The following message from CEO & Publisher Terry Egger appeared in the April 30, 2018 edition of the Daily News.
I am writing to you today in an effort to ensure that we provide full transparency regarding a situation involving our newsroom, our advertising department and the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office. We hope that this helps clarify the presence of a newsroom investigative article in today's Daily News (which also appeared in the Sunday Inquirer and on philly.com) and a special advertising/marketing section from the Sheriff's Office, which also appears in today's Daily News.
For many years in accordance with a longstanding Pennsylvania law, our two PMN newspapers, along with the Philadelphia Tribune and the Legal Intelligencer as the designated newspapers of general circulation, have received legal-notice advertising, listing sheriff's property sales. Subsequently, other local publications have received this advertising as well. You can read the full story explaining that arrangement here.
In December 2017, our advertising and marketing departments began working with the Sheriff's Office on the concept of a special paid advertising section, which at the time was conceived as a Sheriff's Office 2017 report to the community (a similar ad-marketing section was published a few years ago). Through various edits and iterations, this special advertising section has taken many months to be finalized.
It is very important to understand that in a news organization like ours, there is, in essence, a firewall between the newsroom and the advertising departments. Some call it a form of separation of church and state. It is of paramount importance to securing a free and independent flow of news unfettered by any business interests. Further, if you are familiar with the 2016 Academy Award-winning movie, Spotlight, at times the special investigations teams of a major newspaper work on projects that very few people, even the publisher and executive editor, are aware of until they are reviewed, edited and approved just prior to publication. That is what happened in this instance.
Last Friday afternoon on philly.com, I read for the first time our I-Team's compelling investigative report into the many facets of the Sheriff's Office advertising spending. It revealed aspects of the decades-old program that I previously was not aware of. Knowing that our advertising team on the business side was about to publish the special section for the Sheriff's Office this week, it was critically important that we give full consideration as to how to properly proceed.
While we believe that the Sheriff's Office has a right to communicate to the community about the work it performs each year, we needed to look at the integrity of our actions and the whole situation. We absolutely do not want to potentially benefit if any portion of the advertising/marketing section is being funded through the very means being called into question today.
Therefore, we determined that we would keep our commitment to the Sheriff's Office to allow it to publish its message in today's special advertising/marketing section. However, we will not accept any payment for this section. Your trust in independent and responsible journalism is paramount to us, thus we felt the need to be fully transparent with you about this situation involving two separate sides of our operation.
Thank you for your support of our journalism.