Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chestnut Hill Yokels: The Final Warning!

by John Lombardi

Herr Keintz and Frau Rossman dogtrotted up the steep steps at 8434 Germantown Ave., in excellent shape from their daily messenger-boy duties for untergruppenfuhrer Dina Hitchcock, and did a sharp left-face through the vestibule, marching in lockstep and smiling smugly. They were carrying an envelope from CHCA Oberarzt Tolis Vardakis to the Local 's editor, just short of a week after the Board had voted 14 to 12 not to fire him. But here they came again, as relentless as vampire bats: "We'll see if Chestnut Hill Shorty is so cocky now! " Keintz hissed to Rossman. "Jahvol!" R snapped, clicking his heels.

They entered the office and thrust the envelope at the editor, who sat behind his desk, recovering from the February 4th Local close: "Was ist los?!" Chestnut Hill Shorty demanded. After two-and-a-half years of dealing with the Executive Committee, his German was getting pretty good. "It's the Final Warning!" Keintz snarled. "You have repeatedly exercised poor judgement!" "And your editorial leadership is substandard," piped Rossman. The editor read the memo, informing him that he was now subject to monthly performance reviews, that he could be fired for cause "at any time", that he'd shown "poor managerial leadership in personnel matters", and refused to act in an executive capacity "in connection with" these refusals.

In English, that translates to: Shorty should somehow have anticipated and stopped Jimmy Pack from irritating Board member Rob Remus back in November, thus causing Remus to have allegedly threatened Jimmy, which in turn allegedly led to Pack's firing, and the whole subsequent mess since then! A reasoning sequence to stagger Roman logicians like Boethius and Severinus. Plus, there were a lot of typos, misspellings and factual schmutz in the Local every week . . . The Final Warning was what low-paid assistant D.A.'s in South Philly call "a grab-bag indictment": "Let's throw as much crap at the bum as we can, and see what sticks and what slides off . . ."

"This is horseshit!" Shorty told the pair forthrightly. "If I didn't have to be distracted all the time, dealing with fools like you, I could concentrate more on my job! Didja ever see the corrections blocks in the New York Times? The Washington Post? The New Yorker?! Human beings make mistakes! Shit happens!"

"Good executives don't make excuses," Keintz insisted. "Please reply promptly to the EC's memo!" Leadership uber alles," Rossman simpered. And moved a little behind Keintz .

Shorty stood up. He circled around his desk: "Okay gentlemen, mir tut der kopf -weh (You're giving me a headache). . . Raus! Raus!"
They broke for the stairs.


If only he'd been that forceful earlier. California Fats, a community goad who'd moved away last summer just after things had gotten really bad in the Spring, when gruppenfuhrer Hitchcock and some EC cronies and enablers had fouled up the CHCA elections and then tried to cover it up, had been telling the editor to be tough from the beginning. But things had gone really wrong last May. That's when some votes had apparently been bought, and the evidence spirited away from the CHCA offices and destroyed, all steps that should have vacated the election results and automatically removed Hitchcock, who is the real brains behind President Vardakis, from the Board. Katie Worrall and Caroline Hausermann, two old holdovers from the Hill's WASP entitled class, should have been censured . . .

Chestnut Hill Shorty, made a good start in this direction by exposing the election-snatching, calling for a State Investigator to look into the matter, and allowing Op Ed columnists and letter writers to hammer the Executive Committee. But by July, Hitchcock, Vardakis, Keintz, Lou Aiello, Ned Mitinger and all the usual suspects were reviewing his job performance again, though CHCA by-laws call for only one review a year, in January. Shorty was suddenly playing defense. The Op Ed and aggressive letter writers were effectively cut to a trickle. No editorials or news stories from the editor or his much-praised staff reported or protested the reversed situation to readers, and no further inquiries were made to the State. All by way of taking the heat off the boss.

In August, Hitchcock appointed Herr Keintz and soldat Remus to join her on an Ad Hoc committee to "investigate" the reasons for the Local's shrinking revenues and circulation -- 6300 copies sold weekly after 50 years in business, down from a high of 12,000 in the 80s, in a demographic that should support 50,000 readers; six editors in the last nine years, etc. -- but neglected to include the editor or ad director as participants! And again, the editor said nothing, despite the fact that he has a contract that guarantees his job through April, and the fact that Hitchcock's moves are always wrong , and procedurally if not legally actionable, in the sense of making it possible to call for her immediate ouster. California Fats has often said that an aroused Chestnut Hill could put the rather Teutonic, Karl Rovian, Dick Cheneyish present Exec Committee out of power in one night, at the next board meeting, say, by standing up in unison and booing them off the stage.

It's the editor's job as a journalist -- which is something quite different from being a small entrepreneur, though it includes plain business sense -- to inform the readership of the extent of the Hill's terminal problems . The CHBA has always exerted extraordinary pressure on the CHCA, through people like Stewart Graham (said to be related to Maxine Dornemann!), Richard Snowden, Sanjiv Jain and their various minions. And the current Exec Committee is unusually inclined to accommodate it. That's why Frau Rossman was goose-stepping with Herr Keintz when the Final Warning was unfurled at 9:30 a.m., on February 5th.

What's needed now is an editorial staff that will stand up and fight, and not in little spurts that die down in the face of the cold, unprincipled will of the EC; and a CHCA Board that will support a truly free press, before people forget what that means.

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Blogger Jeremiade said...

I hope it's not too late to stop the EC and Board from doing this again. I thought the response to the Studivant Affair with an attendant bylaw change made this impossible.

Wed Feb 11, 12:21:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Ms. Hammerstein von Claus said...

AND Today.. Keintz came up with some numbers that were no where near the correct amount! For what!??

Someone corrected him!

He resigned from the Ad Hoc Committee?! But why... to set and example?

How can one claim something so outrageous without FACT CHECKING?!

Go back to your hole and bury in shame, and how dare serve the editor with a letter that hangs him for typos and errors, when you - your furry self - are full of vast inaccuracies that you state as fact to gain advantages!!

Thu Feb 12, 07:46:00 PM EST  

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