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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Leaving Frankford

Frankford Terminal, taken in 1918, before the construction of the Frankford El. Obtained from the Philadelphia City Archives. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Frankford Terminal, taken in 1918, before the construction of the Frankford El. Obtained from the Philadelphia City Archives. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Updated h/t

He was an ogre of man, slimy, rat-toothed and overbearing, with day old five o’clock shadow and a crunch of black hair falling out of a sun-weathered red trucker hat.

This man, maybe 45, was propped up on the aged bar of Quinn’s Irish Pub II, a neighborhood drinking establishment with so colorful a stable of regulars that they made this second one just up Frankford Avenue here in Philadelphia from the first. It was passed closing time, the lights were low and the rumble of the adjacently-running elevated train dutifully making its way back home to the Frankford terminal ended hours ago.

The bar maid, fair-skinned, with light-brown hair in a pony tail and a stain or two on a white t-shirt, had taken a seat and served another round on the house. She, the man, two other patrons, a buddy and I had fallen into a conversation of seeming interest to all those involved.

What do you do with Frankford?

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Hyperlocal news sites worth following


Updated @ 1:50 p.m. 11/07/10 Someone is doing a better job of keeping this up to date, so check that out.

*Updated @ 9:36 a.m. 12/23/09 **Many thanks to Jess Durkin for others.

I don’t think anyone’s arguing that a big portion of the future of news will be this hyperlocal movement that continues to dominate the conversation and has grown in focus for many years.

So, I’m surprised to say I haven’t been able to find is a comprehensive list of already existing products. This isn’t going to be that list, but let’s give it a start. Help me highlight the existing, active hyperlocal news sites worth following.

Read my definition of What is hyperlocal news?

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Metro: Snow reporting, records and such

Snow on Gaul

The remains of the second largest snow storm in recorded Philadelphia history on the 600-block of Gaul Street in the Fishtown neighborhood on Sunday, Dec.

Nothing newspapers love more than a big storm. I jumped into the fray with a few items for Metro on the second largest snowfall in recorded Philadelphia history in today’s paper.

The second worst snowstorm in Philadelphia’s recorded history welcomed John Hutchison to Fishtown over the weekend.

Read the rest of the main story here.

With intrepid photographer Rikard Larma, I trekked through the snowy streets of riverward neighborhood Fishtown and then up to some big box stores in Port Richmond.

A few extras below.

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Professional Resolutions for 2010

Update: Today, Dec. 19, 2010, I’ve gone back and looked at my goals. It’s interesting to see a split and failure to finish most of these. Three of these resolutions I succeeded in meeting definitively and met in spirit a fourth; I outright failed at three, and two became un-applicable as the year wore on.

I also created personal resolutions and goals to manage on my new home in 2010, but with a new year, I want to set goals for my professional self in 2010.

After all, 2009 was a brutal year, so 2010 should be plenty better.

  1. Stabilize my incomeUpdate: I did that in January 2010 in an unexpected way. It’s varied wildly throughout 2009. One way or another, I want to focus it.
  2. A new, solid pitch at least once a weekUpdate: Did that until I got the above mentioned job. (to buttress other work and those fed to me)
  3. Contact a new client at least once a monthUpdate: Did that until I got the above mentioned job. In writing, editing, multimedia or other
  4. 100 RSS subscribers for this site, up from 60 todayUpdate: Nope.
  5. 1,500 Twitter followers, from the 960 today (I hope a plurality of them can offer value in connecting to sources, ideas and content) — Update: nope, though, at nearly 1400, I got closer.
  6. Distribute remaining 600 business cardsUpdate: Nope. I still have more than 400.
  7. Bring Technically Philly to profitabilityUpdate: By way of its parent company, we did do that, as I’ve come on full-time.
  8. Earn grant funding for real journalismUpdate: Yes, for both NEast and Technically Philly.
  9. Write regularly on this site Update: check! It’s a place to improve my web writing and connect with audiences. I want to perhaps write a little less but make the product more meaningful.
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Content breakdown of a healthy, efficient hyperlocal news site

thomas-edison-mixing-chemicals-in-his-lab-in-njIt’s about finding the right mix.

I’m working with a couple, following many and thinking about a great number more hyperlocal, niche and other online-only news sites in this country of ours.

I talk a lot about where content comes from in a healthy, efficient news-gathering entity today or in the near future.

Whether it proves untenable or inaccurate or not isn’t necessarily the point. I have some goals for the geographically-based hyperlocal I’m helping in building — NEast Philly — and I want to float them.

Below I share what that looks like in my head, what it looks like now under the tireless effort of its editor and team of contributors and how it’s looked in the past.

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Clay Shirky: ‘a bad thing is going to happen’ to journalism


New York University new media professor Clay Shirky speaking at Harvard University in September 2009.

I’m not one for posting video clips on this site, nor am I about doing so more than two months late.

But then, by way of the Nieman Journalism Lab, I only now came across a lecture New York University new media professor and internet intellectual Clay Shirky gave to the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy back in September.

Watch video below and be reminded why Shirky — who doesn’t necessarily have any traditional line-item journalism resume builders — gets a seat at the serious discussion of where news is going.

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Metro: Bicycle rally following hospitalized cyclist and legislation

At left, victim Rachel Fletcher after being struck by a motorist on Thanksgiving Day. At right, her working as a bicycle messenger. Both photos were provided to me by Fletcher.

At left, victim Rachel Fletcher after being struck by a motorist on Thanksgiving Day. At right, her working as a bicycle messenger. Both photos were provided to me by Fletcher.

Another ugly chapter in the ongoing battle for the road between motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and the law was the focus of a story I wrote for Metro yesterday.

A few days after one of their own suffered serious facial injuries in a hit-and-run crash, city bicycle messengers upset with what one courier describes as “rising anti-cycling sentiment” are rallying at LOVE Park this evening. Read the rest here.

Staff writer Brian X. McCrone contributed to my reporting and helped pen the final product. Below I share how I got the story and a lot of other reading in this increasingly heated fight.

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‘Citizen Journalism’ is a phrase just like ‘Horseless carriage,’ and we needed both


News-gathering can be profitable — there are oodles of examples of them. The challenge is taking those dollars to create the most efficiently-produced local journalism.

The big solution and sure trend of the future is fostering a community that covers itself.

The Quick Take

Citizen journalism is a transitional phrase that will soon be as dated as ‘horseless carriage’ is now

But we’re in a period of transition so the ‘citizen’ distinction serves a purpose.

So I’ve been thrilled to see that NEast Philly, the year-old, hyperlocal news site for Northeast Philadelphia to which I contribute and handle Web operations, has been slowly receiving more reader submissions. Lately, Editor Shannon McDonald tells me she’s receiving an item or two a week from readers.

We’ve been encouraging readers to send in photos, brief write-ups of their community events and any other kind of reporting that anyone can do. It’s coming, but still most comes from McDonald tracking down information, submissions and contacts.

I’m one to describe this as ‘UGC‘ — user-generated content — and have been known to use the phrase “citizen journalism.” After doing so once more, I was pointed to a few dated conversations about just how dated that phrase might be, and I have some thoughts on why it’s a concept that still has value.

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