What was lost in the coverage of a student journalist and a Philadelphia cop


Update: 7:40 p.m. on April 23, 2009: The involved officer was suspended with intent to dismiss. That news also came from the Inquirer and Daily News.

Update: 10:12 p.m. on May 6, 2009: Ms. McDonald was the feature of a cover story in the Northeast Times.

The attention has probably subsided enough to write this now.

Shannon McDonald, whom I’ve known for nearly two years, got a round of 15 minutes of fame she didn’t quite want.

On March 31, the Philadelphia Daily News ran a story on the growing ire of a group of the city’s black cops.

The controversy surrounded around a single officer, and, it seems, Shannon started it all.

At least a month before, the 21-year-old senior Temple University journalism student had to write a feature story for a class. So, thinking a cop-ride-along would be a simple, strong and fast assignment for a class she’s eager to finish, Shannon contacted the 22nd Philadelphia police district, which covers her assigned Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.

Then she wrote, as would surprise no one who knows her, a tidy, professional 900-word profile on Bill Thrasher, the officer with whom she rode. That was in February. It was a school assignment.

I spoke to her after the ride along.

“How was it?” I asked.

“OK,” she said, in a way that makes me certain she neither expected nor wanted any attention for the story.

It took a month for her expectations to be proven shortsighted.

Continue reading

Number of Views:6161

Inquirer: The secret life of a ballerina

Brooke Moore finds her offstage challenge outdoors, hiking national parks across the country. Photo by SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer

Brooke Moore finds her offstage challenge outdoors, hiking national parks across the country. Photo by SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer

I cover the secret passions of a handful of Pennsylvania Ballet dancers in a story for the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday.

It was last summer when Brooke Moore figured she and her father had probably scared away a mountain lion.

The deer they discovered was freshly killed, its leg just torn off; there were no bugs and the blood trail was visible. The two didn’t pay it much mind, though, and continued their weeklong, 85-mile backpacking trek through the Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands.

Just another day in the life of a ballerina. Read the rest here.

See the story, comment and return to see the Pennsylvania Ballet in action and to read what didn’t make it in my story.

Continue reading

Number of Views:8955

PW: College rapper Asher Roth from Bucks County to hip hop star

Asher Roth in a promo photo sporting an "I Love New York" T-shirt despite his suburban Philly roots. "I don't think geography matters shit to Asher," says his manager Scooter Braun.

Asher Roth in a promo photo sporting an “I Love New York” T-shirt despite his suburban Philly roots. “I don’t think geography matters shit to Asher,” says his manager Scooter Braun.

I helped profile upcoming rapper Asher Roth in the cover story of today’s Philadelphia Weekly.

If there’s any truth in Revolutionary Road, American Beauty, Mad Men and the writing of John Cheever—that everyone in suburbia is secretly miserable, living life with crushing boredom or a crippling secret that’s killing them softly—you wouldn’t believe it on the first warm spring day in West Chester, Pa., where the flowers are finally beginning to bloom and college kids equipped with backpacks scramble across town to classes they’re running late for.

It’s a quaint borough. Gorgeous. “Diverse … prosperous … collegiate … accessible,” its website proudly boasts. Huge, impressive houses spring up behind white picket fences. Lush pastures of rolling green farmland dominate the landscape. Picturesque. Peaceful. Idyllic.

This is where “I Love College”—the boozy, marijuana-worshipping, horny ode to university life—was born. Read the rest here.

Read the story, comment, spread the word and then come on back for what didn’t make it in and some Asher video interviews.

Continue reading

Number of Views:12777

Beware working for friends, freelancers

I apprenticed with a plumber on and off for a couple years at the beginning of my college career.

He’d always tell me, “Don’t do work for friends.”

It rarely ends well. Someone ends up feeling screwed, but no one wants to say it when friendships are on the line. When it comes to soft crafts like writing, it’s even harder to get things settled.

Continue reading

Number of Views:2991

PW: International techno legend Josh Wink on Philly and his future


He’s an internationally-recognized DJ and techno producer with the same last name as me, but I never heard of Josh Wink.

Until, that is, a source from a completely unrelated story mentioned him. That led to a profile of Wink, who lives in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood, for Philadelphia Weekly.

For Philadelphians not of a certain age, he just might be the most famous resident of Northern Liberties you’ve never heard of. To those who were active on the city’s rock, rave and club scenes in the 1990s, Josh Wink is a deejaying visionary and techno legend.

Twenty years after his first album, Wink has released his When A Banana Was Just A Banana LP and embarked on another extended European tour. But he’s torn between the Philly he calls home and the continent that has catapulted him into another stratosphere on the international house music scene.

“I would love to live in Europe as I spend half my time there,” Wink said in an e-mail before leaving for engagements in Amsterdam, Vilnus, Lithuania and others — his tour dates can be found at www.mypsace.com/joshwink — but “there is something about Philly that most people understand that keeps us coming back.”

It can’t be the adulation he gets here. Read the rest here.

Go check out the story, comment and come back and see where the idea came from and other extras below.

Continue reading

Number of Views:4242

When your brand is good enough to be a verb, coming to news media

jellocosby2The frequent mention of market dominance is when a brand becomes a verb.

Xerox that. Get a Band-Aid.

Of course, that has clearly followed online.

Google that. Digg that – though not Digg me. Facebook me; the confluence of Twitter and tweet and twittering. You don’t LinkedIn someone, which might relate to how Facebook could crush its professional conterpart if it would only offer a more restricitve and private version of a person’s Facebook profile for colleages.

Can this come to news media?

Continue reading

Number of Views:2899

The pros and cons of my freelancing career

It’s important to know why we freelance. Knowing what’s good and what’s bad helps you decide if this crummy world is where you want to be.

First, the reasons I love freelancing. Pros:

  • No alarm clocks
  • No commute
  • Make your own schedule
  • Choose your assignments
  • Writing off part of rent, utilities and other expenses
  • Learn to challenge and motive oneself
  • Develop a richer collection of sources
  • The value of developing small-business skills
  • Working for various publications
  • Work on side projects
  • I always look forward to the next day

Below, see some of the reasons I’ve found someone might not want to freelance.

Continue reading

Number of Views:3441

What Twitter is really for

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Oh man, how done are you with Twitter news reports?

Mostly, news stories on Twitter include a nut graf that looks something like the following passage from a recent piece in the New York Times near-obsessive coverage on the social medium:

In its short history, Twitter — a microblogging tool that uses 140 characters in bursts of text — has become an important marketing tool for celebrities, politicians and businesses, promising a level of intimacy never before approached online, as well as giving the public the ability to speak directly to people and institutions once comfortably on a pedestal [Source].

Many media are still reveling in introducing Twitter, in which they take a local user of new media and play their explanation with clever puns or skeptical variations of Twitter, tweeting, twittering, etc. Other pubs are trying their own new takes on the service, to the point that plenty of snarky bloggers and even news hounds are tired of the stories.

Rightly so, considering Twitter just turned three, hardly a new phenomenon. But all these folks joining the game, following that common nut graf, I think, are missing the point, particularly journalists.

Continue reading

Number of Views:2966

When does a freelancer's workday stop?

A former boss of mine has taken to calling me around 6:30 a.m. sometimes. I’m not awake, so he’ll leave a message.

“Are you taking a nap or something?” he might ask. “Because I know you can’t still be asleep from last night this late in the day.”

I’m a freelance journalist without much of a strict schedule most days. While on occasion, I’ve gotten an early-enough start between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., I often don’t get up until nine in the morning. While I almost begin working right away, I do, on occasion, not even begin work until ten. A rare exception has seen me doing so later still.

This is obscene to friends, bosses and even some family of mine. It doesn’t much matter to anyone that, despite my relatively late start on the day, I very rarely work less than 10-12 hours a day, often six, if not seven days a week.

I’m just getting my professional freelancing start in a bad economy and a frightened print industry, so – though I’ve made it a point to get back out and have some fun from time to time – my work schedule sometimes borders on obsessive.

I love not needing an alarm clock or needing to commute, but I wonder what my guilt about that drives me to do. When does the workday for a freelance journalist end?

Continue reading

Number of Views:3562

PW: Open source learning at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania’s place in the open-source learning movement of higher education is the focus of my story in yesterday’s Philadelphia Weekly.

I can’t find it online (seriously), but it sure did run. So go pick it up if you’re in Philly. If not, well, check below for what didn’t make it in!

You can also see how I covered Penn’s relationship with Academic Earth for Technically Philly.

Comment there, and then see what didn’t make it in.

Continue reading

Number of Views:2968