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Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia. Photo: Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images.
Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia. Photo: Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images.

City Hall changes policy on a local publication

Reporters at Philadelphia Magazine must now go a different route from others if they want to talk to specific departments in the city for stories.

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A recent exposé of the city published by Philadelphia magazine has landed the publication in hot water at City Hall. 

In an Aug. 28 article titled: “The DROP Triple Dip: Philly Officials’ New Maddening Way to Waste Your Money,” Philly Mag reporter Ralph Cipriano delved into the city’s deferred retirement option plan (DROP) and how recently retired employees under the program often return as private contractors for Philadelphia with fatter paychecks.

Cipriano called the practice the “triple dip” and bemoaned its cost to Philadelphia taxpayers. 

In response, Chief of Staff Jim Engler called Philly Mag editor-in-chief Tom McGrath to express his dislike for the article, characterizing the piece as “unfair and sensationalized” according to a follow-up piece by Philly Mag reporter Victor Fiorillo.

The bigger result of Cipriano’s deep dive was that City Hall now has a specific protocol when dealing with any reporter from Philadelphia magazine. 

According to what Fiorillo learned, in order to get any information about any department of the city, reporters at the organization must direct their requests to their editor-in-chief McGrath. He then takes the request to Engler, who reaches out to the specific departments to answer any of the questions.

In short, reporters at Philadelphia magazine are now barred from reaching out directly to the press officers of every department in city government.

Rather than put all the blame on Cipriano’s piece, according to an unnamed City Hall official cited by Fiorillo, the move came as a “cumulative thing based on the last year of Philly Mag’s coverage of the Kenney Administration.”

Most recently, the publication endorsed one of Kenney’s opponents for mayor, Anthony Williams, going into the May 5 city primaries.

AL DÍA attempted to reach the city for further comment on the situation, but it declined because it “is a private matter with a news organization,” Deana Gamble, Communications Director for the Mayor’s Office, said in an email last Friday.

She also reiterated that which was released to Philly Mag by Chief of Staff Engler: 

“Considering the time and effort spent responding to recent Philadelphia Magazine stories, and the treatment that time and effort was given in those stories, we find it necessary to institute a new procedure for responding to requests from your organization. We will make best efforts to respond in a timely manner, but please understand we field a high number of press requests every day.

We don’t mind – and in fact we expect – stories that look critically at the City’s policies and actions.  But we do expect fairness, and recent coverage has clearly demonstrated that Philadelphia Magazine is more interested in sensationalizing issues rather than reporting them fairly. In light of this realization we have decided to adjust our procedure.”

It is not known how long Philly Mag will be subject to the procedural adjustment.

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