Here are some things I’ve learned about being a better writer

For its age and influence and subjectivity, writing is one of those crafts that require great study and practice, though they don’t guarantee success alone.

The ordering of words has always been a great love of mine. I’ve been writing at length for as long as I can remember in whatever medium I could find. I’ve spent the last 10 years developing my news writing form, a tradition I have great pride in. However I’ve tried to keep developing my creative storytelling instincts too — fiction being a complimentary but wholly distinct offering from the non-fiction I know best.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

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3 trends I learned this year that totally shook my understanding of the American economy

I learn new big foundational truths every year. Yet for some reason, three trends in particular that I learned this year meaningfully shifted how I understood my country, in particular the work I do in reporting and organizing around economic development.

They’re so important and telling that I admit I’m a little embarrassed I only really understood them this year.

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“I want a thousand 100-person companies”: a few notes on my part of a profile on Curalate CEO Apu Gupta

Writer John Marchese profiled Apu Gupta, the CEO and cofounder of image intelligence startup Curalate, in Philadelphia magazine this month. It’s a good piece, so read it.

(Last year, Phillymag kindly profiled my cofounder and I too )

I’ve followed Apu and Curalate since their earliest days and been long eager to discuss entrepreneurship ecosystem building in the Philadelphia region — as I do in a dozen other communities in the country. (Find Technical.ly coverage of Apu and Curalate, including the offices we shared).

Business communities need to grow new, dynamic companies. In a still young Philly tech startup sector, we’ve asked the question of whether Curalate will be that region’s next big story, as part of building its scene further.

So in trying to contextualize Apu’s importance, John joined me at our annual Super Meetup this summer and asked me some questions. I wanted to share a few more thoughts on the piece.

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What I learned at the Online News Association 2016 national conference

I’m a fan of the Online News Association‘s annual conference. I’ve been before and went again in September to Denver, getting the chance to speak again too.

My favorite part of the conference is the chance to catch up with peers and meet new friends, largely to check in on whether I think my organization is still sharp. As a local chapter organizer for ONA, I got the added treat this year of networking with other local organizers too. But helpfully I do often find a handful of traditional conference sessions on topics I’m thinking about and learn some things, particularly tactical tips and tricks. I wanted to share some of what I learned.

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The speed of government (and other institutions) is a feature not a bug

Recently a few ideas came together for me that made me want to acknowledge something that might be obvious to others. It isn’t directly related to the Election but it offers a timeliness.

At their best, institutions, and governments specifically, move slowly by design. Like the plan for charter schools influencing school districts, the very hope for startups and other young organizations is to be a place for risk and experimentation.

By merger or sheer influence, the best of these ideas should survive their way through bureaucracy and other obstacles. Others won’t survive. Though that has worked for so long in much of American political life, we were just reminded of how vulnerable that still is. But that isn’t the real goal.

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Here’s a snapshot census of reporters, editors and other news org full-timers in Philadelphia

Efforts abound nationally to pin down just how many full-time people are in the business of reporting, editing, visualizing and otherwise sharing news in a professional journalism setting. This is a local one.

We know that, to no one’s surprise, aside from spikes, the trend is very clearly downward. Fewer people will have full time roles with organizations dedicated to journalistic enterprise.

But I wanted to use my hometown of Philadelphia to get a sense of what that hiring mix looks like. So I sent a whole lot of emails out to friends, colleagues and peers. Below I share what I found.

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Recap of Barcamp News Innovation 2016

The 8th annual Barcamp News Innovation was the best attended yet. This annual unconference on the future of news welcomed more than 175 journalists, editors and other media makers interested in trends and best practices.

We at Technically Media have always produced it at and with Temple University’s School of Media Communications. For the first time, this year we hosted the day-long event in the fall, rather than late in the spring, which allowed perhaps nearly two dozen students to attend. Despite being free for students (just $15 for professionals), we’ve never had much turnout for those about to begin their careers. This year worked.

I wanted to share a few lessons and notes that stuck with me below.

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In defense of “Off the Record” and back room conversations

Transparency is a modern virtue.

Its pursuit is among the more commonly inalienable constants of news media. But like a child who needs to be exposed to germs to develop resistance, we can benefit from some level of privacy among leaders. Transparency of power can lead to polarization. Some conversations need to be worked out in private.

Of course that doesn’t sit quite right with many newsrooms — or among many civic minded people. A symbolic scourge of journalism is the back room conversation — dealmaking without public discourse.

But it’s so much more complicated.

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How to officiate your friend’s wedding

Wedding traditions are changing. Having a friend officiate is becoming more common. If you’re not after a religious ceremony, this is a personal and intimate option.

I’m thrilled to say last month I got the chance to do this for the first time, for one of my best friends and his delightful fiancee. (The above photo is by LOVE + WOLVES CO)

Here’s what I learned about getting it done.

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