Cipriano v. Rosenthal: The Whole Sordid Affair, Citypaper has a compilation of the various articles related to the incident. Very interesting reading.

In the end, like everyone else, I've ended up providing a compendium of others opinions. Like most others, I have mixed feelings about it. Having dealt with personalities like Tierney in my career, it's difficult to see him acquiescing to a hands-off approach. On the other hand, perhaps the challenge of proving everyone wrong will be sufficient incentive for him to focus his energies in that direction and just pull it off. As Suburban Guerrilla, said:
Saviors, or insect overlords? Who knows, only time will tell.
And finally, as a sort of p.s. -- for a postmortem on Knight Ridder, see the post Journalism's Darth Vader by former Daily News editor and reporter, Shaun Mullen, of Kiko's House, who concludes with:
Screw you, Tony Ridder. And you can quote me on that.


anthony kovalchick senior said...

Please view this Website, this is the Law Firm representing
Senator Fumo. I have 30 years of Court Documented Proof that Attorney Richard A. Sprague of Sprague&Sprague is involved in Racketeering.And PUT HIMSELF ABOVE THE LAW TO FIX A CASE HE KNEW HE COULD’NT WIN LEGALLY!!!!!! Richard A. Sprague subverted, perverted, and contorted the Law of the Land to FIX a case for clients who were being investigated by the F.B.I. and the U.S. Attorney.

And his client Robert J. Rosenstein aka R/S Financial Corporation of Philadelphia,
Who never had a Banking License in Pennsylvania, who is the Father of
Rod J. Rosenstein U.S. Attorney of Maryland, with this Political Connection, you have free reign as a CRIMINAL, When Rod J. Rosenstein was hired by theU.S. Department of Justice, the investigations against his Father Robert J. Rosenstein mysteriously ceased.

Please view on the Website the cover-up between the Schuylkill County Courthouse,
Prothonotary’s office and Sprague’s Office with a lost Opinion, Peter J. Symons Jr, head of the Prothonotary’s office signs statement stating, lost/misplaced Opinion and called Pa. Supreme Court to Fax a copy. Well, an Intellius Report was done and the fax number turned Out to be a landline in Sprague’s Office, not a dedicated fax line, this number must be THE DIRTY DEEDS LINE.Also please view the Forensic Document Examiner’s Report Of all the altered dockets in the Prothonotary’s office in Schuylkill County, Pa. Also, view the West Law report on the not signed certiorari from the United States Supreme Court. Fake Court documents are being submitted from the clerk of
Courts office to (Thomson West Law and Nexis Lexis), They do not require that opinions, decisions , or any documents pertaining to court cases be certified from the court that forward said cases to verify authenticity.

I have been a Victim of Crime at the hands of Richard A. Sprague for 30 years,
In is just some of the Proof I have, I couldn’t fit 30 long dirty years
On my website, Richard A. Sprague was a previous President Judge of the Judicial Conduct Board of Discipline in Pennsylvania (over ethics, GOD HELP US ALL).
Richard A. Sprague has been and always will be a LEGAL TERRORIST!!!!!!!!

As of 3:00pm today March 19th 2007, Richard A. Sprague had Susan Faust arrested,
Who is the daughter of Anthony Kovalchick Senior; she was arrested and put in the Pottsville, Schuylkill County Prison, with no bail, on civil contempt charges. They say she was arrested on charges of trying to sell the land of the Estate of Helen Kovalchick,
Her Mother, as Susan was the Administrator of the Estate. See case S-1155-2006 in the civil inquiry of the Schuylkill County Website, although DICK A. Sprague sent Attorney Sheldon Albert Of the Sprague Firm to let Susan Faust know in open Court Today , that its really because Of MY Website, Sheldon Albert used a copy of as his Exhibit “1”. Susan as the Administrator of the Estate, of Helen Kovalchick had the authority to sell the property from Bankruptcy Court Judge Thomas, Middle District Pa,Therefore, DICK A. Sprague again shows us how he FIXES A CASE, called in his DEEP POCKET JUDGE, JUDGE DOLBIN, and Dolbin signs what ever orders DICK A. Sprague makes up, again see case# S-1155-2006. Therefore, instead of suing the person responsible for the TRUTHFUL WEBSITE, he has Susan Faust put in Jail. This is why he is called THE FIXER OF ALL CASES, WHEN RICHARD A. SPRAGUE CANT LEGALLY WIN, WHICH IS NEVER, HE FIXES IT,


Attorney Sheldon Albert of Sprague’s Office wrote on Exhibit 1, which is the website of, see page 6, and then on page six put brackets around Judge Dolbins part in the website, to let Judge Dolbin know. Judge Dolbin should have recused himself immediately. What does this have to do with a Civil Contempt Order for selling Property?

The real reason my daughter is ILLEGALLY IN JAIL, taking away her civil rights is,
He is nothing but a BOTTOM FEEDER, AND WHEN HE CANNOT WIN, HE PUTS YOU IN JAIL! And if he cannot shut down your website, HE PUTS YOU IN JAIL!


anthony kovalchick senior said...

Richard A. Sprague aka Dick [Sprague] should be more concerned about the fake court opinions that are being faxed from his office to the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas in Pottsville, PA, instead of how Fumo likes his shirts to be laundered.

Dick [Sprague] also represents a fraudulent company by the name of R/S Financial Corporation. This fake company never had a banking license and is stealing people’s homes and terrorizing them. Apparently, a banking license is not needed if Dick [Sprague] is your legal representation. It should also be mentioned that the vice president of this fake company, Robert J. Rosenstein happens to have a son by the name of Rod J. Rosenstein, who is the U.S. Attorney of Maryland.

Dick [Sprague] always knowingly represents clients for the single purpose of protecting their position at the expense of others. It is more seemingly that he is also protecting his own position. If Dick [Sprague] received $272,000 from 2000 to 2006 from Citizens Alliance for advice, I am confused. Isn’t Dick [Sprague] supposed to be “donating” his legal resources to make better communities? Can you imagine how much Dick [Sprague] would charge a non-profit corporation for actually doing some real legal work? After all, apparently Dick [Sprague] has been doing pro-bono work for the fake company using the name, R/S Financial Corporation for thirty (30) years. So much for charity!

Richard A. Sprague should be indicted along with Fumo for his illegal activities. If you want to see exactly what Dick [Sprague] is up to, check out This website shows what political connections can accomplish illegally.

Why doesn’t the FBI and Justice Department indict Richard A. Sprague for all of his illegal, immoral activities? All the proof that is needed to put this bottom feeder away is on this site! The dirty Dick [Sprague] has gone too far!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anthony Kovalchick, Senior
Victim of Crime and Conspiracy

anthony kovalchick senior said...

Sprague Law Firm Threatens Blog:

Anthony Kovalchick Senior says…Richard A. Sprague, Please sue me so that I can get Justice and the Media and the Public can view the Criminal Conduct and how you fix cases!!!

The Sprague Law Firm is threatening to sue for blogs that Anthony Kovalchick Senior has posted, please view this under May archives and scroll down.

May 19, 2007

Mr. Morgan, the Kovalchick family is very sorry that Thomas E. Groshens of Sprague & Sprague bullied you and is trying to infringe on your rights as a blogger. As you can see, taking away the civil rights of the American people are the tactics of the Sprague & Sprague firm.

In rebuttal to Thomas, E. Groshens email:

The information on and blogs is all-TRUE. Richard A. Sprague and the entire firm of Sprague & Sprague are trying to do some damage control. However, the truth is the truth, so when it is out there for the public to view, it is detrimental to their reputation as officers of the court. The truth hurts!

Now let us cut to the chase:

Richard A. Sprague has quite the reputation as a libel suite king. He has sued numerous people and the media. He was defending himself in claims that he was not guilty of jury tampering. He also did not like the ABA Journal describing him as “perhaps the most powerful lawyer-cum fixer” in Pennsylvania.


If Richard A. Sprague says, he and his firm are being defamed by Anthony Kovalchick, Senior – WHY IS HE NOT SUING HIM? Why does Richard A. Sprague beat around the bush by harassing bloggers, internet providers, and web hosts? My website has been shut down twice and blogs have been deleted. I had to move my site out of the COUNTRY to get some justice. This last attempt to shutdown my website has failed, so now he is harassing my internet provider.

Statement of Anthony Kovalchick, Senior to Richard A. Sprague:

Time is of the essence. I am 86 years old and you are I believe 81 years old. I saw you on your news conference and you look in bad shape. So start the lawsuit for defamation against me and bring it on! The only two times my family had a jury trial when you represented Robert J. Rosenstein, father of U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of Maryland, WE WON! All I want before I leave this earth is a jury of twelve honest law-abiding citizens to view my proof and hear my sorrow. I am assuming you might not have enough attorneys since your firm; Sprague & Sprague is so busy with the Senator Vincent Fumo scandal that implicates numerous attorneys from your firm as criminal coconspirators.

See: United States District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania - Case Number 2:06-cr-00319-WY-3

Remember, I have 30 painful years of court-documented proof. I also have all the proof of the bank fraud and insurance fraud the firm of Sprague & Sprague perpetrated in Pottsville, PA.

I want justice for my late wife Helen, who suffered a stroke that resulted in brain damage at the hands of Robert J. Rosenstein and you, Richard A. Sprague. As a result of the brain damage she suffered, she wandered about the town of Tamaqua in her nightgown not knowing who she was or where she was going. The police and neighbors would bring her back to her home. I also want justice for the 30 years of pain my entire family suffered because of a scam artist with political connections.