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Did the Philadelphia Inquirer fire its columnist for the above column about the new convention center? (Credit:Inquirer)

Philadelphia news site The Metropolis questioned the recent firing of Paul Davies from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to The Metropolis, the newspaper won’t give a comment about the firing.

But, The Metropolis links Davies’s firing to his  “March 5th column critical of the new $786-million addition to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.” Newsworks reported April 5 that Davies was no longer working for the newspaper.

The center complained about the article, sent a letter to the editor, and according to the Metropolis’ anonymous sources at the Inquirer, also axed a $400,000 to $500,000 advertisement campaign from the newspaper. The Mondo Times reports: “With daily circulation of 342,361, Philadelphia Inquirer is one of the largest circulation newspapers in the USA [number 11].”

The Metropolis called on the Inquirer to be transparent about what happened and asked if Davies was fired because of his column. As The Metropolis explained:

“In the Inquirer newsroom, the belief is widespread that Davies was defenestrated because of that column, that management did cave and it makes them wonder if (or when) it will happen again –and if it will happen to them. This is known as the ‘chilling effect.'”

The Metropolis also questioned what type of effect the firing would have as “word gets around town” that the public can manipulate coverage.

The Metropolis’s writer, Tom Ferrick, disclosed that he worked for the Inquirer for three decades and “During that time, I know there were powerful forces at work seeking to get the paper to kill stories, or mute critical columnists or scuttle investigations.”

But, according to Ferrick, the newspapers’ editors and publishers stood their ground against influence those being criticized.

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Davies’ column indicated the expansion wouldn’t be successful if the convention center couldn’t fix “its (long-standing) labor issues that have chased away convention bookers and organizers, who complain about restrictive work rules and labor costs.”

The letter to the Inquirer’s editor, sent by the center’s chairman Nick DeBenedictis after Davies’ column was published, claimed Davies tried to “sabotage” the center’s business.

The March 14 letter from the convention center’s chairman (see here) stated that the center’s “board of directors, 1,000 members, and staff were incredibly disappointed to read Paul Davies’ opinion that set out to sabotage Philadelphia’s convention industry.”

“Unfortunately, as a result of that column, a major convention customer whose business is worth $54 million in spending for the city is now questioning our ability as a convention destination. You can bet that our national competition is just eating up the fact that our hometown newspaper is providing the ammunition to steal this business.”

Davies’ March 5 column claimed that the $786 million “taxpayer-financed” Pennsylvania Convention Center slammed the center’s finances because it has “lost millions most years,” “charged more than most of its competitors,” has a high labor cost, exhibitors are unhappy, and so on.

According to The Metropolis, the issues brought up in Davies’ column weren’t new, but rather “something that has been known and debated for years.”

Poynter’s Jim Romenesko reported in early April that Philadelphia Media Network’s external relations vice president, Mark Block, denied that the column led to his firing.  Block stated:

“We respectfully deny your reported assessment of the reason noted for Paul Davies’ departure from Philadelphia Media Network. We are unable to comment further on the matter in view of our company policy not to discuss personnel matters relative to former employees. “

iMediaEthics is writing the Inquirer, the convention center and Davies himself for comment and will update with any response.

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