Three most relevant, mentioned and impactful Philadelphia columnists write in a niche

Eighteen months ago, I was searching for the best metro columnist in Philadelphia.

I felt the Inquirer’s Dan Rubin was the nearest in a legacy of citywide voice boxes, telling the broadest and widest ranging stories. Perhaps that’s true.

But it’s been nagging me that outside of some media-focused friends — and even then — I never hear Rubin or his other traditional columnist colleagues with any sort of regularity.

Instead, the columnists whose names I read, hear mentioned and myself reference the most are increasingly niche orientated. They’re not writing about the city, they’re writing about and for a very narrowly focused part of it. These are other critics and writers who have long existed in newspaper parlance, but I believe the increasingly niche-dominated media ecosystem means their voices carry greater power than before.

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Murder rates in Philadelphia and other cities are all marketing

Philadelphia has developed this reputation: Killadelphia or something like it.

In a prominent New York Times profile of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams last week,  the city was described as having been “battered for years by the worst sort of superlatives — the highest murder rate, the lowest conviction rate.”

What a damaging and sweeping comment that when reiterated and reinterpreted across media — that Philadelphia has been “battered” by having the “highest murder rate,” of what, well, they won’t say — can dramatically impact how the Cradle of Liberty is seen nationally.

Williams is supposed to be a part of a “sea change” in the city’s role of prosecuting criminals — a major Philadelphia Inquirer investigation found, as the Times reported, that “the city had failed to obtain convictions in two-thirds of cases involving violent crimes, and that thousands of cases were dismissed because prosecutors were not prepared or witnesses did not appear.”

So, yes, Philadelphia has a problem convicting criminals and crime is certainly a major sticking point for people living in cities (though I’ll add that violent crime is down nationally and many inner-ring suburbs have been battling increases in gangs and drugs and crime since the 1990s). And this ‘Killadelphia’ reputation doesn’t help… but how accurate the name is remains a point of contention here.

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Rework: the best of a business book from the founders of 37signals

With 100 simple rules they attribute to their success organized in a dozen chapters spread across fewer than 300 short pages, the founders of web firm 37signals aim to affect any organization or business culture with Rework, their management style book that was released in March.

It has gotten quite a bit of attention — and high praise from some noteworthy authors — so my reading it comes a bit late, so instead I wanted to share what I most took away from it.

Because of its comprehensible and digestible format, I tore through the fast and compelling book. While much of the book was either reinforcing or contained perspective I hope to take away, I thought enough of their rules were valuable enough that sharing my favorites here would be served well.

See my favorite items below as just a primer, go pick up the book. I can’t highlight enough that what I share below are but a small percentage of the insight offered in the book and even those I do share are just the skeletons of ideas.

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Shooting young black males, a column lost to the recycle bin

See this and other 2007 crime maps at http://www.philly.com/inquirer/special/violence/

I’m pretty passionate about the web allowing greater public affairs accountability journalism, not worse.

I was reminded of this while skulking around the Internet searching for a column I remember reading back in 2007.

Noted Philadelphia Inquirer scribe Tom Ferrick — who has since launched politics coverage site Metropolis — crunched the numbers on the shootings of young black men, a trend in all U.S. cities but one that was particularly timely amidst one of the bloodiest years in the city’s history.

Though it was written just back in 2007, it was gone. I couldn’t quite find something that fit its point, so I reached out to Ferrick. He warmly shared some of the details of the now somewhat dated piece, as he said he’s working on revisiting the topic.

If for no other reason than for my own ability to link back to it in the future and to prove how valuable the web can be in making available so much powerful knowledge and information, below, with Ferrick’s permission, I share the notes he sent me.

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Metro: Seth Williams stumps and Northeast Philadelphia Now

Two pieces I wrote for NEast Philly made their way into yesterday’s Metro Northeast Philadelphia edition.

First, as depicted above, a piece on Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’s presentation at the Northwood Civic Association meeting during which he again outlined the four main objectives of his nascent administration.

Second, as depicted below, my coverage of the second meeting of Northeast Philadelphia Now, a fledgling attempt to coalesce various neighborhood groups to fight back against quality of life crimes plauging that part of the city.

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Jonathan Alter at National Constitution Center, a storyteller with authority

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Page Editor Harold Jackson, at right, interviews Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter about his latest book on the first year of the Obama presidency, as depicted at the National Constitution Center on June 22, 2010.

Riding into the White House, the angle was that Barack Obama would be a president whose celebrated communications skills would work to balance his governing inexperience.

But Jonathan Alter, a Newsweek senior editor and author of a new book chronicling Obama’s first year as president, says Obama has instead taken to private, dispassionate discourse on the issues, which he has struggled to liven up to connect with American people.

“So he seems aloof,” Alter said last night in front of a paying crowd of nearly 250 inside the Kirby Auditorium of the National Constitution Center. “And that has hurt him.”

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New York Times on the price of online journalism; broken pieces to return

Last month, The New York Times Magazine had a big piece on the price of online journalism… or at least content of some kind. I only dug into it this weekend.

It was a big piece riddled with stories of a handful of struggling entrepreneurs and a few buzz-y sites that haven’t prospered, but three paragraphs interested me most.

Let me share them below.

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Perceptions involved in how we see the livability of U.S. cities

Last month, a study from the Brookings Institution was a major news story.

White flight? In a reversal, America’s suburbs are now more likely to be home to minorities, the poor and a rapidly growing older population as many younger, educated whites move to cities for jobs and shorter commutes. [Source]

It’s complicated of course: new immigration trends chasing a different American dream, people of color from cities doing the same, white families from inner-ring suburbs moving farther from cities and younger white people moving back into those same cities (like me).

But it got me thinking about perceptions.

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This has been a bad week

My mother died yesterday. I’m proud of the obituary I was able to write for her in our hometown newspaper.

It’s also available on the funeral parlor Web site, or you can read it below.

She was a good woman. It’s a shitty thing but everyone has shitty things happen to them.

NEWTON — Carol Wink, 51, died on Wednesday, June 17th at Morristown Memorial Hospital after complications related to a long fought illness.

The beloved wife, mother, sister and aunt was born in the Harding Park neighborhood of the Bronx on Sept. 1, 1957 to William and Geraldine (Howell) Dolan. After growing up in Plainview, Long Island, she moved with her family in 1986 to Sussex County, a rural paradise she came to love. She worked for 18 years as a devoted educator, teaching first and second grade and then reading comprehension at the Sparta Alpine School, where she was named Teacher of the Year in 2001.

Carol is survived by her loving husband, George, with whom she was two months shy of a 30th wedding anniversary; her daughter, Maureen; her son, Christopher; two loving sisters, Eileen and Nancy, and their husbands, Mike Lorio and Joe Cipollone; their children, Daniel and Cassie and Joseph and Matthew; two cherished sisters-in-law, Jeanie and Linda Wink; a strange looking dog and two cats, including her favorite, Milo.

Aside from education, her greatest passions came in the kitchen, using a library of cook books and a knack for experimentation and exploration to craft meals of exceptional regard that will be greatly missed by all, especially her eternally hungry son. The green thumb gardener was known for coaxing her husband into playing with dirt, mulch and plants on big, beautiful Sussex County weekends, as well as incorporating the fruits and vegetables she grew into her favorite meals. She will be remembered best for her passion, humor and eggplant rollatini.

Last August, she was thrilled to make her first trip across the pond, spending a week in London. She recently turned over her constant reading habits to planning a trip to California, showing her love for travel.

She is a 1979 Bachelor’s of Arts graduate from Hofstra University with a Master in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College and other post-graduate work from Centenary College of New Jersey. She was excited to return to the classroom this fall to use a recently completed Orton Gillingham Teacher Certificate from Farleigh Dickinson University to tutor students suffering with Dyslexia and other reading difficulties.

In September 2005, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which she battled courageously, including a period of time during which she taught full-time and received regular chemotherapy treatments. Her weakened immune system left her unable to beat a lung inflammation that came in her final weeks.

Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. on Tuesday at the Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, 63 High Street, Newton. Interment will be held at Newton Cemetery. Visitation will be held on Monday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the funeral home. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, North Jersey Chapter, 14 Commerce Drive, Suite 301, Cranford, NJ 07016.

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