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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Philly Inquirer Editor’s Case Slated for Appeal

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - The Philadelphia Inquirer's publishers have appealed an order directing them to reinstate the editor they fired without consulting two owners.

Back in October, Inquirer co-owners Lewis Katz and H.F. Lenfest filed suit against CEO Robert Hall and the publishing company Interstate General Media (IGM) over the "unauthorized, unforeseen, and ill-advised" termination of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editor William Marimow. Katz and Lenfest won a ruling reinstating Marimow in late November.

Hall and the other majority co-owners appealed the decision and asked for an expedited hearing on the matter. The Katz-Marimow team then filed an opposition to an expedited appeal of the decision, leading Hall to file a reply on Wednesday.

He and IGM argued that "the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has characterized a mandatory preliminary injunction as 'an extraordinary remedy that should be utilized only in the rarest of cases."

As such, "the fact that the trial court granted a mandatory preliminary injunction in and of itself establishes that this case is an 'unusual' one justifying expedited review," the reply states.

The Hall team says that "the members of IGM, as the owners of the Inquirer, promised to make no 'attempt to directly or indirectly control or influence any of the editorial or journalistic policies and decisions of the company,'" a promise that, according to the reply, was memorialized in Section 5.6 of IGM's LLC Agreement.

Ordering Marimow's reinstatement ignores that section of the agreement and that "if Section 5.6 bars [Katz] from having a right to vote on the firing of the editor, he cannot complain of being denied a right he does not have," according to the reply.

Failing to address Section 5.6 is "plain error," the publishers added.

They also said that "by concluding that the Inquirer's editor serves at the pleasure of, and therefore, can be controlled by, a single member of IGM's Management Committee, the trial court's opinion calls into doubt the journalistic independence and integrity of a paper that can ill afford such questions."

Citing the expiration of Marimow's contract on April 30, the publishers also said the appeal will become moot thus creating "exigent circumstances."

Marimow had been the Inquirer's top editor from 2006 to 2010, and returned in May 2012, after the newspaper's lengthy bankruptcy proceedings, as Hall took over as publisher.

The pair reported butted heads for several months before Hall gave Marimow the pink slip in October.

Hall had argued during preliminary objections that Marimow had "longstanding ineffective job performance" and that his "insubordinate refusal to follow directives or implement much-need editorial, journalistic and personnel changes at the Inquirer" caused circulation decline and contributed to morale problems in the newsroom.

IGM and Hall's reply also had a final parting shot for Katz and Marimow, saying that their "willingness to play fast and loose with the record facts in their initial filing before this court makes one question whether anything they say about the record can be relied upon by this court."

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