I am free from the Inquirer gag order

After nearly four years of psychological trauma, legal expense, aggravation, and sleepless nights, I am free of all entanglements with my former employer, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

My office in the Inquirer building, now police headquarters

And after nearly four years, I have removed a gag order, and I’m free to speak.

But first, the background:

It started on July 12, 2019, at an in-office retirement party that I did not want.

Instead of a gold watch or a plaque, I was stabbed in the back by Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron with defamatory remarks that a jury in December 2022 described as “outrageous.” The jury found Saffron and the Inquirer guilty of defamation.

In her “remarks,” Saffron admitted she was settling a personal grudge of some kind. Her own attorney, during the trial, admitted the party was not the time or place for such remarks.

Actually, there is no time or place for employing lies to destroy someone’s reputation. Acting as some kind of a self-appointed feminist avenger, she added, after attacking my professional ethics and character, that I had “a taste for child prostitutes.” Jaws dropped in the Inquirer newsroom, even among people who did not care for me or my centrist political and social views. 

When this happened, had Saffron or the Inquirer apologized, that would have ended it. But they didn’t and her vile, malicious lies about me were now all over the internet, where they would never die.

Some people, like Helen Gym, gleefully tweeted out that “goddess of journalism” Saffron had given the sexist, “neocolonialist” ogre, me, his comeuppance. Gym and others were tweeting, repeating, and endorsing  Saffron’s baseless, defamatory lies.

That left me with no option but the courts  to reclaim my reputation, even though I knew defamation suits are difficult to win. Very difficult. 

Truth doesn’t always triumph, but in this case it did. 

I sued the Inquirer a few months after the event. The Inquirer sued me three years later, claiming I had “disparaged” them in violation of a “voluntary” separation agreement I signed just before I left. I’ll discuss how “voluntary” it was a bit later. In its suit, the Inquirer, playing the victim, demanded I return the $58,000 buyout package I had accepted to leave. That was pretty shocking, and frightening.

Their evidence of “disparagement” was that I had furnished a video of the party to Philadelphia magazine for posting on the internet, they claimed. I did not. I gave it to the magazine so it could verify what Saffron said. I never gave permission for it to be posted.

The other disparagement charge was truly a laugher.

After Saffron’s unprecedented, vicious attack on me, I said her words about me were “fucking lies,” and “sack of shit lies,” (which they were), that Saffron is “a lying, bitter, malicious crazy person,” (which she is) and, “I don’t know what I liked best — the demonstrable lies, the careless factual errors, the false impressions, or the guilt by association.” I said that, it was sarcasm, and every word was true. The jury verdict is proof.

Here’s the point: What I said was in my own defense, in response to Saffron’s vilification of me.

The insanity began when the Inquirer sued me for making a completely truthful statement.

They lie about me, I sue them.

I tell the truth about them, they sue me.

That was due to Paragraph 9 in the separation agreement. Here is the heart of it: “He will not make nor cause to be made any oral or written statements that disparage,  are inimical to, or damage the reputation of the employer or any of its affiliates. . . This agreement includes, but is not limited to, any statements or postings online.”

In other words, it’s a lifetime gag order.

When was the last time you heard of a newspaper, which exists only because of Constitutional freedom of expression, trying to stifle someone else, especially a 47-year veteran staffer with many awards and an unblemished record?

The Inquirer suit against me was filed years after my so-called offense, and coincidentally(?) as my suit against them was heading toward trial.

Attempt to intimidate me? You decide.

At one point they offered a deal — you drop your suit, we’ll drop ours. They figured with their deep pockets and my limited assets, they could make me quit by browbeating me with bucks.

Instead, as my able attorney, Mark D. Schwartz, put it to them, “You poked the bear.”

I liked the metaphor.

About three years before my departure, the News staffers got moved into the Inquirer newsroom, as plans were laid to starve the Daily News to death.

The person doing the newsroom layout was a friend, and she arranged for me and columnist Jenice Arsmtrong to be seated next to one another. We were always the newsroom Odd Couple. Jenice is half-Woke, while I am awake. Very different. We never let our different opinion on many matters interfere with our friendship.

Even though Jen had my back, the Inquirer was a hostile work environment for me. 

I was a leading Daily News columnist, the most senior of any nonsports columnist in the joint. Guess how long it took for one of the three top Inquirer bosses to walk over to my desk and welcome me to the newsroom.

I am still waiting.

As I like to say, “F ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”

My last column for the Inquirer began this way: “Well, they finally got me.”

Does that sound like I left “voluntarily”? It  was as “voluntary” as walking the plank on a pirate ship.

I can write all this now because the Inquirer and I have just settled the suit they brought against me.

Unlike Fox News, they don’t have to pay.

Like Fox News, no apology.

Not that I was expecting it.

Demonstrably, they hate me, even though I remain a loyal subscriber to the paper, whose business motto ought to be, “Well, we are better than nothing.”

As a subscriber, it saddens me that a newspaper that begs for donations in full-page ads decided to waste thousands of dollars on lawyers, money that would have been better spent on quality journalism. Who makes these foolish decisions? The publisher? The board? The lawyers would not tell me who gave the orders.

When they offered to drop the suit, with both parties just walking away, Schwartz and his able co-counsel Jason Pearlman, told me that would be a “win,” that my departing bonus was safe and I wouldn’t incur any further legal bills.

“It feels like a Pyrrhic victory,” I grumped.

The no disparagement clause in the 9-page separation agreement I signed amounts to a lifetime gag order. Anytime I post something on Facebook or my blog (Stubykofsky.com, go there and sign up) they don’t like, they could haul me into court, even if what I wrote was entirely true.

I couldn’t live like that. I told Schwartz that was my red line, that the Inquirer, like Moses, could set me free or we would go to court and they could roll the dice. 

The Inquirer agreed to drop the clause.

“You’re a good poker player,” said Schwartz.

I don’t play poker, but I have 60 years experience of talking to and reading people.

I also insisted, and won, that the terms of the settlement not be confidential.

Which is why you are reading this now.

44 thoughts on “I am free from the Inquirer gag order”

  1. Stu, I was a loyal Inky subscriber for over 30 years. In the past decade or so, the paper has become so woke that it is no longer interesting. And it wonders why it’s lost subscribers.

    1. Woke is just another word for caring or polite. So sad you seem to be against these things. Try to improve yourself.

      1. Sue, Nothing kind about the woke movement. Watch their bitter hatred and see how they wield their power over the media and politicians.

  2. Stu, I was a loyal Inky subscriber for over 30 years. In the past decade or so, the paper has become so woke that it is no longer interesting. And it wonders why it’s lost subscribers.

    Congrats on the win!

  3. Congrats on achieving justice. It’s a beautiful thing to see here in this day and age. I will still believe in the true spirit of journalism, and in the ethics I was taught back in the 1970s. There are good people out there (like you) writing the truth and standing behind what is right. You just have to know where to look. Peace.

  4. Congratulations, Stu, for standing up for yourself and prevailing.

  5. Stu—-The Inquirer is NOT better than nothing. I dropped it 5 years ago. It’s a hollow shell of what it once was, just like so many other “news” publications in this country. They’re all an embarrassment to journalism.
    Congratulations on your victory.

  6. Congratulations, Stu,
    As your friend for more than 60 years, I can honestly say you have always been a stand-up guy. Certainly not deserving of the vicious attacks and subsequent trauma you’ve experienced. As a witness to some of the vile accusations made against you, I totally refute all such allegations. As a former colleague, you earned and maintain my utmost respect. Flaunt your newborn freedom of speech.

  7. Long time reader. New subscriber. Thank you for not making me pick out fire hydrants, buses, and crosswalks to prove I have a pulse.

    Don’t you love reading contracts? Former business landlord tried to get me to pay his legal fees when he lost a tussle with me over a clause HE WROTE. Sorry Dave.

    Anyway, it’s nice to see when principle triumphs over a bully. I do get the Sunday Inky for the Newsday Crossword, though.

  8. Stu- we shared a steak when I win a contest attended by our now ex wives.

    I’m glad you won.

    The Inky and Daily News have fallen from their place as once being in the top tier of newspapers. Sad!

  9. Congratulations Stu, you had the guts and perseverance to win. I read the inquirer every day because there is no other local option. I am gaging on the Woke points of view in the editorial section. Your blog is informative thanks.

  10. As Hitchens stated: “I became a Journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information.” Your victory idiom of “taking your pound of flesh” from the Inquirer could be a good campaign slogan for anyone running against another verbal assassin Helen Gym. As you know once the bitter, unfounded slanted words appear in the public domain it becomes impossible to have them removed or even proven as lies because of the gullibility and blind allegiance of regular readers who bestow confidence on the written word of the media. I congratulate you on your victory and hope you can now use your restored Journalistic integrity to tear away the gag order and continue to voice common sense, well-researched columns in a world moving toward the stifling of Free speech.

  11. It has been a long time but the wrong newspaper in this city went out of business. Just like political parties, one newspaper is a bad idea.
    Congratulations on your victory.

    1. Something a late great City council person used to say about their endorsement.

  12. Every once in a while, though not often enough, the good guys win.
    Congratulations, Stu!
    I do believe I can heat the Elversions cheering from their mausoleum.

  13. Every once in a while, though not often enough, the good guys win.
    Congratulations, Stu!
    I do believe I can hear the Elversions cheering from their mausoleum.

  14. Stu,

    Psychological trauma and sleepless nights indeed. As a litigator who tried civil and criminal cases for 50+ years, I commend you for your courage and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Congratulations on your well-deserved victories in the defamation case and the Inky’s outrageous retaliatory lawsuit.

    George Parry

    P.S. And a hand salute to your very able legal counsel.

  15. I can’t quite get a good feeling out of all this. Yes, you are free of the clause, but if anyone at the Inquirer had any integrity, you should never have had to go through it in the first place. There was a time when I believed that the news media were a way to keep informed. In fact the media serves only to keep us misinformed. Congratulations, I think.

  16. More proof, if any more was needed, that the virtually all of the media are infected with hatred of the truth.

    You persisted, Stu, when lesser men (or women) would have said the hell with it. Bravo.

  17. Fearless, inimitable and formidablé, as ever Stu. You are a beacon in Philly — laser-like and enduring. Long may it be so — much good health and happiness, my friend!

  18. Good for you Stu! I made the right decision to dump that online POS a few years ago. Just wanted to keep up with pro teams but their true ‘wokeness’ came thru and I just couldn’t stand it. Congrats!

  19. Congratulations. Like others who have commented, I abandoned that rag 3+ years ago and came here. Haven’t looked back since.

  20. WOO-HOO!!!!!!!

    If only you could literally shove the agreement up Saffron’s and Gym’s sorry asses…

  21. I’m grateful for your years of savvy writing. Can’t say I’ve always agreed with you but your intellect is missing at the paper. I only read articles that catch my eye – usually with disappointment. Other than that, give me nothing.
    Thanks for keeping us informed and sparking some great discussions. And many thanks for your diligence when it comes to animal welfare issues!

    1. Ray, I treasure the readers who disagree, but who are open-minded enough to hear a different POV.
      You are welcome about my animal advocacy and the pup you knew as Mario is thriving.

  22. So glad to hear you can tell your story.
    Always the first column I read other than the sports journalists. Having worked at point of my life as a marketing contractor for the Inky, I have nothing good to say about them other than at one time they were actually relevant.. Keep up your great work

  23. Stu ,Congratulations on your win. The Inquirer is not a newspaper it is a progressive, liberal, socialist, rag. Can’t wait for the day it folds.

  24. I rather like the generic definition of woke: to be politically and socially aware. As good citizens we all should be, especially when it comes to local and state elections. Those are the ones that affect our pocketbooks more so than the feds. I agree with Stu in terms of being awake rather than woke. Glad this is behind you Stu.

  25. “Well, they are better than nothing” reminds me of your campaign slogan when you ran for mayor “You could do worse”.

  26. There is good ‘woke’, and bad ‘woke’. Being aware of injustices vs. being holier-than-thou.

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