Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

September 22-28, 2005

loose canon

You Need Daylin Leach

So why is the Inquirer trying to get him thrown out of office?

Why did the Inquirer's Harrisburg reporter, a columnist and the paper's editorial board collectively carpet bomb Daylin Leach out of a job that you need him in?

Leach is the Democractic state representative for the Main Line and Upper Merion. A year into his second term, this young progressive has often aligned himself with Center City state Rep. Babette Josephs on issues critical to the city. This friend from suburbia is a rare blessing.

But it wasn't his politics that triggered the Inky's attacks. The newspaper hates the state rep because he had the audacity to diss them — several times and wickedly well — in printed op-ed pieces and in political satire on his Web site.

Like most cutting satire, Leach's stuff is outrageous, sometimes obscene. But political satire exposes a kind of truth that traditional media often don't get — and which is why millions now watch satirists like Al Franken, Bill Maher or Jon Stewart, instead of reading newspapers.

But now his Web site is gone, and Leach has been silenced. As one of a couple thousand who've received 200 or so of Leach's satirical missives via e-mail, I've laughed and learned from the fictional antics of Leach's alter-ego, Dutch Larooo — whether in the company of naked state legislators screaming "Screw Jersey," or blowing dope with Henry Kissinger. For eight years, Larooo entertained thousands, with nary a complaint. Until recently, that is, when Leach started tossing barbs at the Inquirer.

Leach took issue with the Inky's Harrisburg reporting with a serious — and civil — op-ed piece published in the Inquirer. Sure the pay-raise thing was ugly, argued Leach, but the paper's coverage was overblown. So what if legislators are now paid on par with other full-time state legislators? Leach also asked the newspaper why they're not reporting on pending legislation that really matters to people's lives, like slowing sprawl, ensuring gender equity in health care or strengthening education.

The answer, of course, is that such pieces aren't as sexy as the sight of elderly lawmakers raiding the cookie jar. Responding to Leach's op-ed, columnist John Grogan practically crows that his newspaper's gotcha story got picked up nationally, as he concludes the paper's first round against Leach by accusing him of "funny math."

Leach struck back — but this time not in a polite op-ed piece, and not in print. Leach launched a hilarious e-mail blast called "Where's Mario?" that skewered Mario F. Cattabiani, an Inky Harrisburg reporter (still available at www.schimmel.com/larooo).

And here's where it gets dirty: Inky editors then let Cattabiani respond with a front-page news story on Sept. 1 that, in effect, exposes Leach's inner pervert. Amazing! Though thousands of insiders have laughed at Leach's satire for years, the Inquirer has apparently only recently discovered it.

But instead of treating Leach's work as satire, Cattabiani calls it a blog — as if the meanderings of Leach's alter ego represented his most innermost and impure thoughts. For more than 50 column inches, Cattabiani clucks and huffs over the "pornography and strip clubs, [Leach's] lust for whiskey and women, and disdain for President Bush and Céline Dion." Curiously, Cattabiani barely mentions Leach's satrical attack on his reporting — the immediate impetus for the front-page story.

The Inquirer acted unethically by letting Cattabiani answer his attacker in a news story. Yet the very next day, in a second story, Cattabiani regurgitates the same spicy bits; and again, a third day, we hear about Leach's lasciviousness, after the state rep finally darkens his Web site. (Leach declined comment for this article.) Finally, on Sept. 5, columnist John Grogan reappears to write the legislator's epitaph, declaring that "[t]his blogger dug his political grave."

Maybe, maybe not. But hidden behind the newspaper's florid obsession with Leach's naughty bits, is the state rep's pointed satire of their mediocre coverage — a criticism that the newspaper never addresses.

Because not once, not in Cattabiani's follow-up pieces, not in Grogan's epitaph, not in the paper's unsigned editorial, is Leach's "Where's Mario?" satire mentioned. Instead, shocked and dismayed, the paper admonishes Leach for making "jokes about drugs and sex, [because] they give away his moral position on those issues." And cautions Leach not to malign "the standard-bearer of the opposition party" because it will hurt bipartisan cooperation.

That's crap. Only a dimwit from Harrisburg would argue that Leach embraces his fictional lunacy. And it takes a lying dimwit to assert that Leach doesn't regularly cross the aisle to work with Republicans — because he's known for it.

The Inquirer savaged this young legislator because his satire was hitting its mark: Them. Armed with Inky quotes, Republican opponents could lacerate Leach next year. And then this friend to the city, a progressive who has defended the rights of women, the poor, minorities, gay and old people, could be lost to us. All because the Inquirer couldn't take a fucking joke.

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