H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest

Philadelphia Newspapers, News Website Donated To Nonprofit Organization

Two Philadelphia newspapers, and their shared website, were donated to a nonprofit media organization in Pennsylvania. Philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, who owned the Daily News, the Inquirer, and Philly.com, donated both newspapers and the website to the Institute for Journalism in New Media. According to reports, Lenfest also donated $20 million — which will be used to endow the institute.

Philly.com reports the donation will not cause any immediate disruption to the newspapers or the website. According to Lenfest, Philadelphia Media Network employees, who belong to labor unions, will continue their employment under their current contracts.

“Philadelphia Media Network… will continue to operate under its current management team and its current Board of Directors as a taxable subsidiary of the Institute. While still running the news organizations as a for-profit business, the new ownership structure under the Institute allows journalism… to benefit more readily from philanthropic dollars, yet still be governed by those best equipped to manage and operate these news outlets.”

As stated in an official news release, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest’s ultimate objective is to preserve “the journalism that has been delivered by these storied news organizations.”

“My goal is to ensure that the journalism traditionally provided by the printed newspapers is given a new life and prolonged, while new media formats for its distribution are being developed.”

In 1829, Philadelphia native Jesper Harding purchased the Pennsylvania Inquirer, which was later renamed the Philadelphia Inquirer. At that time, the city already had seven other newspapers in circulation.

Although the Pennsylvania Inquirer had some fierce competition, Harding devised a plan to boost his newspaper’s popularity exponentially.

Between 1840 and 1851, Harding obtained serial rights to several novels and poems — which were subsequently published in the Pennsylvania Inquirer.

With the inclusion of works by Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe, the publication became one of the most popular, and profitable, in the city.

Jesper Harding also caused a big stir amid the 1836 and 1840 presidential elections.

The Philadelphia Press Association reports Harding was a strong supporter of presidential candidate William Henry Harrison, and the Whig party in general. As a result, his outspoken views were often expressed in the Pennsylvania Inquirer.

After merging with the Daily Courier in 1839, the newspaper was renamed the Pennsylvania Inquirer and Daily Courier. Six years later, it was once again renamed as the Pennsylvania Inquirer and National Gazette.

The popular Philadelphia newspaper got its current name when Jesper’s son, William White Harding, took over in 1860.

By 1863, William implemented a unique system of newspaper delivery and subscription fee collection. In addition to offering home delivery, the Philadelphia Inquirer became one of the first newspapers to use the “web fed rotary press” — which printed on both sides of the paper simultaneously.

Although the Philadelphia newspaper changed hands multiple times over the next 150 years, it remained current with the addition of classified ads, a Sunday edition, and ever-increasing distribution.

Over the years, the publication was honored with 20 Pulitzer prizes for excellence in journalism.

Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, which were both owned by Philadelphia Media Holdings subsidiary Philadelphia Newspapers, filed bankruptcy in 2009. During a subsequent auction, Philadelphia Newspapers was purchased by the Philadelphia Media Network.

Six years later, Philadelphia Media Network CEO H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest announced the company’s newspapers and website were donated to the Institute for Journalism in New Media.

Newspaper Guild President Howard Gensler confirmed the change is not currently affecting employees. However, it is unclear what changes will be made over time.

According to the terms of the agreement, the Institute for Journalism in New Media will maintain ownership of Philadelphia Daily News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Philly.com. However the organization will not have governance power.

The agreement also specifies that “the editorial function and news coverage of PMN shall at all times remain independent of the institute, and the institute shall not attempt to influence or interfere with the editorial policies or decisions of PMN.”

However, by giving the Philadelphia newspapers and website to the organization, PMN will be able to receive additional donations from corporations, foundations, and individuals.

[Image via xamnesiacx/Shutterstock]

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