Ownership concerns be damned, the publisher of the largest news organization in one of the largest markets in the country needs to make a major shake up in company structure and output or face a continued decline.
The Philadelphia Media Network, owners of the city’s two daily newspapers and most trafficked news site, announced almost 40 more editorial layoffs and buyouts this month, prompting speculation of another sale. The perception of leadership at the paper has been seriously damaged with a growing number of reports of editorial interference, particularly around coverage of the potential sale, though they’ve happened before.
Fears have risen that an investor group led by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell could be a biased fifth owner in six years for the company. News of what damage bias could do the organization has clouded the root frustration that the company is failing.
While ownership bias has dominated the coverage, I’m most concerned that no one whose news innovation vision garners much contemporary respect is at the organization’s helm. That’s what is most keeping rhythm to the slow drumbeat of expectations for failure that has been heralded for a decade.
Below, find some initial, broad thoughts on how the organization might be reshaped.
Number of Views:1652
When one looks at the depths of U.S. presidential politics, there is a balance between who is perceived as having succeeded and who has failed.
We write thick biographies and create college courses on the considerable accomplishments of our favorites. In pragmatic contrast, there is an old saw that means to convey how much federal structure has been built up over time.
The only two decisions a president gets to make are when to drop the bomb and where to put the library.
It’s with that logic that I’ve found myself feeling a certain sense of predetermined indifference. I’ve long loved following local politics more than federal, on the whole, because it’s my belief that those actors impact my life in a far more tangible way than those federally.
There are no good U.S. presidents, just good times to be president.
- When a new gamechanging technology is invented, like the Internet
- When there is an enemy of state, like after 9/11
- Right after a global recession, like perhaps next term
- When there is a global recession, like now
- When there is a hostage situation, late in your second term.
Number of Views:1400
I’m a fan of the fun collections of ideas, images and concepts that find their way onto personal Tumblr accounts, often driven by crowdsourcing contributions.
Recently a handful of ideas have come to mind that I wish were actively being created by someone. I’d happily contribute.
- Ridiculous local TV lower thirds — As depicted above, the foolishness of TV news is often good for absurd, accidentally ironic or just downright idiotic messages and descriptions in text on news casts.
- Vanity license plates — A few efforts have started and stumbled, but a collection of great vanity license plates is too good to be missed. This is probably one I’m most suited to start myself, considering I’ve exchanged picture messages of these with my family for years.
- Fat men eating ice cream cones — Next time you’re downtheshore or at a vacation spot, you’ll find them. And it will make you smile.
Number of Views:4283
Social entrepreneurship is an opportunity for Philadelphia to create a regional distinction for attracting and retaining startup talent, was the central theme of my Pecha Kucha presentation Saturday night.
It was an extension of my writing on social entrepreneurship here.
The lightning talk event, in which a dozen speakers use 20 seconds for each of 20 images to give a five-minute perspective, was having its ninth iteration locally, after having been launched by graphic designers in Tokyo in 2004. See the slides from the presentation below.
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My good friend Eric Smith, whose successes in publishing and audience have kept me motivated, wrote some very flattering things in celebration of his own birthday, mostly about how we love to faux battle by way of our respective geek blogs Geekadelphia and Technically Philly. An excerpt:
… Without realizing it, Chris had finally given me the greatest gift of all… playful competition. I love being able to throw a jab at him now and again via Twitter or on the blog. Mocking him when I see the buzzwords flying… I should list that as an interest on my Facebook profile. I’m thrilled when I hear about a local PR firm thinking Chris and I (aka Technically Philly and Geekadelphia) hate each other. When he gave his keynote speech during the first Philly Tech Week, I ruined his moment with a tweet (this was an accident though!). When he received an award at the Geek Awards, he slammed the hell out of Geekadelphia, and I loved it.
But despite the joking around… Chris makes me want to be better at what I do.
Below watch video of my Geek Awards presentation when I had a little fun at Geekadelphia’s expense, though their fans let me hear it.
Number of Views:1754
Moderating a panel on web security, as being aired yesterday on CSPAN 2 Book TV.
The Founding Fathers would have loved and leveraged social media but been fearful of its future implications on privacy and speech issues, said a host of experts at an event on the impact of new communications patterns.
Earlier this month, I moderated a panel on the subject at the National Constitution Center featuring Jennifer Preston, a social media reporter from the New York Times, Kashmir Hill, a web law reporter from Forbes and Lori Andrews, the author of a related book which served as regular fodder for the discussion, which appeared on CSPAN 2, Book TV.
Find background and audio of the entire program on the NCC blog here. Watch the entire hour-long panel discussion on CSPAN here.
Thanks to Stefan Frank for organizing the event and including me. Below, I have a three-minute clip of the final question of the night, in which, after spending the evening speaking about the perils of social media, each panelist reminds us of the power and benefit.
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More than 50 people watched a panel discussion in the 10! Show studios featuring NBC 10 staff Vince Lattanzio, Tracey Davidson and weatherman Hurricane Swartz.
Local TV news is, perhaps even more than other in the media business, a ratings game.
That’s a distinct takeaway I had, leaving NBC Philadelphia headquarters on City Line Avenue after the latest local ONA meetup featured the affiliate’s web strategy and news direction. More than 50 journalists, NBC 10 representatives, bloggers, freelancers and other media representatives had Yuengling and pretzels before seating in the 10! Show studios. The event was well-planned, well-run and well-received — though this writer is one of the local group’s organizers, outside of promotion, this event was entirely organized by NBC 10 social media editor Lou DuBois.
The event featured video clips from the WCAU station’s long history, presentations on the affiliate’s web and mobile strategies and then a panel Q&A session featuring the station’s tech trends reporter Vince Lattanzio, its consumer reporter Tracey Davidson and its weatherman Hurricane Swartz, moderated by social media editor and event organizer DuBois, who did a smashing job. It was a distinctly different (and so thoroughly compelling) event than our group’s other two programmed events like this, one with the Philadelphia Media Network and the other with public media outfit WHYY.
While the latter is a nonprofit and NBC 10 partner, the former also has to operate as a business with investors in mind. So, it was interesting to hear the suits talk so differently about the work they do.
Number of Views:2764
The importance, sway and influence of one of the world’s most dominant 20th century newspapers was the focus of the 1998 collection of essays about the once powerful Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, edited by its former education reporter Peter Binzen, who also wrote Whitetown USA.
Dubbed ‘Nearly Everybody Read It,’ a riff off the paper’s legendary slogan, the 163-page book has nearly 20 essays from former Bulletin reporters and editors, including its first female and black correspondents. For 135 years, the family owned paper was a powerhouse among a rich daily newspaper tradition in Philadelphia.
A central story line of the book was the Bulletin’s battle with the Inquirer, its chief rival, and how, in the end, the Inquirer, considered by many to be the chain response to the family-owned operation, won. Through all the bluster, I thought there were four primary reasons that rang most true to me:
- The Bulletin fundamentally failed to innovate, remaining an afternoon daily as circulation fell with growing TV news audiences, increasing transportation costs due to traffic and changing news cycles.
- The Bulletin failed to develop the revenue to stay competitive, including a premature sale of its nascent TV station, denying alcohol advertising and other funding methods that kept it lagging behind the Knight-Ridder funded Inquirer.
- The Bulletin resisted aggressive editorial reconfiguration, following the investigative spirit of the 1970s that soared the reputation of the Inquirer behind editor Gene Roberts, and pushed out its own innovative editor George Packard.
- The Bulletin came up short in following the suburban trend, having its 1947 purchase of the Camden Courier Post denied by the U.S. Department of Justice for anti-monopoly concerns was a large blow.
As I often do when reading something relevant to the news and innovation conversations I so adore, I wanted to share some choice thoughts from the book.
Number of Views:8103
This Philadelphia daily newspaper family tree is framed in the Inquirer editorial board room at 400 N. Broad Street. Photo by Russell Cooke. Click to enlarge.
There were a dozen or more daily newspapers in Philadelphia at one time, I hear. Trouble is, I couldn’t seem to find anyone who could name what all of those papers were.
So I went and did some good old fashioned research — with some great direction from representatives of the following institutions.
Below, find a historical timeline of daily newspapers in Philadelphia, or at least what I could decode using four sources: primarily the Pennsylvania State Library newspaper collection [call number: Philadelphia] and the archives of the University of Virginia, with some help from a 1997 collection of essays called ‘Nearly Everybody Read It,’ edited by Peter Binzen (whose other book I recently read) and an essay from Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia member Gerry Wilkinson. (I compiled some other notes on the Inquirer here.)
Check it out below and offer any criticism or comment — I’m certainly expecting that this is incomplete, so any other leads are appreciated!
Number of Views:3707
I attend a lot of hackathons, considering either I’m organizing them or sponsoring them or covering them. Though I hope to slowly change that a bit, I’m no programmer.
Still, sitting around these events has led me to conceive of and, in some cases, suggest projects that never actually happen. Maybe they someday will. Here are some that have crossed my mind:
- What Neighborhood am I in? — For Philadelphia, GIS shop Azavea has a map layer for Philly neighborhoods (which are not formal political boundaries) though I’m not yet sure I completely agree with them . Still, that’d be a good start to a tool that could (and should) easily be brought to other cities. Give an address, intersection or your current location to find out what city neighborhood you’re in. (I’d love for this to perhaps also combine other map layers like political representative, city services including trash days, neighborhood groups and other information) **There could be a tab breaking down zip code or neighborhood-specific Census information like rental/homeownership, crime, etc. (Other ‘hood lists exist)
- Parking flow chart — I thought it might be cool to have a little yes/no web app that would help drivers to decide where they can park in given situations. The GPS tool could follow parking regulations and have yes/no functionality: “are you 25 feet from a fire hydrant,” “is a weekday,” or whatever.
- ‘Fuck You’ world map — Translations and pronunciations of ‘Fuck You’ (or, OK, perhaps a few phrases) in as many global languages as humanly possible. Helps to see different native or national languages and learn a simple phrase.
- Easy budget visualization tool — Lots of governments have PDFs or deep budget information. Some even offer some visualizations themselves, but I wonder if there could be some tool that could suck up some of that information and offer more interactive, variable and more easily updated online displays to be shared more readily.
- Neighborhood news tool — For specific-enough neighborhoods or parts of the city (i.e. “West Oak Lane” or “Southwest Philadelphia” we could create RSS feeds pulling from a variety of sources.
- School approval heat map — Erika will know this better than I do, but I’d bet there’s a map layer of school locations (or one could be created), though catchment is less available and more interesting, and the AYP or perhaps test school averages could be used to visualize the success of schools in different neighborhoods.
- Transit black holes — A visualization of SEPTA bus/train/trolley routes (and/or frequency) and display what areas are least served.
Number of Views:3957