Tierney's PR, political background raises questions

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"With an ad guy in charge we're more likely to see them behave more creatively," said Mary Meder, president of Harmelin Media, a media shop in the Philadelphia suburb of Bala Cynwyd. "It's a great thing."

But Brian P. Tierney's marketing background raises concerns as well as optimism, particularly about an owner who may have causes he wants to see espoused by editorial staffs.

During his PR career, Mr. Tierney frequently clashed with the papers on behalf of the local archdiocese of the Catholic Church. He was also an adviser to a GOP mayoral candidate and is frequently spotted on local TV spouting his conservative political views.

But Mr. Tierney has said he will withdraw from active GOP politics and dismissed concerns about attempts to exert political influence in the papers, noting that the investors, which include a union pension fund, come from various political backgrounds and probably couldn't agree on any one philosophy.

"You would have to be a fool to invest this much money and then diminish editorial integrity," he said.

One other concern over the ownership group focuses on the largest investor, Bruce Toll, who owns auto dealerships. In most markets auto dealerships help keep newspapers' ad rates competitive by negotiating aggressively. But, Toll's dealerships, as newspaper analyst John Morton put it, "will have pretty good leverage now that they own the place."

But local ownership won't be an issue either, according to Mr. Tierney, who has noted repeatedly in interviews that all of the investors have signed "non-interference pledges."
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