The Latest Buzz: Rancor Reigns in Philly as ‘Inky’ Cuts Deep

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By: E&P Staff

As E&P noted yesterday, Daniel Rubin, the longtime Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, has been offering commentary at this blog there, named “blinq,” on the latest layoffs at that paper this week, with readers weighing in, of course. This follows a bitter near-strike, the dismissal of several dozen staffers is not going down real well in Philly.

This afternoon a rancorous thread was set in motion when Buzz Bissinger — the author off “Friday Night Lights” and a former Pulitzer winner at the Inky — offered a smackdown of two well-paid, but allegedly unproductive, writers at the paper who are keeping their jobs (but hardly need the money): ESPN TV and radio host Stephen A. Smith and mega-selling author John Grogan.

But was it really Bissinger? E&P contacted the person who posted under that name and he stated he was not an imposter. Then Rubin confirmed that it was indeed Bissinger, “my old editor.”

What he wrote inspired other incisive or entertaining comments that bear a good look. Here is the trail, slightly condensed.

Buzz Bissinger:

Given what is happening at the Inquirer, I hope that columnists Stephen A. Smith and John Grogan do what is right and take voluntary buyouts given they have both hit the jackpot in other realms and could care less about what they write for the paper. They both mail their columns in now. Smith is preoccupied with his ESPN show and is apprently never in the city he allegedly covers. Grogan is mired in the gooey syrup that made “Marley and Me” such a hit and has never shown any knowledge of the region whatsoever.

Neither deserve jobs at the Inquirer as it so desperately struggles, nor do they need the money. Smith signed a fat deal with ESPN. Grogan has become rich beyond all imagination as a result of “Marley”…. More power to him, but if he has one tenth of the morality he shows off in his insipid columns, he will quietly retire from the Inquirer so someone’s job can be saved.

Joseph DiStefano (a current Inquirer reporter):

I dunno, Buzzy. When I was pressed into helping out with a high school newspaper program in North Philly last Spring, none of the kids ever heard of you (or even me), but everyone knew who Stephen Smith was. Kids’ eyes lit up when they realized that I, too, worked for Stephen Smith’s paper.

I bet there are tractfuls of dog-owning suburbanites who feel the same way about Grogan, as Jessica Pressler, in a rare moment of insight, pointed out in Phillymag a few months back. The kind of people who go to church to be comforted, not challenged, and who made the Evening Bulletin the biggest newspaper in this town for many years.

I’m sure you’re right that Smith & Grogan don’t need the bucks, and that their $$ would come in handy keeping a real working reporter or two on staff if that could be arranged. (I’m doing my part by leaving, too.)

But you’re not just nasty-jealous, you’re also outta touch (and outta town) if you don’t see the value Smith and Grogan still bring to this newspaper.

Andrew Guy, Jr. (from Houston, Texas):

Buzz Bissinger, who penned one of the best non-fiction books ever written, is “jealous” of loud-mouthed-but-has-no-substance Stephan A Smith? Uh, um. Riiiight.

Of course, Buzz is a grown man and can speak for himself. I’m just adding that I understand his point. Those two writers don’t “need” the Inky. Sure, the Inky may “need” them. But think about this: Long after Smith and Grogan leaves the Inky, they will still be associated with that paper anyway.

Jessica Pressler:

Christ. They got rid of all those good people but Joe DiStefano is still there?

Thomas Paine:

I think you might all be missing the point. In a world of the differentiated proposition, who wants to read a fish wrap paper made of 3 day old wire service stories with a core of Main Line faux-celebrities?

I moved here from NYC 15 years ago and can’t figure out why I still buy this garbage. Come to think of it, I will cancel my subscription. I have kept it out of solidarity with the writers but they are now gone so why bother.

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