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.