Tag Archives: Philadelphia Daily News

Never the Answer

Last night at the Wells Fargo Center, the increasingly embarrassing Philadelphia 76ers put on a dog-and-pony show for their remaining fans to honor one of the most polarizing and controversial stars in franchise history.

Allen Iverson, also known as “A.I.” (emphasis on the “I”), was feted with the usual speeches from other players and club officials past and present, and a career highlight video. He also had his number ‘3’ retired, with a banner hung from the rafters representing that honor.

As a part of the ceremony, one of the many gifts bestowed upon Iverson last night was a modest-sized fishing boat with another of his nicknames, “The Answer”, scrawled along the side. The problem with the inscription, the nickname as applicable to the player himself, is that it just doesn’t apply.

Allen Iverson proved that he was never the answer for this franchise. I feel that it’s honoring of him alongside champions such as Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Billy Cunningham, and Hal Greer is preposterous, a blatant ploy to sellout the house as was a similarly undeserving player, Charles Barkley in 2001.

Every one of those first half-dozen players mentioned in the last paragraph were great individual players on the court. Every one of them was an all-star, and spent some period of time in their NBA career as one of the best at their respective position. They played hard, well, and brought honor to the 76ers logo, fans, franchise.

They also brought the franchise and we fans something that Iverson, and Barkley, never did, an NBA Championship. Allen Iverson played parts of 14 seasons in the NBA, most of them as a starting shooting guard. He played a full 10, and parts of two others, with the Sixers franchise.

He was the 76ers first round selection, the first player selected overall, in the 1996 NBA Draft following a similarly exciting and controversial college career at Georgetown University. As in individual player, he mostly lived up to that status. He led the NBA in scoring 4x, in steals 3x, and in minutes played per-game 4x in his full Sixer seasons.

His whirling dervish style of play also injected life back into a fan base which had grown disillusioned during a 5-year stretch of losing seasons which had begun when Barkley left town. The last four of those seasons resulted in the team winning 30 fewer games than it won while playing a bland style of basketball with zero on-court personalities.

Iverson certainly brought personality, and the local media bought into his “inner city”, hip-hop celebrity act hook, line, and sinker. Especially guilty was the Philadelphia Daily News, a local rag newspaper with plummeting circulation that has become as irrelevant as the team, which splashed his face across the front and back pages of it’s tabloid on a regular basis.

But lost in all of the flash and style was the fact that on the court there was precious little success. In just one season, the memorably glorious 2000-01 campaign, did the Sixers enjoy real success as a team during the entirety of Iverson’s tenure as it’s star and leader.

The team had reached the playoffs in each of the two previous seasons, won an Opening Round, but had lost both times in the Conference Semi-Finals. In that 2000-01 season, Iverson had led the NBA in scoring for the 2nd time in his career. Now for the one time in his career, he translated that game and helped lift his team to stirring post-season victories.

The Sixers again won in the Opening Round, vanquishing an Indiana team that had eliminated them in each of the two prior playoffs. Then back-to-back, they defeated first Toronto and then Milwaukee in dramatic 7-game series to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1983 NBA Championship team.

In those Finals, Iverson enjoyed one more shining moment, capping this post-season run that is really the only such period of glory that he can hang his hat upon. In the opening game at Los Angeles, Iverson almost single-handedly willed the Sixers to an overtime win. Unfortunately it would be their only victory in the series, as the Lakers then stormed back to win the next four straight games and the title.

It is that season of glory that fans cling to in their memory banks, frankly because it is the only season of real glory for the franchise since Doctor J hung up his sneakers. Other than that 2000-01 season, the 76ers have won just a handful of Opening Round matchups, never advancing further in the NBA playoffs for what is now three full decades.

Now I am certainly not going to blame 30 years of non-contending on one player in Iverson. I already mentioned some of his stats, he was most definitely an exciting, all-star caliber player. But what he wasn’t was the same thing that Barkley wasn’t before him: a winner.

I was a huge Sixer fan during my childhood through the 70’s and mid-80’s, a period that included one of the worst seasons in NBA history in 1972-73 and some awful teams before the Dr. J era began, then the full glory of that period during Doc’s career when the Sixers became perennial title contenders.

What did happen during both the Barkley era and then the Iverson era was that the team came to be dominated by those players and their selfish styles on the court. They never were able to attract or elevate players around them to create that perennially winning situation.

During the Iverson era, the 76ers won just that lone Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference title in 2000-01. More representative of their finish during his time were the 6th or lower records which came eight times for the team in the Eastern Conference during his career in Philly.

For the entirety of the 5 seasons following 2000-01, the team finished with exactly a .500 regular season cumulative record. For the entirety of the 4 seasons prior to 2000-01, the team finished with a cumulative record that was 36 games under that .500 mark. Bottom line: Iverson had one memorable year in Philly.

My own interest in the Sixers has unfortunately disintegrated over the last quarter century. Both Barkley and Iverson proved themselves to be colorful characters and all-star level individual players, but neither was able to deliver more than a handful of winning stretches of play. Meanwhile, in numerous post-game interviews and off-court incidents, both set horrible examples for their youthful fans.

There have been other disappointing pro athletes in Philadelphia over the last couple of decades, players whose greatness wearing their team uniform was obvious, but who never were able to elevate their teams to a championship level. But I would argue that both Donovan McNabb and Eric Lindros did far more good than harm for the Eagles and Flyers respectively. That is an argument for another article.

As for Allen Iverson, he never did prove to be “The Answer” for the Philadelphia 76ers. Last night he was rewarded for that one 2000-01 oasis in what has been a Philly pro basketball desert over the last three decades. Right now the Sixers franchise is an embarrassment on the court, and in again bestowing an honor on a player that does not deserve it, they only add to that embarrassment.

Concern Over New Philly Newspaper Owners

At an auction conducted on Wednesday, the struggling and increasingly irrelevant Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News as well as their Internet arm “Philly.com” were all purchased by a group of creditors.

The new owners have quickly come under fire from the top politicians at both the Commonwealth and the City levels.

Governor Ed Rendell, the former 2-term Mayor of Philadelphia, voiced his concern that he believed that newspapers should  be owned by people from the area. He further stated “In the end, the newspaper is nothing if not the people who work for it. If you take that away, you take away it’s soul.”

Mayor Michael Nutter, the current Philly head honcho, called on the new owners to make their decisions on how to proceed with the operation of the papers “based on great journalism” rather than being overly concerned with the financial bottom line.

Both of these comments mask the actual concern of these two leading Democratic Party politicians. Their real primary concern is that with new ownership will come a basic change of direction in the editorial content and presentation of the two papers.

For decades, the Philadelphia Inquirer and even more overtly the Daily News have been outwardly liberal in their political and social commentaries and with the vast majority of their political endorsements. It is this liberal ideology as directed by Rendell and Nutter’s Democrats that has demoralized Philly and reduced it to a shell of it’s former greatness.

Rather than using their status as the city and region’s main newspapers and internet presence to call for reform and change to a system that has resulted in massive numbers of citizens and businesses fleeing the city over the last few decades, the two papers have continually backed the status quo.

The newspaper business has been dying all across America for the past couple of decades. This is partly due to the Internet, partly due to 24-hour news, sports, weather, and entertainment television channels. But there is still a niche that properly run newspapers could fill. Unfortunately most have been taken over, as Philly’s papers were, by partisan political shills. As this became more and more obvious, more and more people turned away from regular readership and subscriptions.

The “soul” that Rendell speaks of, those editors, writers, and staffers who put the newspapers out on the streets, and the old ownership that hired them, supported them, and encouraged them to push that liberal agenda and back those Democratic politicians is directly to blame.

Rather than maintaining the former status quo and leaving every worker untouched, and leaving the newspapers to continue their failed direction that has in turn failed the citizens of Philadelphia, the new owners should do exactly the opposite of what Rendell and Nutter are hoping.

If it is determined that Philadelphia needs and has the viability to support two newspapers, which is dubious at best, or if only one should survive, change is absolutely vital. The editorial direction and content of the papers and website in every department needs to reflect a much greater diversity of opinions. Particular attention needs to be paid towards making Philadelphia, other localities, Pennsylvania, and national pols much more accountable.

Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter, as well as a number of individuals who work for both newspapers, and any number of liberal activists all around the Philly region are concerned over the possible direction that the new ownership will take. They should be concerned that their domination of the conversation, one-way in the wrong direction for decades, will cease, and that Philadelphia may indeed see it’s newspapers become what they were meant to be all along, a true watchdog.

Nearly Everybody Reads the Bulletin

In the city of Philadelphia, the Bulletin is back, and just in time to save local newspaper readers from the quagmire of liberal junk for which we had no alternative for years. Actually, the Bulletin has been back since 2004. I had heard something about it, but didn’t know the story and didn’t pay much attention to it. I just figured that someone else was coming out with yet another newspaper. Same old same old. However this all began to change when I attended a Christmas party a few weeks ago. At the party, my wife and I were introduced to some of the party-goers as “the Republicans”, almost as if to say “the vampires.” There was another such couple at the party, and we were naturally introduced, paired up, and left at the dining room table together. It was the wife in this couple who told us that we simply had to try The Bulletin. She stated that it was nothing like the liberal hogwash pushed everyday in repetitive fashion by the Daily News and Inquirer. She said that we would enjoy the fresh, fair, slightly conservative slant in which the news was portrayed, and especially the editorial section. When the woman told us that The Bulletin would deliver to you free for thirty days as a trial offer, I was sold. I made the call during the following week and the deal was that they would indeed deliver to you free for a month. You would be billed during that time in order to continue your subscription. If you didn’t want to continue, you just ignored the bill. It was a deal too good to pass up. The only problem is that The Bulletin has not yet grown in circulation to the point where it has a carrier in every section of our area. The woman at the party said that her Bulletin comes in the morning via the same carrier who delivers her Inquirer. There was no such arrangement in my area of Somerton, and so the paper would be delivered daily with my regular mail. This seemed a bit odd, but it has worked out. The paper does indeed arrive every day with my mail. More importantly, the content is everything that I was told it would be. It is informative, well written, and largely conservative. Back in 2004, investment banker Thomas G. Rice had the great idea that I had thought of for years. A conservative slanted newspaper to counter the overt liberal bias of the current local newspapers. Rice bought the naming rights of the old Evening & Sunday Bulletin from the McLean family and began publishing on November 22nd of that year. With receipt of the new version of The Bulletin daily at my home, much has come full circle. Back in the early-late 1970’s, I was a newspaper delivery boy for the old Bulletin, as well as eventually becoming an assistant branch manager. The old Bulletin was the first company from which I ever received an official paycheck. Now I am back with The Bulletin as a regular subscriber and reader, and I whole-heartedly endorse the paper to anyone out there. The Bulletin presents the news clearly and concisely, fully covering all of the major stories of the day, and does so with that conservative slant that many of us have hungered for years to read. It will take you a week or so to get used to the paper’s format. It does not cover all of the ‘fluff’ of the other papers, but also does not have as much advertising to wade through. I believe that you will find The Bulletin a great addition to your daily newspaper reading, and eventually may find that it is the only paper you want and need. There is no specific weekend edition, publishing from Monday to Friday, so if you like just order the weekend Inquirer and the Bulletin as your daily. You absolutely will not regret it. The news will be much easier to digest. Blood will stop shooting from your eyes when you read these editorials. You will remember what a great newspaper was like. Back in its former heyday when for 76 years it was the largest circulated evening newspaper in the United States, the old saying for the paper was “Nearly Everybody Reads the Bulletin”. The new version of the paper may not have grown to that level yet, but it has the content and the potential. Give it a try, and if you are like me you will find a reason to believe that perhaps the newspaper business is not dying. The Bulletin should be read by nearly everybody, and certainly by anyone who leans to the right-of-center culturally and politically. Just call 215-735-9150 to start your free trial subscription.

Pigs can’t fly

 

Looking up at the spire of the big, white Philadelphia Inquirer building at 400 North Broad Street, one thing quickly becomes obvious. There are no flying pigs surrounding the place. Pigeons aplenty, but porcine purveyors of the airways? None to be found.

The “flying pigs” campaign being put on by the local newspaper is just that, a put-on, just one more advertising gimmick and one more example of twisting numbers and grasping at straws by a dying entity. In the process of grief that accompanies any such slow, agonizing death, the local newspapers are in the period known as “denial”.

On May 1st, the local newspaper reported that it’s daily circulation had risen, and went about celebrating this accomplishment as if a Democrat had been elected as President of the United States. There were special section in the paper, huge banner headlines, graphs and charts, all celebrating the “impossible news”.

Here is the truth, which you will likely never get from the local newspapers. In 1968, the Inquirer’s daily circulation stood at 648,000 and it’s Sunday circulation at 905,000. This was despite the presence of very real competition from the Evening & Sunday Bulletin, a major newspaper in it’s own right that everyone over the age of 40 remembers well.

The Inky’s Sunday circulation continued to rise slowly, and by 1990 stood at a high of 996,000. Of course the entirety of this rise can be traced to a single huge event: the death of the Bulletin. This longtime competitor of the Inquirer was actually the big boy on the block for a long time. The Evening Bulletin was the top local newspaper, and it’s daily circulation reached the 750,000 level by the mid-1960’s.

Circulation slipped appreciably at all evening newspapers around the country through the 1970’s, and particularly into the 1980’s. Problems included practical ones, such as increased vehicular traffic around cities and towns that made it difficult to deliver the papers in a competitive way (morning papers like the Inquirer, delivered between 1am and 5am, do not face these obstacles). There was also increased competitition in the evenings from 24-hour cable news and the internet.

On January 29th, 1982, the Bulletin published it’s final edition, burying what had once been the nation’s largest afternoon newspaper. Of course, readership was driven to the only option left in town, the Inquirer and the Daily News. The two papers, long owned by the exact same publisher, presented themselves as different, with one coming out in the morning and one later in the day, but that distinction has blurred considerably as the years have passed.

With no major local competition, the Inquirer has continued to lose daily circulation on a steady basis. In 1984, two years after the Bulletin’s death, it was already down over 100,000 from it’s 1968 peak. By 1990, it had dropped another 20,000 in daily circulation, but the Sunday editions were holding steady. That all changed in the 90’s with the explosion of cable news and the internet as mass media.

By the end of the decade, the Inky was down another 100,000 in daily circulation, and even more troubling was that the Sunday circulation had declined by almost 200,000. By 2006, those figures stood at about 330,000 in dailly and 682,000 in Sunday circulation. These figures include “free” papers given away by the paper, paid for by it’s advertisers.

This is no view of the glass as half-empty rather than half-full article, which was yet another version of the Inky’s denial mode pushed into their “Impossible News” section. The Inquirer and Daily News are in deep trouble despite new ownership pouring money into advertising for a year now. Just four months ago, in January 2007, the Inquirer management cut seventy-one editorial staff positions due to revenue losses.

According to a “Rebuilding Media” website article of September 2005, what happened to the Bulletin is now happening at the Inquirer/Daily News. Across the country, newspapers are dying. “In 1930, there were 1.3 newspapers sold (daily) per household…by 1980 it was .77…by 2003 it was under .50”. These are actual home subscription numbers. “The number of newspapers sold per 100 adults follows a similar slope…daily newspaper circulation peaked about 20 years ago at 63 million and has fallen about 13% since then.”

There is some growth in the newspaper industry wordwide, largely attributable to a dramatic increase in the rapidly expanding Asian markets, and somewhat less to the distribution of free newspapers in poorer countries. But at the major daily newspapers in America, the message is clear: your days as the most reliable source of news information are long past. Just as the anchor chair at the evening network news has lost it’s power grip, so have you.

In March of 2005, the Inquirer/Daily News were sold by Knight-Ridder, a major national publisher, to industry rival The McClatchey Group. Just over a year later, almost exactly one year ago, McClatchey cut it’s losses quickly by selling to a group of local investors that include high-power, deep-pockets folks like homebuilder Bruce Toll, advertising executive Brian Tierney, and a number of others. This group has little or no publishing experience at this level.

On the same day that the Philadelphia Inquirer was telling us that it’s circulation was increasing, and that pigs could indeed fly, the Philadelphia Business Journal published the real story behind the story. The newest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation show that in the past six months circulation at the participating newspapers has fallen by 2.1 percent, and Sunday readership has fallen by 3.1 percent.

The Inquirer can rightly celebrate the anomaly of it’s slight circulation rise of 2,000 in six months. Of course, this is following huge losses in ’05 and ’06, and is just a six month figure, not the more important yearly measuring stick. Will the Inquirer show increased circulation for the year? No. The message is clear: Daily newspapers have lost their influence and continue to lose readers.

Oh, and pigs can’t fly.