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The two newspapers are owned by H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, who bought the paper in 2014 from Interstate General Media, a holding company owned by a group of local investors of which they had been a part. They share a free website, Philly.com, and also have separate websites launched in 2013, Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com, which both have hard paywalls.
The Inquirer, a broadsheet, is the larger and older of the two newspapers. It reached national prominence during the 1970s and ’80s under the leadership of Gene Roberts, winning 17 Pulitzer Prizes between 1975 and 1990. The Daily News, a tabloid, was founded in 1925 and became an edition of the Inquirer in 2009.
The two papers were brought under the same ownership in 1957, when the Inquirer’s owner, Moses Annenberg, bought the Daily News. Annenberg sold the papers to the Knight Ridder newspaper chain in 1969. In 2006, when Knight Ridder was bought by the McClatchy Co., the two papers were sold to a group of local investors led by former PR executive Brian Tierney, who became the Inquirer’s publisher later that year.
The papers operated at a profit during Tierney’s tenure, though those calculations didn’t include their debt obligations, which drove Philadelphia Newspapers to file for bankruptcy protection in 2009. In April 2010, the papers were sold to a group of Philadelphia Newspapers’ creditors for $139 million, about a quarter of what Tierney had bought it for four years earlier.
During Tierney’s tenure, both newspapers’ circulation continued a sharp drop, and both newsrooms’ staffs were cut dramatically. The papers’ coverage of local issues decreased substantially and the Inquirer went on a Pulitzer drought, not winning one until 2012. The Daily News earned a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for stories on a rogue police narcotics squad.
The company was put on the block again in early 2012, eventually being sold to a group of local investors for $55 million, barely one-tenth of its sale price in 2006 and equal to its sale price in 1969. Then-publisher Greg Osberg was reported to have meddled with the papers’ coverage of the sale process.
The papers’ new owners rehired former Inquirer editor Bill Marimow to the same position in 2012, though he was fired in 2013 as part of an intra-owner struggle that led two owners to sue the company over Marimow’s firing. (He was later reinstated by a judge.) Several of the papers’ owners accused each other of meddling, and the conflict between owners led the paper to be put up for sale again in 2014, with Lenfest and Lewis Katz — who had been the minority owners — buying the paper outright. Katz died in a plane crash later that week, and Lenfest bought out Katz’s share from his son.
The papers introduced a paywall in April 2013 that limited access to print or digital subscribers, with no free access for other users. The papers had long talked publicly about paid content plans. Tierney said repeatedly he planned to charge for access to Philly.com, once saying he planned to institute a paywall by the end of 2009. Osberg said in June 2010 he didn’t plan to put the site behind a paywall but might pursue other forms of paid content, particularly in mobile media.
The Inquirer was among the first newspapers to use crowdsourcing techniques during the mid-1990s, when it published a police database online and asked readers to find misclassified crimes. In 2011, a Philadelphia Media Network hyperlocal news site began listing stories that reporters were working on.
In 2008, an Inquirer editor sent an internal memo informing the newsroom that the paper would no longer post investigative reporting, features, or reviews online before they appeared in print. After the policy was met with harsh criticism, editors sent another memo explaining when to post stories online and when to hold them for print.
In 2011, the papers announced they would begin selling discounted Android tablets with their content built in, and launched an incubator for locally oriented tech startups, initially housing three such businesses with mixed results. The program received $345,000 from the Knight Foundation to expand in 2013.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is a national foundation that funds a variety of causes, including journalism projects and organizations. The foundation was founded in 1950 by the Knight brothers, who owned the Ohio-based Knight Newspapers, which later became Knight Ridder. Since 1950, the foundation has invested nearly $400 million in journalism…