This morning, Philadelphia Inquirer editor Bill Marimow was abruptly fired. The paper's publisher cited "philosophical differences" to explain the move. Also today, Philly.com ran a story about a book tying former Pennsylvania governor and current Inquirer owner-pal Ed Rendell to organized crime. Coincidence?
We're just asking here, because Marimow's firing was a "total surprise," according to staffers who are talking to Jim Romenesko. Romenesko himself noted the Rendell connection briefly on his site, but then removed the note. Rendell was a partner in the investment group that bought Philadelphia Media Holdings, which includes the Inquirer, last year. [Update for clarity: Rendell was an early member of the investment group, but he dropped out due to public pressure. He helped to assemble the investment group that bought the paper. When the purchase happened, he told Dylan Byers that "though he will continue to 'whisper ideas in their ear,' he will have no formal role in the ownership group." This post originally called Ed Rendell an owner of the paper, which he is not. He was a driving force behind assembling the ownership team who decided not to give himself a formal ownership role. Philly.com, which ran the Rendell story today, is under the same ownership as the Inquirer, but their staffs are not the same, and there have even been battles over the degree to which its staff is aligned with that of the paper—for more, see here.]
When word of Rendell's involvement with the investment group surfaced last year, various journalist types voiced fears about censorship of news under a Rendell-owned paper.
The story in question today is a Q&A with Matt Birkbeck, the author of a new book called The Quiet Don, which is about the organized crime figure Russell Bufalino. In the Q&A, Birkbeck says that organized crime pushed through the legalization of gambling in Pennsylvania with the help of Ed Rendell, when Rendell was governor. The story's illustration is two photos, juxtaposed: Rendell on the left, and Bufalino on the right.
One can imagine how, in theory, such a story might anger Ed Rendell, and how that might impact the paper's owners. Of course, that would be pure speculation at this point.
It is still a mystery why Bill Marimow was fired. Marimow is reportedly "going to fight the decision." If you know more, please comment below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: Romenesko has updated his post with a note on the Rendell connection, adding "I’m now told that Marimow didn’t have anything to do with the story."
Update 2: Sam Wood, the Philly.com reporter who wrote the story on Birkbeck, says on Twitter: "Unrelated. The story didn't run in the paper."