In 2007, when the Inquirer’s then-publisher, Brian Tierney, was looking for someone to balance out the paper’s editorial board, presided over by left-leaning old-guard member Harold Jackson, he turned to conservative Wall Street Journal reporter Paul Davies.
Under the Republican-leaning Tierney, the outspoken Davies was, according to one newspaper insider, “the de facto editor” of the editorial page and Jackson’s rival. But now Tierney is long gone, replaced by new CEO Greg Osberg, and Davies finds himself out of a job.
The explanation for Davies’s exit—including whether he quit or was fired—differs depending on who’s explaining it. In April, Davies learned he was no longer needed at the Inquirer, but that the Daily News wanted him as a senior writer for the same six-figure salary. Initially he accepted, but he quickly had second thoughts, apparently seeing the move as a demotion. “He left voluntarily,” says one Daily News staffer—a position echoed by newspaper brass. “It was an ego thing: He was too good for the Daily News.”
Davies, who declined to comment, apparently disputes that he quit, since he’s filed court papers saying he intends to sue for wrongful termination. He’s told friends and colleagues he was the victim of a conspiracy of big business and politics thanks to his newsprint scorching of the Nutter administration and Convention Center expansion. Rumors have percolated of a meeting between Nutter and Jackson preceding Davies’s departure and of a $400,000-plus Convention Center ad campaign being pulled because of his critiques. These suspicions, unfounded or not, have had what one newsroom member calls “a chilling effect” on some employees at the paper, who worry that people-pleasing newcomer Osberg gave in to Philadelphia’s power-lunch crowd.
Whether he did or not is anybody’s guess, and we may never know who really orchestrated Davies’s demise. But as a Davies friend points out, “The person who has gained the most from this is Harold Jackson.” Of course, a vast conspiracy makes for a much better story and, as one high-level source notes, “Davies would never be able to accept the fact that Harold—a man he didn’t respect—had gotten the better of him.”
This story originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Philadelphia magazine.