an introduction, a City Controller debate announcement and more

Banner advertisement design by Brian James Kirk for

Here’s introducing one of the first regionally-focused community news portal in Philadelphia:, home to anything and everything that happens in Northeast Philadelphia.

In a true testament to its rapid growth in its first few months of existence, tonight it is partnering with WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate, to host the third and final primary debate for Democratic city controller candidates. If you’re in the Philly area, I welcome you to come see a down and dirty triumph of a small media venture.

This could be the future of news coverage.

Last fall, Shannon McDonald, who is now on the tail end of a media firestorm, began plans to launch a quarterly print publication called NEast magazine, covering Northeast Philadelphia. I pushed her to think of beginning online — even if her core demographic was a working class community not heavily entrenched online. I thought it was an opportunity to begin a brand for cheap, making her known to what potential advertisers, readers and sources she could.

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Young journalists should learn how to write a business plan


I stepped into uneasy ground when I graduated from college last year.

For a host of reasons, not least of which are a recession and free falling print industry, freelancing isn’t the surest bet for this young journalist. Likely not for you either.

Job prospects are rare and uniquely competitive now.

So, of course, it’s the perfect time to start your own venture. Will it fail? Maybe, but when you’re young, with fewer responsibilities, the chance at making something of your own is a wonderful one.

But first things first, you need to be able to write a business plan.

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Number of Views:5000

TP: Editorial on Philadelphia CIO call for tech support

Allan Frank, Philly CIO

Allan Frank, Philly CIO

After announcing the birth Technically Philly, I haven’t more than briefly mentioned the news site for Philadelphia’s technology community, even though I’ve been writing there sometimes more than seven times weekly.

Today, we ran an editorial that I particularly liked, so I thought I’d share. My two co-founders and I share the stance and both helped a great deal, but I took the lead on writing this one. I’m eager to see how our readers react — if they will at all.

Here’s a test.

Just how innovative and influential, forward-thinking yet practical is the technology community in Philadelphia? Because you’re being challenged.

We’re still reeling from a presentation that Allan Frank, the city’s chief information officer, gave at a meeting of Refresh Philly Monday night. Read the rest here.

Check below for a couple grafs that didn’t make it in.

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Community News Startups: Presentation notes from BarCamp for NewsInnovation

Sean Blanda, Brian James Kirk and me on Saturday, April 25, 2009 in the atrium of Annenberg Hall at Temple University after discussing at the BarCamp for NewsInnovation at, which we co-founded.

Two Saturdays ago, friends Sean Blanda, Brian James Kirk and I presented at the BarCamp NewsInnovation — which Blanda organized and Brian and I helped run — on, which we co-founded in February.

Read my thoughts on the event here. Read Twitter coverage of our presentation by looking through #BCNI304, which relates to the room in which we presented.

Below see the notes from and video of the presentation we gave.

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Advertising can't be the only option and other musings from BarCamp NewsInnovation

You missed the national BarCamp for NewsInnovation conference this past Saturday, held at Temple University in North Philadelphia — even though I encouraged you to come.

I sure didn’t. As I posted about the week prior, I was in Annenberg Hall on April 25.

It seemed to be a personification of online communities and conversations I’ve been following only online — like the value of personal branding, which was the focus of the first hour-long session¬† I attended, how valuable journalism school really is (why it might not be) and why news organizations and journalists need to add value.

I made it to four sessions, spoke at two and helped divvy out the sponsored food during the long day which officially went from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., though I was out of the house before eight a.m. and not home before 11 p.m. (after a bumping after part).

These conferences are structured around creating dialogues and allowing anyone to speak on something important to him, so nobodies like me led sessions next door to ones held by executives, editors and reporters from places like the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, GateHouse Media, the Philadelphia Inquirer,, McClatchy News and, likely more than I don’t know about. I mean, gees, the whole growing crew at Publish2, which develops tools for what it calls collaborative journalism, showed up.

See the complete schedule here.

I learned some things, and I’d like to share them.

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I’m the proud new owner of my own business cards


Once I admitted I was late, I just kept delaying the inevitable — buying business cards.

I got into the full-time, freelance writing back in December, so I ought to have had something right away. I could have passed them out when I spoke at a high school journalism conference and with the many sources I’ve met in my freelancing work since.

Well, now I have them, double-sided cards, as depicted above, though the colors are a bit darker and the text a bit harder to read here than they are when printed. Much thanks to colleague graphic designer Brian James Kirk who did the dirty layout work.

There are those who say business cards are old hat, but, let me answer my own question, they are still absolutely necessary for a freelance journalist even today. Below I share what I did and related learning.

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Every college journalist should be freelancing right now

I am on month five of full-time, professional freelancing. I think only now am I finding the hum and the rhythm of this craft, particularly in the doldrums of a sour economy and struggling print industry.

You’re a college journalist, unsure about the future. So, tell me, why aren’t you trying to make in-roads in freelancing now?

I think it’s a sin if you aren’t at least contributing to your college newspaper – it’s a great, college experience, it’s challenging and a wonderful incubator for insight and vision. But, I think you need to be doing more.

Get that internship, sure, but if you don’t have one, or perhaps even if you do, you should be developing contacts and knowledge for the freelance game – because it’s a better back up than waiting tables.

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Reader response: kind words for a ballerina tale

Sometimes it’s the stories you don’t quite expect to, that get one of the warmest responses.

I posted two weeks ago about a story on the secret lives of ballerinas I wrote for the Inquirer.

It came on the same day as my Philadelphia Weekly cover story on suburban rapper Asher Roth. While the Roth profile has gotten more than 40 comments and the glare of Phawker, my ballerina feature has received a small outpouring from pleased readers.

On Facebook, a number of old high school friends noted their interest in it, and I get messages from many others, including my 18-year-old, sports-obsessed cousin. More than a few e-mails came in and on other social media, I was surprised to find a handful of notes from readers.

I put a lot of my freelancing work out there, but I rarely get more than a couple responses at a time. I didn’t expect a quiet story on ballerinas to bring such a response, particularly not on the same day as a big, loud profile on a growing pop icon.

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How I graduated and watched my peers have a real impact

The effects of Zunegate. Cartoon courtesy of Link in-text.

Shannon McDonald unwittingly speared a wide, if brief, revisit to a conversation about race and prejudice in one of the largest police forces in the country. She is 21-years-old.

It was early December when Neal Santos, another friend of mine, was ensnared in his own media firestorm. Ever hear of Zunegate?

Santos, the assistant online editor of Philadelphia alternative-weekly CityPaper, spotted then-President-elect Barack Obama using a Zune mp3 player on a treadmill in a Philly gym. He reported it and chaos ensued.

Every tech site in the country wanted to beat that story. Folks at the Wall Street Journal, Wired, PCWorld and MacWorld were on it.  It got around on Podcasting News, iPhone Savior and was animated on Penny Arcade (as depicted above).

These are just two cases of a trend that excites me, scares me and motivates me. Young journalists, some with whom I’ve graduated, many with whom I’ve worked and all of whom I respect, are making an impact. Not always in the ways they want, but, Christ, it helps to understand that, wow, this is real now.

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Number of Views:3885