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 (right).

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.

READ MORE — Christine Flowers: On the demise of a once-great newspaper

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.”

Ooh … 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 DA 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.

New editors bring new ideas, and new vision. I know Josh is bright, but he has to prove it on a new stage.

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.

Stu Bykofsky publishes regularly at his centrist blog, StuBykofsky.com.

This article was republished with permission from StyBykofsky.com.

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