Gentrification: thoughts from seven years as student and young professional in Philadelphia

Urban neighborhoods change.

We’ve known that for, what, like 150 years or something? In the past quarter-century or so, as educated (mostly, but not entirely white) professionals moved back to neighborhoods that had populations that didn’t always resemble them — in race or class or culture or all and more — there were natural clashes.

Mostly, I feel like those clashes have mostly been put in three categories, one initiated by new residents, one from more native residents and one that both share:

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WHYY: NewsWorks and other thoughts on what the public media org should be

Creating a bold and serious collaborative niche membership network with existing and emerging independent media should be a primary objective of WHYY, the Delaware Valley public media organization.

Highlighted by its six-month-old NewsWorks online news site and hyperlocal news experiment, WHYY has attempted to recast itself as something more than a stodgy PBS TV channel and NPR radio affiliate. While progress has surely been made, WHYY is short of being as fully integrated and networked as the ‘public media’ nomenclature might suggest.

Whereas Philly.com is driven primarily by eyeballs and so its strategy should reflect that by becoming a truly comprehensive portal for the region, WHYY is ‘member-supported public media,’ so its driving focus (and its relationship with Philly.com) should reflect that. I’m not entirely sure that’s the case just yet.

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Three most important numbers to Philadelphians right now

Courtesy of the Inquirer

Three recently shared numbers stand out to me as being incredibly powerful, evocative and important for the future of Philadelphia:

8,456

The tiny, 0.6 increase in Philadelphia’s population from the 2000 to the 2010 U.S. Census, a small grow that halts an enormous trend: 50 years of population loss from a 1950 height of 2.1 million. MORE HERE

16,032

The gain from 2000 to 2009 of the number of 25 to 34 year-olds who have a four-year degree or higher and live within three miles of Center City, the third highest U.S. numerical total (beyond New York City and Boston) and one of the 10 highest percentage increases, 57 percent, in the country. MORE HERE And for broader perspective on youth and wealth growth in specific neighborhoods, despite citywide trends, check this Inquirer article out.

+17,000

The number of children born to Center City parents between 2000 and 2008, a total that was 300 in 1990 andmore than 2,000 in 2008. Moreover, “nearly three-quarters of kindergarten students in Center City schools are drawn from downtown neighborhoods….So, not only are Center City denizens birthing, they’re staying” MORE HERE

And for dessert, though admittedly not nearly as broadly impactful, I offer you news that again Philadelphia has more per capita bicycle commuters (like me, mostly) than any other of the 10 largest cities in the country:

“…Of the nation’s 10 biggest cities, Philadelphia’s bicycle mode share (which means the percentage of commuters who bike to work) is twice as high as the next-best major city, Chicago.”

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Technologies are more often tools than solutions (and no, that’s not the same)

A team of Temple University Fox School of Business MBA students who won a March 2011 innovation contest for improving the North Broad Street corridor in Philadelphia.

When re-purposing technology tools as  solutions, the core problem and end user are often ignored and so little will be accomplished.

Back in March, I was on a panel of judges for Temple University’s Center for Design and Innovation NorthBroadband DesignWeek competition.

In short, nearly 100 Temple students from six different schools were broken into cross-disciplinary teams and given a week to conceive of plans to grow opportunity along the beleaguered North Broad Street corridor in Philadelphia. Community members, leaders and other thinkers on the subject were brought in, student teams were encouraged to take to the streets and employ what they already knew.

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What the Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network should be

If all the timing was right on track, some time this month or next, a CEO might be named for a new collaborative nonprofit news and information project being initially funded by the William Penn Foundation.

As first shared here, the deeply invested regional foundation put an initial $2.4 million onto the table to form with Temple University a Center for Public Interest Journalism, which is being charged with initially housing the currently named Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network and represents the largest gift the university’s communications school ever received. What that will be, well, that’s up to the as-yet-unnamed CEO.

(Full disclosure, yup, the William Penn Foundations funds the Technically Philly Transparencity open government coverage project and CPIJ was the title sponsor for this year’s BarCamp NewsInnovation, so let’s go ahead and assume that I have absolutely no objectivity about anything written here.)

Now, I’ve shared broadly what I’d do if I had $7 million burning a hole in my pocket and wanted to drop it the news pot, but, after a few dozen conversations on this topic, I wanted to get a bit more detailed with my thoughts on what PPIN should be.

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So I guess Philly.com is going to launch a South Philly hyperlocal site

Last week I saw Mike Topel got a ‘digital content’ promotion over at Philly.com.

Then he tweeted he was “starting a hyperlocal project,” and followed that up by calling for South Philly activists.

It’s worth noting that I’d bet a lot of old head Inquirer folks will remind others that the paper tried something not unlike hyperlocal with its Neighborhoods initiative, dropping Inqy staffers to every gosh darn civic meeting around. It didn’t take, from what I hear.

That said, this is surely part of what Dan Victor and company are doing over there, and I’m always excited to experimentation. I support people doing anything with a plan. Maybe it’ll fit into my vision for what Philly.com should become.

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What Philly.com should be: a comprehensive, collaborative and open source for all news in Philadelphia

Philly.com Vice President Wendy Warren, at left, and Philly.com producer Daniel Victor lead a BarCamp NewsInnovation session on the direction of the news site, on Saturday, April 30, 2011.

For Philly.com to maintain and expand upon its role as the dominant hub site in the Philadelphia region, it needs to become a comprehensive, collaborative and open source for all news, information and analysis that happens, reflects and impacts this metro area.

For 15 years, the now Philadelphia Media Network-owned news website has exclusively featured content from its sister newspapers, the Inquirer and Daily News (also owned by PMN), in addition to online exclusives and Philly.com-led multimedia content.

Contrary to what perhaps many at PMN may believe, the more than 200 combined editorial staff members are not, and likely cannot, currently produce that comprehension. Nor should they.

Philly.com’s reach will always be stilted — by other major, also growing online audiences for local TV news websites, suburban newspapers, a nascent, if not yet real, threat in the NewsWorks initiative from WHYY, and other community sites — until it realizes it shouldn’t be a newspaper landing page but the ultimate authority of regional content. That’s a problem for the future success of a brand with a business model predicated on more eyeballs.

Let me be clear here: I have many friends who work there. I think they do great work. This is not at all a criticism of the work done there, but rather, some thoughts for developing their Philly.com brand. I’m an outsider and a journalism geek, so it’s fun to brainstorm. OK, follow my thoughts below:

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Do news orgs have a responsibility for action?: Notes from BarCamp NewsInnovation 2011

Do news organizations have responsibility for their outcome?

That became the final and, I think, as yet unanswered close to a discussion I led during the final session of the third national BarCamp NewsInnovation, held Saturday April 30 at Temple University and rounding out the inaugural Philly Tech Week. [See past BCNI write ups here.]

Overall I felt this BCNI, with some 150 attendees from startup shops and some serious brands, featured more sessions that embodied that unconference spirit in being less presentation and more dialogue, something I don’t think I felt in the past. I was also interested to see the true step forward past social media and other tools and into sustainability, which I find to be a far more important place to be.

To that end and coming off Philly Tech Week, without preparation, I proposed a session in the day’s final hour: “A conversation on news as a convener.”

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How to dissolve a partnership and what to do next

The three of us who founded Technically Philly dissolved our partnership at the end of last year. But it was good news.

Moving away from the general partnership we launched in early  2009, we’ve incorporated as an S-Corporation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for better protection against liability, losses and for better treatment by the federal government (though, as I understand it, if we were to ever sell this thing, it’s a less desirable designation).

That means we closed a bank account, tossed out our partnership agreement in lieu of an operation agreement and started anew of sorts. In our case, dissolving our partnership coincided with our new, dusted off business plan for Technically Media Inc., our parent publishing consultancy that oversees TP.

I put considerable thought into the organization of our business so as to make this inevitable step forward as painless as possible. For others it might be obvious, but if it isn’t for you, below I share some lessons and the steps we took.

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Rejection takes you further than success: why getting rejected a lot brought me here

Here’s something completely unoriginal: you’re going to get flat-ass rejected, crushing whatever self-indulgent perspective you have on yourself, and then you will go some place magical and it will change you.

Here’s my submission to the #jcarn FAIL blog ring.

In 2003, I was an involved and eager high school senior who struggled to focus and was a lot more interested in creative side projects than studying or school work. I thought it made me unique and valuable. Turns out, it just made me a shitty student.

I grew up in rural northwest New Jersey, where the population was made up mostly of either generational residents or the extended foam of the New York City white flight wave. My parents were the latter and my family all lived in or around the 67th ward.

I wanted to go to college in a big city, without following the footsteps of my classmates or returning to ancestral roots, so I applied to colleges and universities throughout the Eastern Seaboard. I am wildly involved, have decent grades and, come on, I’m a total hoot, I thought, these freakin’ schools are going to be fighting over me.

Until the very thin envelopes from universities started to come in.

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