In part because of that history, Tierney made much of a written pledge, signed by him and all the investors, not to attempt to “influence or interfere with the editorial policies or decisions of the publisher.” With equal fanfare, then editor Amanda Bennett set up a committee to monitor coverage of the investors, including the new chairman of Philadelphia Media Holdings, the homebuilder Bruce Toll. When the personable publisher of the two newspapers, Joe Natoli, left for a job in Miami, Tierney named himself publisher of both papers. (In May, he named Mark Frisby publisher of the Daily News and promoted himself the president and CEO.)

By the fall of 2006, Bennett was gone, and Marimow decided there was no need for the noninterference committee. “I want Brian to be a presence in the newsroom,” he says. He notes that the Inquirer has not flinched from covering a controversy about whether executives in Bruce Toll’s company are overcompensated, and that “having a publisher who can provide story tips and perspective is valuable.”

Tierney can be aggressively hands-on. When the paper launched a new Chester County section in November, before Marimow’s arrival, Tierney traveled to West Chester, the county seat, to hand out free newspapers. Then he realized that the section contained no Chester County news: “I said, ‘We’ve got a Chester County section. We’re selling Chester County advertisers. I’m running TV commercials saying, ‘Chester County.’ You promised me you’d create a Chester County section.’ It was a promise not kept.”

In response, the paper’s top editors dispatched a SWAT team of reporters to work forty-five-day tours of duty in Chester County. “Everybody was confused about what the mission was. There weren’t enough desks or computers,” recalls Art Carey, a veteran reporter who had been writing a column for the Image section. The contract negotiations were going on, layoffs were on the horizon, and “the entire staff was in a state of disarray and demoralized.”

But Carey, who is still writing features in Chester County, says he doesn’t blame Tierney for the redeployment. “I always thought the idea that he would not interfere with the editorial product was ludicrous,” he says. “Why would you buy something that you can’t shape? If I were in his shoes, I’d raise a ruckus, too.”

Carey worries more about the sponsored business column. “It’s a perilous and confusing time for newspapers,” he says. “The question is, how much compromising should be done to ensure their economic vitality? And at what point does that begin to destroy people’s respect for the product and undermine its credibility?”

Tierney makes no apologies for his involvement: “I didn’t buy this to put it in a blind trust. I’m not here to be a potted plant. Does Don Graham”—chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company—“get involved? I think he does. Arthur Sulzberger”—publisher of The New York Times—“do you think he just kind of sits in his office and plays pinochle? No. You’re running an operation. You need to lead it.”

Not long after the layoffs, Tierney hired three freelance columnists: Michael Smerconish, an outspoken radio personality who was already a Daily News columnist; Mark Bowden, a former Inquirer reporter and the author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (1999); and Lisa Scottoline, a bestselling author of legal thrillers. Smerconish and Bowden, both right of center, write for the Inquirer’s Currents section, while Scottoline pens a humor column for Image called “Chick Wit.”

The prospective hires came as a surprise to Chris Satullo, the editorial page editor, who had been discussing a column with Senator Rick Santorum, a conservative Republican. Satullo announced his resignation from the job in June. Tierney “has thirteen ideas in the shower every morning,” including “two great ideas,” said a clearly frustrated Satullo, who will stay on as a columnist and director of the paper’s civic engagement efforts. Tierney, Satullo said, needs “to develop trusting relationships” with his editors and understand that when they challenge him, “it’s not resistance to change talking—it’s experience, and maybe even wisdom, talking.”

Julia M. Klein is a cultural reporter and critic in Philadelphia and a CJR contributing editor.