Behind the Scenes of the Philadelphia Daily News Article Defending Bill Cosby

When we told Sammi’s family in Philly that we were headed to the Philadelphia Inquirer the following morning, their immediate response was a sarcastic, “oh, so you’re not going straight to the Daily News?” Seeing our confused expressions, they continued: “They just released an article defending Bill Cosby.”

This can’t be good.  

Her family went on to describe what they perceived as a lack of credibility and professionalism at the Daily News when compared to the Philadelphia Inquirer. They viewed this article as sensationalism: just another way to get more clicks.

A quick survey of Twitter revealed that they are hardly alone:

When we arrived to the interview at 9:30 the next morning, we sat down to talk with Gabriel Escobar, the Editor and Vice President of The Inquirer,….and the Philadelphia Daily News. While we were aware that Escobar oversaw all three publications, we quickly learned that the Inquirer and Daily News also share a newsroom and a morning news meeting, which we were generously invited in to film. Their discussion included, of course, the Cosby controversy.

“The conversation in the news meeting this morning was interesting because it was a columnist who writes for the Daily News, which is our tabloid, and she essentially defended Bill Cosby which generated quite the uproar yesterday.”

The content of the article wasn’t dwelled on during the meeting. Instead, the conversation focused on how the newsroom should respond. Or, if there should be a response at all. Escobar, among others, suggested publishing a piece representing an opposing point of view. Others thought that the very definition of a columnist, versus a reporter, needed further explanation, especially when readers were viewing the article on the web. Between the lack of “column” formatting and the fact that an author’s image is displayed on both columns and reported stories, columns look the same as every other published piece.

The point on which many editors seemed to agree was that the publication needed to participate, somehow, in the conversation surrounding the article: “I would hate to just put something together where it’s just a bunch of Tweets. We want to frame it. We’re listening to you,” said one editor.

“We do consider: what do we do when the audience reacts like this? Do we remain silent? Do we acknowledge that what we produced resulted in this kind of backlash or criticism? And I think that’s really important.”

Later that afternoon, The Daily News did decide to respond to their readers. Sandra Shea, the editor who published the column, wrote a piece in which she does her best to remind readers that the news media is about expanding viewpoints and hearing all sides (even if she vehemently disagrees with the content that she’s publishing).

Reading this article with Sammi’s family over dinner, they remained unimpressed. Saying that they had never read the Daily News before and certainly wouldn’t be reading it now, we saw how one editorial decision directly impacted (potential) readers’ perception of the publication as a whole.

What do you think?

One Reply to “Behind the Scenes of the Philadelphia Daily News Article Defending Bill Cosby”

  1. Very thought provoking! You guys raise a very interesting point about the confusion and blurring, in many digital channels, between news and opinion. It is indeed getting more difficult to differentiate between a news column and a news report. In advertising we call an ad that looks like part of the editorial content “native” and I imagine that tactic is being used in news media as well. It is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between newsworthy content and people’s opinions. Well done for bringing up this very important and frightening development.


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