Announced proposal for William Penn Foundation hyperlocal investment

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One half of the influential round table at the unveiling of a proposed William Penn Foundation news innovation involvement.

Forty leaders in Philadelphia media were on hand last week for the unveiling of a structure to develop more public affairs journalism in the region, as proposed by a university research center on behalf of the William Penn Foundation.

From 8:30 a.m. to after 2 p.m. on Jan. 7 inside the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission conference room of the American College of Physicians Building in Old City, a series of discussions focused on bolstering the next generation of news gathering in Philadelphia around community-building and replacing competition with collaboration.

Explicit details were left slim to encourage a dialogue, but loosely defined, Jan Schaffer, the executive director of American University-housed J-Lab, recommended an aggregated content hub that could be supplemented by a limited editorial team. The funded sustainability of that recommendation was not detailed, but rather suggested to be put off for three years until an appropriate level of support was developed, she said. Hers were only recommendations for the Penn Foundation. No action was announced, nor taken.

Rather, Schaffer, a former Philadelphia Inquirer business editor and Pulitzer Prize winner, led a fact-finding research project for the better part of 2009 on behalf of the Penn Foundation, which included more than 60 interviews and ran from July to October. The day was her chance to gauge response. She has not yet submitted a formal proposal but, she said, expects to do so this quarter. Last week’s open unveiling and ensuing feedback would inform her final suggestions, she said.

The ramifications of what Schaffer proposes could have a historic impact. That is, if anything happens at all.

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New Jersey: the global epicenter of hyperlocal news

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Update: See October coverage from Newsweek and N.J. Monthly.

When the media history books (ha, I mean, media history e-reader files) look back at the beginnings of online hyperlocal news, there will be a clear battlegrounds.

New Jersey.

Gannet has gone big in the Garden State with its InJersey collective, and the New York Times first dabbled in town-specific news with Maplewood. Baristanet, the gray old lady of hyperlocal news, calls Montclair, in Essex County, home, and, while it has pushed into Connecticut and onto Long Island, AOL’s Patch network got its roots in the Jerz.

The reasons why, of course, are pretty clear.

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Welcome to Fishtown

A crazy thing happened on Dec. 2. I closed on my first home, quite an end to a decade of transition from childhood to adulthood. Something worthy enough to update a bit on.

I’m in the heart of the Fishtown neighborhood of the riverward section of Philadelphia, once a place exclusively for working-class (white) families that has the hipster and artistic communities now that often lead to gentrifying. It’s two El stops, a 15-minute bicycle ride or a 40-minute walk from Old City, full of Dietz and Watson delis, modest rowhomes and pickup trucks with ladders. Now I’m there, too.

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Stories that never ran: ‘Can the Devon Theater survive in Mayfair?’

Last month, the Devon Theater, a professional production house in a working-class neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia, canceled the final half of its inaugural season due to state budget constraints.

In going through some documents of mine, I found, perhaps prophetically, a story that never was from back in March when the Devon first reopened. Originally planned for Philadelphia Weekly, its working slug title was ‘Can the Devon survive in Mayfair?’

Perhaps that hope now seems less likely. Below, I share the piece that didn’t run (for a variety of reasons) and some extras from the reporting.

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Making a budget: how a young freelance journalist might look at the numbers

Budgets are fine things.

They can help set goals, limitations and create healthy habits.

Whenever I’m due for a relatively big change in my life — new income, new priorities, new costs or the like — I play with a wonderfully useful Budget Calculator from CNBC.

Suppose, you pulled in roughly $2,800 a month from independent contractor work — $700 weekly of income that doesn’t have taxes taken out from an employer and works out to be $36,400, a small fortune for some. A good rule of thumb is to put aside 30 percent of monthly income for taxes, so you don’t get yourself caught when paying quarterly or annual taxes.

$2,800 minus $840 (the 30 percent reserved for taxes) equals $1,960.

Now how do you break that down, according to the CNBC suggestions? See the graph and details below. (Above is the total for making $44,200, or $850 pre-tax weekly)

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Required reading from 2009 for hyperlocal news entrepreneurs

If you’ve walked into 2010 with plans on becoming, remaining or sustaining a hyperlocal news venture, there is lots you should already know and have already read.

Still, while thumbing through some links I thought were particularly important, I managed to find five stories from 2009 I think are most valuable.

  1. A Brief History of Hyperlocal News by Keith Hopper
  2. 10 new routines for a Hyperlocal news site by Nieman Journalism Lab
  3. Can the Grey Lady sell ads to hyperlocal businesses by Econsultancy
  4. Let’s build an ecosystem around hyperlocal bloggers by Jeff Jarvis for Guardian
  5. Ad shift throws blogs a business lifeline by New York Times

And, if I could, I might, hesitantly and humbly, also suggest folks read my “Hyperlocal news: a definition,” which argues that there is an important distinction between local and hyperlocal. Might be worth it.

What else might you add to this list?

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My best clips of 2009

Happy 2010.

But first: yesterday I shared my best read posts of 2009. Because ultimately I’m a freelancer, I thought I ought to share my best clips of the year, if only to satisfy my concern that 2009 was all for naught.

See my portfolio here.

Meaning they must have met a good portion of the four reasons a freelancer would write a story, below I list the best one or two clips from each calendar month of 2009:

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My 10 best read posts of 2009

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Earlier this month, I bought another year on this domain and began a third year posting here. Back in February, I had my 500th post and am just shy of my 700th now. In July, I launched the self-hosted version of this site, which has left quite a bit of Google juice over at the free version here.

Anniversaries abound, so why not celebrate the end of another calendar year by noting the 10 best read posts I had of the past 12 months.

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If 2009 was a slow start, then 2010 needs to be next steps

If the theme of my 2009 was slow start, the theme for 2010 needs to be next steps.

This past year wasn’t a great one.

I was blessed with so much (some of which I will be sharing soon), but my first year of freelancing was a struggle (though I remain excited about the freedom). I made less than $20,000 and don’t have enough saved for the taxes I need to pay.

While I think I got some great clips this year, launched a promising technology community blog and was part of a new hyperlocal news site, it’s clear none of those projects are on the verge of keeping me from being tax delinquent or getting into debt.

This year was all about a start.

I started a lot of projects. I learned a lot and wrote a lot. But it certainly all moved slowly.

2010 is going to be a much better year, to be sure. It just needs to be focused on bolstering these opportunities and others. My resolutions reflect just that.

Here’s to 2010.

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News Inkubator: business help for hyperlocal news

Today, more than a month after we officially launched and longer than a week after being rejected by the primary organization we directed the proposal, we at Technically Philly introduced News Inkubator to our readers.

It’s a tweaked, matured and better-branded version of what I first introduced here in October. It’s a business services hub and collaborative newsroom for niche news sites in Philadelphia. It’s a pitch to create the mechanism that we believe would create the next generation of profitable, localized news coverage.

Over at Technically Philly, a news site for technology and innovation in Philadelphia that I helped launch in February, we do a lot of coverage of startups. In doing so, we’d speak to a lot of smart 20-somethings with business plans and ideas who were handed thousands of dollars, time, mentorship and space to foster ideas. We couldn’t see why, particularly at a time of turmoil, the same opportunity wouldn’t exist for media startups.

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