There's a great story on the front page of the Daily News today, and -- although that's not the purpose -- drives home an excellent point about the future of journalism in Philadelphia. On the front page, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is making an explosive charge, that an investigative piece in the DN by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman "(bleep)ed up" a department probe of an allegedly crooked cop who's still on the job. But if you read the story, you can see that Ramsey is actually the one who's full of it. The reality is that the corruption would not have been investigated at all, and might have festered for years and years, if there was no newspaper and if we depended solely on the enthusiasm of Philly cops to investigate their own.
In separate incidents dating back to 2008, at least six people alleged that Sulpizio stole their money. Two police captains who had supervised Sulpizio during his years on the Narcotics Strike Force urged the Internal Affairs Bureau to investigate him.
But again and again, Internal Affairs missed opportunities to nab Sulpizio and the investigation languished.
Then, in November 2010, after the Daily News began to ask questions, Internal Affairs put Sulpizio under video surveillance.
In a span of three days, on two occasions, an investigator videotaped Sulpizio taking items out of a person's pocket and putting them into his own.
In other words, there's no reason to thinik Sulpizio ever would have been thoroughly investigated had the Daily News not asked tough questions. In towns with a weak news media, crooked cops and corrupt pols often get to run wild. That's the way of the world, and it's not right. Ironically, this story appears as there's enormous angst about merging and combining of the various newsroom functions of the city's two papers, the Daily News and Inquirer. The intermingling of the sports sections begins today. Daily News editor Larry Platt is chipper and upbeat about the changes, whiile former Daily News photographer George Miller, now at Temple, thinks it's the end of the world as we know it.
The truth is out there. I think the stated goal of the changes -- ending duplication on so-called "routine stories" (hockey games, court hearings) to free up people to do journalism that's unique -- is an idea worth trying, although to be clear I support some of these changes as a way to improve reporting and not simply to eliminate jobs. But -- as I noted last week, specifically in the case of police corruption in which Daily News and Inquirer reporters have battled for "scoops" -- two distinct and competitive newspapers are still needed to give Philadelphia the best journalism possible.
Or you could let the bad apples get away with it.