ONA Philly: the revival of the Online News Association in Philadelphia

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Jim MacMillan hiding from Daniel Victor's iPhone camera to my enjoyment at the August 2011 ONA Philly meetup at Nodding Head.

Sometimes you need that kick in the pants from an outsider.

There is a new Philadelphia chapter of the Online News Association, something of a trade organization founded in 1999 for journalism innovation that hosts a popular annual national conference I attended last year and regional events across the country. (I’ll be attending the national 2011 ONA conference, this year in Boston in October, too.)

Next ONA Philly meetup: Meet NewsWorks.com

  • 6-9pm Thurs. Sept. 15
  • WHYY, 6th St. at Race
  • Old City, Philadelphia
  • One year after launching, hear from the online news initiative from WHYY
  • Free beer, light snacks
  • Meetup.com RSVP here

But it’s not the first ONA chapter here. As recent as summer 2008, an ONA Philly chapter, led by then Inquirer online editor Chris Krewson and Philly.com editor Wendy Warren, held a big regional conference. But it was a time of heavy contraction and stress over at 400 North Broad Street. The workload wasn’t spread enough and that iteration fizzled. (Credit to Krewson and Warren for first bringing the group here — and setting up the first Facebook group.)

Fortunately a newcomer has taken up the cause. (And has a new Facebook group up, in addition to a Twitter account to follow news.)

Young sage Daniel Victor, who took a gig at Philly.com under Warren earlier this year after the collapse at TBD, has taken up the cause. Enlisting the Technically Philly crew and local AP editor Amy Fiscus, Victor is bringing the show back.

We had small 20-30 person meetups in July and August and now are moving forward. On Sept. 15, NewsWorks is hosting a show and tell on their near one-year anniversary of work from WHYY, details above at right in sidebar.

From what I know, there’s never been a national ONA conference in Philadelphia. That’s something I’d like to see changed.

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Philly Geek Awards: one award, three nominations and a dozen ideas for next year

The first ever Philly Geek Awards show, organized by my friends at Geekadelphia, was held last Friday at the Academy of Natural Sciences. As mentioned here in June, I was proudly involved in three nominations.

My Technically Philly colleagues Sean Blanda, Brian James Kirk and I were honored to have Philly Tech Week named Philadelphia’s Best Local Annual Event. In accepting the award, we were able to thank the entire technology community for getting involved and remind the nearly 400 people in attendance that Philly Tech Week 2012 is coming the last week of next April, in addition to a fine message from Kirk.

Because I so loved the event and because I consider the Geekadelphia crew good buddies, I was awash with thoughts on this year and next. Below, I share some of them.

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Five things that should be in your organization style guide

While I was at Back on My Feet, something I was proud of completing was, with the great help of a colleague, a company style guide.

A style guide should be a fundamental piece of documentation that goes a long way to creating an institutional memory. If everything imploded, a style guide would help you rebuild your organization — with workflow being more explicitly enumerated in staff manuals.

As your organization grows, it’s easy to wake up and find a lot of disparate, disconnected pieces that you’ll need to assemble again. Take hold and  keep connected the work you do for a tighter, more inspired and successful campaign.

In looking at other guides and finding value in ours, there are a few items that I think every style guide should include:

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Number of Views:8494

Why Philadelphia should embrace its accent

Even on the beloved and excellent TV comedy 'Always Sunny in Philadelphia,' native Rob McElhenney doesn't employ a Philly accent.

I have a friend who went to college where he did for, really, one leading reason: the accent.

Sure, he found a nice campus at a respected university with a good reputation and a big price tag, but, ultimately, he sought colleges in and around Boston because he loved that accent.

Boston, most might say, is a culturally distinctive city of 650,000 in a region steeped in history, plagued by all the problems dense places face and respected for its future.

Boston and its portion of New England surely has a lot going for it — in Philadelphia, it’s the city we probably most often compare ourselves to in terms of college graduate retention and sustaining of life sciences business — but I argue one of the strongest, most meaningful reasons for its success that no one seems to talk about is, yes, those broad As of the Boston accent.

So I’m here to argue that one of the greatest ways to continue to bolster Philadelphia’s reputation is to expand its cultural exportation through movies, music and TV, highlighted by that accent that the rest of the country rarely can identify.

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JLab Enterprise Reporting Fund: Abandoned City and Broadband2035

Two more collaborative Philadelphia reporting projects in which I was involved have finished recently.

Part of the JLab-funded Enterprise Reporting Fund that paid for the NEast Philly District 172 project I shared recently, Abandoned City was a partnership between Technically Philly, PlanPhilly and CityPaper and Broadband2035 was a partnership between Technically Philly and PlanPhilly.

While I was involved with some strategy, reporting, introductions, planning and, for Broadband2035, I led the relationship with the city’s Planning Commission (more on that below), my colleague Brian James Kirk really led our roles in these two initiatives.

Abandoned City, depicted above was an investigation of vacant property in Philadelphia and its impact on communities.

  • CityPaper led the reporting and devoted a cover story and other print space for reporting
  • PlanPhilly offered additional reporting, editing and the web platform
  • Technically Philly initiated the partnership and worked with a developer to visualize and map those findings.

Broadband2035, which is ongoing, investigated the impact access to affordable broadband has on low-income communities

  • PlanPhilly offered reporting, editing and guidance
  • Technically Philly led the reporting, worked with the city’s Planning Commission to incorporate broadband plans into its comprehensive Philadelphia2035 vision and hosted the series page.
Number of Views:3008

White House Urban Entrepreneurship Forum: speaking on public-private partnerships

White House Urban Entrepreneurship forum Better Together panel, featuring (from left) moderator Kathleen Warner from Startup America; Doug Rand from the White House Office of Science and Technoogy; Sherryl Kulman from the Wharton Program for Social Impact; Prof. Youngjin Yoo from Temple University's Fox School of Business; Jane Vincent from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Dept and, behind the camera, me.

One of seven White House Urban Entrepreneurship forums across the country was hosted at Temple University in Philadelphia Monday, and, in addition to Technically Philly being a media sponsor, I served on one of a dozen panels.

Find the Livestream and Technically Philly coverage of Philadelphia Mayor Nutter’s address here.

I was on a panel called “Better Together: Public-Private Partnerships to Accelerate Urban Entrepreneurship and Startups.”

Unfortunately, our time was truncated due to a late start, so I spoke briefly once and answered one question.

I spoke about Technically Philly involving itself in connecting startups and entrepreneurs with the city, by way of Philly Tech Week, the Open Data Philly initiative and further fostering collaboration in various corners of the region’s technology community.

White House officials are holding these forums, from Newark to New Orleans, to connect and discuss ideas with local business leaders and entrepreneurs. Philadelphia’s forum coincided with a meaningful minority business event. The forum was co-hosted by the White House, The Office of Mayor Nutter, U.S. Departments of Commerce, Energy, Labor, Treasury, Education, and several federal, state, and local agencies.

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Selling Out: why some acquisitions are good and others are bad for Philadelphia business

Remember: I am an individual who is a technology reporter. These are my opinions and should not reflect those of my company Technically Media, nor its technology news site Technically Philly.

Online auction giant eBay bought for $2.4 billion King of Prussia-based e-commerce powerhouse GSI Commerce in March, and I spoke briefly about the deal on WHYY.

As NewsWorks reported, there was immediate concern about the loss of local jobs through contraction and restructuring. In my conversation, I pushed on the notion that there is important value for the region’s perception as a technology hub to have significant exits to point to.

This acquisition, I suggested, can be seen as a good thing.

In doing so, I raised the ire of Old City coworking space Independents Hall co-founder Alex Hillman, who told me he felt strongly that growing companies in Philadelphia was a lot more important than selling out to bigger players elsewhere.

This post is going to argue that we’re both right.

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Number of Views:12226

Temple Review: why big companies still lead innovation and how that’s changing

How large technology companies still lead innovation in the world is the focus of a freelance story I wrote for Temple Review, the alumni magazine of Temple University.

Read the story here or download the PDF here, on page 24.

An earlier nut graf: Innovation has been seen as strictly in the purview of tiny, agile startups, taking an idea and bringing it to market. But as the speed of new technologies continues to quicken, the need for large businesses to help bring products to market becomes even greater. So big corporations are not only playing a remarkably underplayed role in innovation, they are also innovating in how they change the world altogether.

Give it a read and then check some of the extras from my interviews that didn’t make it into the piece.

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Number of Views:4145

Clay Shirky: “News has to be subsidized, and it has to be cheap, and it has to be free”

Academic Clay Shirky tossed down another great post ahead of an undergraduate course he’s teaching at NYU. In the end, he calls for more chaos — more competitive approaches to creating meaning news for citizens, beyond news for consumers.

You ought to read the whole piece, but here are a couple of my favorite parts:

This system was never ideal—out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made—and long before Craig Newmark and Arianna Huffington began their reign of terror, Gannett and Scripps were pioneering debt-laden balance sheets, highly paid executives, and short-term profit-chasing. But even in their worst days, newspapers supported the minority of journalists reporting actual news, for the minority of citizens who cared. In return, the people who followed sports or celebrities, or clipped recipes and coupons, got to live in a town where the City Council was marginally less likely to be corrupt.

“There are only three things I’m sure of: News has to be subsidized, and it has to be cheap, and it has to be free.”

If we adopt the radical view that what seems to be happening is actually happening, then a crisis in reporting isn’t something that might take place in the future. A 30% reduction in newsroom staff, with more to come, means this is the crisis, right now. Any way of creating news that gets cost below income, however odd, is a good way, and any way that doesn’t, however hallowed, is bad.

Number of Views:2731
District172-wide

District 172: John Perzel coverage for NEast Philly, funded by JLab

 

Though I took part in three of 14 JLab-funded Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Fund projects, first announced here last fall, I led one of them.

For Northeast Philadelphia hyperlocal NEast Philly, I helped lead the editorial direction of a project called District 172: the politics of change after state Rep. John Perzel.

Following the indicted former state Speaker of the House, whose corruption trial has been postponed until the fall, we covered what the impact the loss of a 30-year state leader would be on his district, particularly a small swath that had served as his political base.

 

Find all the coverage here.

I had the following roles:

Number of Views:2950