PHILADELPHIA: The sale of Philadelphia's two major papers to a group of investors led by ex-PR executive Brian Tierney is prompting cautious hope about a resurgence of the declining media institutions, as well as some trepidation within the journalism community about the implications of Tierney's past.
Philadelphia Media Holdings, the group of local business leaders and others, paid $562 million to The McClatchy Company for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.
Tierney helped found the Tierney Group, a full service Philadelphia agency, in 1989. Interpublic now owns Tierney Communications. After selling his stake in the agency in 2004, he founded another agency, T2, which he sold within the same year.
Tierney also worked in the Reagan administration and has been active in Republican politics.
Philadelphia PR professionals sounded a hopeful note about the sale. Maribeth Schmidt, president of FCF Schmidt PR and president-elect of Philadelphia PRSA, said it could be a boon for business coverage.
“One of the trends that we’ve noticed in the last few years is coverage away from local business…which I think has been a result of a smaller staff,” she said. “I would hope that local ownership would help to promote that, and as a result the PR community would see that we’re better received.”
Mary Stengel Austen, the current president and CEO of Tierney Communications, said that Brian Tierney’s ad and PR background will help him bolster the papers’ flagging business.
“He’s been on the client side, he’s been on the agency side, and now he’ll be on the publication side,” she said. “He understands what advertisers and PR folks, from the client perspective, are looking for.”
Joe DiStefano, who has been covering the papers’ sale for the Philadelphia Inquirer, told PRWeek in an interview last month that views of Tierney within the newsroom were mixed. “There’s people who do” believe Tierney can separate his personal interests from running the paper, “and people who don’t,” said DiStefano.
The McClatchy Company worked with Brunswick Group on the transaction, and Philadelphia Media Holdings worked with Devine & Powers, a local Philadelphia agency. Neither firm returned calls before press time.