This Magazine Cover Has the Philadelphia Hotel Association Running Scared

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  11.01.06 | 11:54 AM ET

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Philadelphia Magazine usually distributes about 6,000 copies of its glossy pub to hotel rooms around the city. Not this month, though. November’s issue features a cover story about murder in the city, with a subhead that reads: “One terrifying night on the streets—and why everything we’re doing to stop the shooting won’t work.” Philadelphia Hotel Association executive director Ed Grose “urged hotels to think twice before providing guests with copies” of the magazine, according to a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Michael Currie Schaffer writes:

Grose’s message argued that the magazine made the city look unsafe for the visitors who flock to those rooms. He also slammed the magazine for not mentioning on its cover that homicides were concentrated in neighborhoods far from most hotels. (Only 3 of the 295 killings through the end of September took place in Center City.)

“I recommend that you review your position on what effect this article and cover will have on your guests who are staying in your guestrooms,” he wrote. “I feel that sensationalizing the murder rate in our city will have a negative effect on our customers.”

According to Shaffer’s story, at least two hotels in Philadelphia’s Center City—the Loews and the Four Seasons—have decided to keep the issue out of guest rooms.

“It would be seriously alarming to our guests,” said Valerie Ferguson, regional vice president and managing director of the 583-room Loews Hotel. “We’re a very safe neighborhood, a very friendly Center City neighborhood, and we want our guests to enjoy what they currently are enjoying.”

“Think of what a hotel room looks like, which is supposed to be warm and comforting,” said Ruth Hirshey, director of public relations at the 364-room Four Seasons Hotel. “That on the table doesn’t project what we want to project about the city.”

Hirshey said the magazine would remain available for sale in the hotel’s gift shop.

Philadelphia Magazine editor Larry Platt disagrees with the decisions to keep the magazines out of the rooms. “This is a Philadelphia problem,” he tells the Inquirer, “and great cities tackle their problems head-on.”

If I were traveling to Philadelphia, I wouldn’t have a problem seeing a copy of the magazine in my room. The most shocking thing to me comes from Platt’s story explaining Why We Put a Gun on Our Cover:

After weeks of immersing ourselves in the epidemic that threatens to stall our region’s considerable momentum, I had a “eureka” moment. I figured out how to turn around our skyrocketing murder rate.

We need a tourist to be killed in Rittenhouse Square.

This epiphany came after a recent conversation with former police commissioner John Timoney, who is now making significant inroads in Miami’s crime rate, as he did here from 1998 until 2001. I asked him how he, William Bratton and Rudy Giuliani turned New York from a crime- and murder-infested laughingstock to one of America’s safest cities. “We didn’t turn it around,” he said. “The media did. A tourist was killed, and the Post and Daily News grabbed hold of that and made crime and murder a front-page story every day. That made the public officials act.”