Five things I learned about Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter watching his NBC 10 ‘Ask the Mayor’ program [VIDEO]

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter gave an hour of his time this week to answer resident questions that came to host NBC 10 by way of email, Twitter and Facebook, as we reported on Technically Philly in sharing video of the event.

Nutter has already been praised for use of Twitter – a move we had asked him about during a Q&A in July 2010 , a few months before the city imported communications director Desiree Peterkin-Bell, who had helped transform Newark Mayor Cory Booker into an urban political social media star.

The Ask the Mayor event — prompted by NBC 10 social media hire Lou Dubois and Bell — was unique, interesting and compelling. NBC 10 deserves credit for only sharing a single softball question — about cheesesteaks, of course — and Nutter and his team deserve praise too for participating in something new and relatively open. It was clear and admirable that Nutter hadn’t been prepared for the questions.

Granted, none of those questions amounted to public affairs journalism, but many did seem to represent the perspective of Philadelphians. Watch the five video segments of the event here or watch the first below and see what I learned about Nutter watching them.

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ONA 2011: conferences are good for more than just their sessions [VIDEO]

My colleagues Sean Blanda, Brian James Kirk and I learned plenty at the 2011 Online News Association conference in Boston, but we also did more touring and connected more with old friends and colleagues than last year. We even sneaked out to use the city's new bicycle sharing program and visit Fenway Park, among other sights. We were in Boston for the conference from Sept. 22-25. Photo by some lady who took the camera from her elderly father.

Sometimes, if not most times, what happens outside of the sessions can be what’s most valuable about a conference.

I learned plenty the traditional way at the 2011 Online News Association national conference, held in Boston this weekend Sept. 22-25, but I surely got more out of reconnecting with friends and colleagues from other markets, even more than I remember doing at past professional events. It also didn’t hurt that I dove more into Boston than I have while visiting elsewhere for work travel.

ONA has been a national convener among news innovation conversations for more than a decade, and more locally, I’ve been involved with reviving the Philadelphia chapter of the group.

Full disclosure: this year, I was able to attend thanks to the very generous support of the Center for Public Interest Journalism at Temple University and the Wyncote Foundation. I was able to attend last year with similar support from the William Penn Foundation, which has additionally funded the Transparencity reporting project I have led.

After a few years co-running a sustainable niche news site, participating in the online discourse around news innovation and attending events like ONA and others from the Aspen Institute, the University of Missouri and, yes, our own BarCamp NewsInnovation, I felt like attending the event was just as important to talk shop with others doing similar work across the country as it was to catch up on a lot of in-session conversations that felt less relevant to where we are professionally.

Tourism and good, smart friends aside, below I share what I learned in a conference’s traditional way.

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Number of Views:19228

Shark Tank: 25 things I learned from watching the startup pitch reality TV show

Whether they are meant to be there or not, real business lessons are buried within the made-for-TV, startup-pitch-event-turned-reality-show Shark Tank, and despite the raised eyebrows, I love the program.

A rotating crew of five potential investors, billed as self-made millionaires, hear quick pitches from would-be entrepreneurs of varying skills, interests and levels of experience. Sometimes deals are made; sometimes those entrepreneurs walk away with nothing, aside from a little exposure.

This is not the first time I’ve talked about the show: last fall, I wrote about what the Knight News Challenge could learn from Shark Tank.

I watched most of last season and all of what has come out so far this year. I’ve got to thinking there are a few lessons to be learned from watching. Updated: Tech Crunch has a newer post offering lessons for the show.

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NBC 10 Philadelphia lists me among 20 locals to follow on Twitter

Back in June, I was added to the 20 from NBC Philadelphia.

It’s a small, though clever, effort, and I appreciate being called among a select group of people locally highlighted as worth following on Twitter.

It’s a diverse group that is still changing, but the list is an interesting way to curate a list of people following, sharing and commenting on the goings-on of the city. I’ve always hoped to offer real value online and plan to keep doing just that.

It also helps that it’s a built-in community of people with communities online to share and drive traffic, audience and, perhaps, action.

On the 20 portion of its site, NBC 10 will use tweets from the list members to add perspective to local events, yes, like my amusement at the national conference of the International Cat Association. I’ll strive to offer some relatively more valuable information too.

I appreciate greatly the notoriety and impressive company.

 

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Temple University’s neighborhood scholarships should go to kids, not undergrads

Chess player Garry Kasparov at an event from the Harlem Children's Zone, a nationally-celebrated program devoted to impacting kids at a young age. Photo by Mig Greengard.

Two hundred fifty students from the largely troubled neighborhoods of North Philadelphia will receive full, four-year scholarships to neighobring Temple University, my alma mater, during the next decade, as the Inquirer reported.

It’s a generous effort from a major urban research university often called on for more outreach in its surrounding communities. Good things, warm stories and, surely, great public relations will come as a result. Of a student population numbering nearly 30,000, 250 may seem small, but it’s always worth valuing.

All that said, a friend summed up my exact reaction to the situation. This is a kind, relatively easy, relatively small move. It ignores the reality that the biggest impact on the development of young people happens long before they are applying for college.

“[Temple] should have given full-day preschool from birth and full-day kindergarten to 250 neighboring kids and intensive parental training to 250 neighborhood new parents 18 years ago. That would have been more effective and ultimately cheaper.” - Dan Pohlig

Temple, of course, is a university, so offering those scholarships have precedence there. This is a fine act, but there are bigger issues and more interesting approaches to take on.

Number of Views:5095

Should your business use an independent contractor or hire a full-time employee?

Following President Obama’s much hyped jobs speech, small business owners have been discussing the direct ramifications for if his proposals were enacted by Congress.

My Technically Media colleagues and I were specifically interested in these details, as provided by the New York Times:

“The centerpiece of the American Jobs Act is an extension and expansion of the cut in payroll taxes, worth $240 billion, under which the tax paid by employees would be cut in half through 2012. Smaller businesses would also get a cut in their payroll taxes, as well as a tax holiday for hiring new employees.” Also: $4k to any business that hires an employee that has been looking for a job for six months.

Beyond the fact that those proposals aren’t actually in place yet, I wanted to share the basic, common reasons for why independent contractors and freelancers are still the way of the world, particularly in publishing.

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Number of Views:6614

ONA Philly September: NewsWorks from WHYY one year after launching [VIDEO]

Photo by Dan Victor

Nearly a year after launching, the team behind the NewsWorks community-driven online news effort from WHYY, the Philadelphia public media organization, shared its lessons. It was the third event from a revived local chapter of the Online News Association.

After an hour of beer donated by Boxcar Brewing, sandwiches from the Trolleycar Diner and pretzels from the Center City Soft Pretzel Co., I kicked off the night and introduced WHYY editorial chief Chris Satullo.

Satullo and Don Henry, two of the many leading faces behind the NewsWorks initiative, shared five tasks they got right and five tasks they got wrong. Text of them all and video of the first few below.

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Number of Views:10690

#wjchat: curating Business of Journalism discussion on popular journalists Twitter discussion

The Business of Journalism was the focus of the 82nd episode of the popular, national #wjchat Twitter chat Wednesday night, and I’m happy to say I hosted the affair.

Check the archived chat here.

Below check out the Storify, I put together highlighting some of the more interesting responses to the series of questions put out by the facilitator. As host, I was meant to drive conversation, outreach and use any expertise I had on the subject.

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Number of Views:5905

Open city data in Philadelphia: the obstacles and triumphs of the L&I example

A screenshot of a draft of the License to Inspect tool, built by Azavea for PlanPhilly using the new L&I app. Click to enlarge.

A feature story covering the as-yet unreleased Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections API-based online tool ‘License to Inspect,’ its inspiration and hope was published on Technically Philly Monday, a story I reported and wrote during the last couple months.

It is the last major feature of the Transparencity grant project I’ve been leading, and one of the more detailed investigative reports I’ve done in my journalism career. The feature, which details the nearly two-year struggle to go public with a project with internal support, is meant to show the lessons learned and obstacles faced in the hopes that future city agencies can more efficiently release their data publicly for development and citizen use.

Give it a read, for lessons to be taken for any local government. and then find some of what didn’t make it into the piece below.

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How 9/11 helped shape New York City for the better

The New York 9/11 terrorist attack site view on Sept. 12, 2001 from the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus camera on NASA's Landsat 8. Click to see original. H/t Gizmodo

Nearly 3,000 people are said to have died 10 years ago in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, perhaps more if some first responder deaths are to be included.

That is brutal and sobering and tragic and heartbreaking.

TL;DR — Why I believe the pain of 9/11 helped shape NYC for the better.

  • A long history exists between pain and strength.
  • After 9/11, Americans embraced New York City as patriot territory.
  • After the attacks, an even stronger NYC identity has developed.
  • Following that day, NYC is now protected by more of a veil of patriotism than it perhaps has ever had.
  • Why I wrote this: To argue that a dramatic shift in our national perspectives on NYC changed after 9/11 and it has largely benefited the city.

I grew up in northwest New Jersey, a rural enclave in the New York City region. Like many others there, my parents were from the city and arrived an hour west chasing suburban sprawl. Much of my family still lives in and around that city. They worked in and around the Twin Towers. A couple times a year, my parents would take my sister and me to Manhattan for nice dinners with family; I always wanted to play sandlot baseball or get lost in the woods instead.

I was a sophomore in high school sitting in English class that September Tuesday, but I don’t want to rehash my story. Plenty are doing that and, quite frankly, they are doing a better job of it than I can. Moreover, many people with whom I was in class had parents or other close family working there or near to the buildings. I didn’t, after some confirmation, so my personal story isn’t compelling.

Instead, I want to suggest what might be considered a rather unsettling thought, but I think it’s an important one.

That the most costly, most visual portion of the Sept. 11 attacks in lower Manhattan have, looking back at the last 10 years, been good for New York City.

People died. Real people. At a different time, my uncles, or cousin or sister could have very likely been in that number. Philosophy isn’t developed enough for us to understand why not. Very little is ever worth death. But, I believe, these attacks have propelled New York City to first city status among the few generations of Americans alive for 9/11 in a way that nothing else ever could.

I am not a resident of New York City. Never have been. The city was around me — literally and by means of familial roots, but, no, I wasn’t there that morning and know little of that moment. My arguments here rely most heavily on outside perception, so having roots and family there, but being distant enough to evaluate that perception is a strength, I believe.

Now let me tell you why the idea that something so painful could be beneficial is not only plausible, it is clear.

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Number of Views:17397