Philadelphia Weekly reinvents the wheel

It’s back to the future for the Philadelphia Weekly, which is returning to an abandoned format that probably insures failure. 

You don’t believe me? Ask the City Paper,  PW’s now-deceased one-time competitor and twin alt weekly.

Former editor Jenny DeHuff (left), current editor Josh Kruger and Mason.

Back in 2020, PW Publisher Dan McDonough Jr. was running the alternative tabloid at a loss with the usual mix of entertainment and “enlightened” reporting and opinion.

Then came an epiphany. “Alternative” to what — the massive leftist media (with the exception of WPHT/1210-AM) that has a stranglehold on Philadelphia? Why not be “alternative” to that and offer a conservative voice?

It seemed like good strategy and good marketing. I imagined something like a right-wing Village Voice, filling a niche for traditional Philadelphians. It sounded good to me, but not to PW’s progressive editor Kerith Gabriel, formerly of the Daily News, who quit. McDonough then hired former Daily News staffer Jenny DeHuff as editor-in-chief. She is a friend of mine, and former colleague who invited me to be a contributor. 

Almost from the jump, the “new” PW was taking fire, Jenny tells me.

Not criticism for the content, just for the gall to be conservative. ”There was graffiti on our honor boxes, a lot of chatter about ‘a right-wing rag,’” she says. 

It was never “pro-Trump,” she flatly states.

That may come as news to the new editor, Josh Kruger, who I have known for 10 years longer than Jenny. He’s the third PW editor in a little more than a year. Instability is never a good thing in publishing.

A few months ago, McDonough got tired of his losses, and sold to Ian Moe, who told Executive Editor Anthony Hennen he wanted less politics and crime, more music and culture. Maybe he thought the heavy stuff was too taxing for the market he wanted to reach.

 PW was a weird hybrid, combining serious reporting with wild rides on the cultural scene, mostly music, with veteran whackamole a.d. amorosi thrown in for good measure. Moe ordered a return to the future and hired Josh, who has never edited a publication.

In his first “letter” to readers, Josh was as ungracious to his predecessor editors as was Donald J. Trump to previous presidents. Josh admits to being kind, but not nice.

Josh calls the previous PW “a conservative propaganda machine” and helpfully provides a link to a John Loftus article that says no such thing. 

He seems to believe that the owner had no right to turn the paper 180 degrees. How dare he leave progressive orthodoxy in the dust? Is Josh even aware that the wildly successful New York Post was once a failing liberal outlet? A publication’s first duty is to survive.

Like so many progressives — as contrasted with liberals — Josh would like to smother opposing voices. They all would deny it, but it is true. They invented cancel culture.

His one specific problem with PW was a “contest” in which readers were called on to guess the ultimate number of murders in Philly’s record murder year.

It was insensitive, he said. It was.

It was also a strong satire worthy of Jonathan Swift. It was a sad commentary on our murderous city, and the feckless administration that was doing not much to stop it. An administration that once employed Josh.

Josh promises content “that accurately reflects Philadelphia and tells stories that resonate, prompt action, entertain and inform.”

Ooooh… capital letters

New editors bring new ideas, and new vision. I know Josh is bright, but he has to prove it on a new stage. His first major move was to change the PW logo from lower case to upper case. Da Vinci would envy the creativity.

The new editor is setting aside a weekly page to highlight nonprofits, a warm and fuzzy idea no one is clamoring for, other than nonprofits, who like the free ink. Understandable, but the method. … Each nonprofit gets the same five questions and its answers get printed. That is stenography, not journalism.

Would Josh — who admits to “neurotic tendencies,” and who spends way too much narcissistic time on social media, talking about his cat Mason and about eating tacos — publish an article by Ben Mannes detailing D.A. Larry Krasner’s campaign finance violations?

PW did that.  Or will progressives be sacred cows in the new/old PW?

How about Hennen’s columns supporting more bike lanes and affordable housing. Conservative propaganda?

“Clearly he hadn’t been reading,” says Hennen, who also wrote passionately about the necessity for vaccinations, hardly a conservative talking point.

Or my piece about how the board of directors of ACCT Philly, the city animal shelter, dropped transparency and built a wall between its actions and the people of Philadelphia it is supposed to represent. Was that conservative propaganda?

My (freelance) services are no longer required at PW, which Josh brags has “assembled the most diverse newsroom in Philadelphia media history.” Modesty is not his long suit.

Neither is courage.

As I told him in an email, that was not answered, he was singularly gutless to remove my name from the PW masthead without a word to me. Cancelling me — for the first time in a 60-year career.

Not a gold watch, not a handshake, not even so much as a courtesy heads-up email.

However, I did receive an email in January during a friendly exchange.

This is what he said, in part: “I always tell people that you were one of the only writers who helped me learn the craft and gave me the time of day.”

You’re welcome, Josh.

18 thoughts on “Philadelphia Weekly reinvents the wheel”

  1. Unfortunately, I think the days of the alternative weeklies are over because with the ascension of social media, we are bombarded with and have access to other viewpoints. Of course, they might not always be accountable or accurate, but in their heyday, as the PW or City Paper? They were just a footnote in time, but when they were good, they were very good, informative, and had an important place

  2. Sounds like his mommy failed to teach him manners, graciousness and humility, both of which can go a long way to ensuring success in one’s endeavors.

  3. I saw the editors recent post and wondered where that would leave you.

    That said, some of the recent articles in the weekly were excellent reporting. Something missing from the Inquirer.

    1. That was the plan: to fill in gaps in Inquirer’s coverage. I believe the publisher didn’t have the funds or grit to climb the mountain.

  4. Cancel Culture keeps growing. Conservative thought is fading. Sadly, there is less and less support of conservative thoughts in the Woke Generation

    We already talked on Facebook, so this is a follow-up.
    Us, being old, we learned the necessary ingredients to get along , overcome and achieve. Todays’ young are learning the wrong way. We tried to communicate, were they already have all of the answers, so there is no communication. I think that theirs is a by product of liberals being woke .
    Here’s hoping that the world takes a turn for the better.

  6. You will go a long way before you find a more exclusive caste than a “diverse” newsroom!

  7. As a veteran of Philadelphia’s weekly newspaper world, I can only sum up the brouhaha by saying the following: Who cares about Philadelphia Weekly? No one reads it and it’s clear that virtually no one advertises in it. With the exception of Amorosi, whose coverage of the region’s entertainment scene–mainstream and beyond–is exceptional, there is simply nothing relevant in the paper. In the end, what you have is a 20- page (on a good week) rag that no one reads, that is almost impossible to find, and has little or no relevance to where it’s supposed to be distributed: Center City Philadelphia. PW is a white elephant that will, eventually, end up in the weekly heap along with The Drummer, ELECTRCity, Office Weekly, Philly Week, South Street Review, and others I’ve forgotten.

    1. “Weekly heap”? Really? Wow, doctor, you really dismiss the work of so many who wrote for the Drummer, Broad Street Review, and so many other successful publications. Along with the Welcomat and City Paper, they all have a great legacy. I believe term “heap” is reserved, in this context, for dismal failures from start to finish, a textbook example being Dan McDonough’version of PW.

  8. The new editor, who looks in the mirror and sees Ben Bradlee holding a cat, is a small fish in a small pond.

  9. Mr. Bykofsky,
    Good column.
    I enjoyed working for the previous good editors at PW, where my Crime Beat column appeared for a year and four months.
    Like you, I emailed Kruger and asked him if he were dropping my column.
    He did respond. I followed up and he did not respond.
    It is certainly his right to drop my column, but I thought it was rude and unprofessional to not inform me.
    I give him six months before he is canned.
    Meanwhile, I’ve moved my column over to Broad + Liberty.
    Paul Davis


      1. Thanks. Of course, I have been reading your columns for years and I’ve always enjoyed them, just as I enjoy your posts here..
        BTW, in my column I meant to write that Kruger “did not respond,” not “did respond.”

  10. This is distressing, but not at all surprising.

    What bothers me most is the number of times I’ve heard the phrase “No one reads newspapers any more”.

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