Eagles vs. Commies today, but two hours before kickoff we were treated to this unexpected exchange between Philadelphia Inquirer Birds writer Josh Tolentino and 94 WIP veteran Glen Macnow:

Okay then!

We need to see the front page Glen is talking about before we can do any kind of fair and balanced analysis, and if you go through the thread from the original tweet, a user named “Spaceman Ed” shared the photo, which shows a woman in a raw moment of grief (sorry for the blurriness) –

This is a tough one because the line between exploitation and raw truth telling is always difficult. I guarantee the Inquirer gave this plenty thought before deciding to publish, with the mindset that in order to really illustrate how bad violence currently is in the city, they needed something organic and emotional. They’re trying to show you the horrors of gun violence without pulling punches or beating around the bush. If they don’t do that, in their mind, they’re not giving you the full story and not living up to their roles as journalists.

Glen and others obviously disagree, and that’s perfectly fine. There’s really no right or wrong opinion here. Newsrooms all around the world have this discussion all the time, i.e. where do you draw the line and how do you exhibit the full extent of tragedy without exploiting the victims in the process? Ultimately, there’s no black and white handbook when it comes to journalism ethics, because choices like this are a judgment call and different leadership groups are going to come to different conclusions. The Inquirer decided to use this photo, but maybe the (insert other paper here) would not have.

I know that sounds like waffling, but it’s all true. If I was editing the paper, I’d ask whether or not people have a full grasp of how bad violence is in the city. I’m not sure you can ever get a full understanding just watching the news or reading words in the paper, and so the decision really comes down to how much of a net positive a picture like that provides. If the editors over there felt like people weren’t “getting it,” then maybe they’re getting it now.

(UPDATE – let me drop in these tweets, which were… tweeted after this post went up) – 

More interesting is Tolentino going after Glen on Twitter. Inquirer writers don’t often engage in social media shenanigans, but it’s true that Macnow (and even Ray Didinger last year) have publicly commented on what they feel is a downturn in the Inquirer’s product and decision making since 2020. They’ve talked about editors not living in Philadelphia and the departure of institutional knowledge via mass buyout. We’ve written about those changes frequently on this website, and have documented the personnel changes and editorial approach being taken by the paper, but this is the first time I can recall that there’s been any kind of public spat involving an employee there: