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Observers say Democratic ownership of the papers probably wouldn’t alter their track records in endorsing candidates. The Inquirer, for example, hasn’t endorsed a Republican for president since at least the 1960s, with the exception of 2008. Four years ago, under Mr. Tierney, the paper took the unusual step of endorsing both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain for president in the general election.

Mr. Obama carried Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Journalists say potential conflicts abound with the prospective owners. For example, Mr. Norcross is a kingmaker in New Jersey Democratic politics whose brother, Donald, is a state senator. Other investors in Mr. Rendell’s group include parking magnate Lewis Katz and Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast Spectacor and owner of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team.

“It’s just a mess right now,” said a member of one of the papers’ staffs, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Former Daily News editor Zack Stalberg, who led the paper when it was owned by Knight-Ridder Inc., said the turmoil at the papers makes him “nostalgic for chain journalism.”

“Certainly there’s cause for concern when you have highly opinionated and well-connected people in the deal,” Mr. Stalberg said. “It comes down to how they behave and who they put in management positions.”