The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, July 30, 2004  

What A Mess the Op-Ed Page Has Become

I don’t what they’re doing, or what think they’re doing, with the op-ed page at the once-great Philadelphia Inquirer, but what they’ve been doing recently on that page is a disgrace and an embarrassment, to all of those who work at or for the Inquirer, and to those, new to this city or otherwise, who remember when, not so very long ago, a time I remember, when you could buy the paper, on weekdays, for 20 cents, when the Philadelphia Inquirer was without doubt one of the greatest newspapers in the United States of America.

Those, as they say, were the days.

Today as a mere blogger, though one with a little bit of experience as a writer, I offer you just one example of the manner in which Philadelphians have been exposed, on that once thoughtful page, to some of the worst examples of publishers’ “cost cutting,” in this case by the Inquirer’s parent company, Knight-Ridder Corp.

Not long ago, on Friday, July 23, to be specific, the Philadelphia Inquirer devoted nearly half of the day’s op-ed page to a piece entitled, “Flavors We Constantly Change For Ice Cream Makers,” a pathetically entitled essay about a local brand of ice cream, with a few cute remarks about strawberries and jalapenos thrown in, one produced by Turkey Hill Dairy of Lancaster, Pa., a few doodlings that only became worse when the author, who happens to be named Lisa Gochnauer, who is employed as “a marketing associate” for, one guess only, Turkey Hill Dairy, of Lancaster, Pa., put pen to first word.

I am using, here, the phrase “op-ed” with the utmost and most guarded generosity, for this 722-word piece, the very one that was published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, by any reasonable evaluation, was nothing more than an advertisement -- a free and unpaid (more acurrately, paid-for) commercial -- a glowing, all-but in-house produced promotion for, from, and by the Turkey Hill Dairy.

I know a few people who work at the Inquirer. I can’t imagine they were anything but horrified by this blatantly commercial behavior; this advertisement disguised as opinion; this creativity posting as journalism.

Unfortunately, the writers I know at the Inquirer are too good, too smart, and too talented even to be read, just occasionally it seems, by the men and women in the offices upstairs. Too many times, I have seen their work -- the work of so many talented writers I’ve decided to leave unnamed today -- ignored by the Inquirer’s editors, publishers, and salespeople; their brilliant articles, research, and hard work, overlooked, downplayed, and possibly suppressed, all in order to sell a few more ads in Center City, South Jersey, and the nearby suburbs; or just a couple of more home-deliveries in Society Hill, Chestnut Hill, or on the Main Line.

Whether or not those who labor hard and long for the Inquirer, and for the Philadelphia Daily News, which happens also to be owned by Knight-Ridder, are as outraged by the July 23 “op-ed”/advertisement from Turkey Hill Farms, I do not know. But they should be. And if they aren’t, they damned well out to be.

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