They compete on stories every day, but last night top officials at the Daily News, the Inquirer and their parent company Philadelphia Media Network quickly closed ranks to express shock and outrage at child-molestation allegations against former Daily News columnist Bill Conlin.
"I am sickened by these allegations," Greg Osberg, the PMN CEO who is also the publisher of both papers, told a hastily called news conference at the Inquirer and Daily News building on North Broad Street.
He was joined by Larry Platt, editor of the Daily News, and Inquirer editor Stan Wischnowski, who defended the decision to publish the article in which Conlin is alleged to have abused four children during the 1970s.
"If we learned anything in this Penn State-Syracuse aftermath, it's that you have to pay attention, especially when something of this nature happens [with] a fellow employee here in this building," Wischnowski said. He said the Inquirer was able to assemble the story in a relatively short time - about a month - because four victims and three family members came forward.
But events moved more rapidly yesterday. Conlin, 77, left the paper in a brief phone conversation that Platt described as "painful," at roughly the same time that the sports blog Deadspin was reporting Conlin's departure. The online posting of the Inquirer article and the news conference came a short time later.
Platt described the mood in the Daily News newsroom as "overwhelmingly a sense of shock, a sense of outrage, a sense of sadness for the victims - shock."
Osberg emailed employees explaining the tumultuous events and decision to report on the well-known employee, saying "[w]e have always taken tremendous pride in the ethical and moral standards we operate from at PMN."
But the report apparently will not undo Conlin's recent top honor from the Baseball Writers Association of America, the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, presented this summer at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Jack O'Connell, the group's secretary/treasurer, said the allegations have "no bearing" on the award.