Bank of America gives $1 million to Constitution Center

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in tomorrow’s edition.

Mayor Michael Nutter was on hand to watch Bank of America award a $1 million grant to the National Constitution Center earlier this month.

“As the leader of our city, it’s very appropriate,” said Tom Woodward, president of Bank America Pennsylvania. “So much of what we’re doing speaks to augmenting education in the region and our city.”

Nutter, just three months into his term, has named a more learned Philadelphia among his highest priorities, so supporting a sizable funding gift to the Constitution Center was sensible, Woodward said.

“They do so much with students and educating our kids in what it really means to have civic responsibility and be an American,” he said. “The educational component is an absolute priority in what we want to fund.”

Much of the funding will go to developing programs for the Constitution Center’s newly named Bank of America Family Theater, beginning with the reopening of “Living News,” which displays constitutional issues that affect the daily lives of everyone.

“When you go through the Constitution Center, whether you are an American or from somewhere else, you leave with an appreciation of freedom,” he said. “This really is about trying to make Philadelphia and the region a better place.”

See other reporting by Christopher Wink here.

Photo courtesy of Bank of America public relations. Depicted from left, Joe Torsella, CEO of the National Constitution Center; Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Kenneth D. Lewis, chairman and CEO of Bank of America, and Tom Woodward, president of Bank of America Pennsylvania

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Rewriting presidential history

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With a great deal of help from Sean Blanda, the Internet Jesus himself at The Temple News, I recently unveiled a multimedia package on former Temple University President Peter Liacouras. He held the top spot for 18 years, from 1982 to 2000, and a great deal of expansion, both academic and geographic, happened under his tenure.

I first met with him, a member of the university’s Board of Trustees and Temple’s longtime community relations director, back in October. Then I met with them again on March 18. In all, I spent more than five hours with the group, and another 90 minutes with the community relations director. It was the most work I ever put in for a story.

Check out the multimedia package here, read the profile I wrote on him, watch him talk about choosing Temple’s logo 25 years ago below, and let me know of any of your thoughts on the man, his administration or anything else. I also wrote a piece about his relationship with the community, that included a great deal on the two other men with whom I met for the story.

Number of Views:1542

The future of print media

Ireporter.jpgn the past three years, the conversation about the death of newspapers has only gotten louder.

Recently, though, a few voices have caught my ear.

In a long and at times dense piece in the New Yorker called “Out of Print,” Eric Alterman made the latest attempt at chronicling the rise, the fall and the future of newspapers.

The article spends a lengthy portion on how the Huffington Post, considered a liberal, Drudge Report alternative, is pioneering what may be the future for newspapers as we know them.

Arthur Miller once described a good newspaper as “a nation talking to itself.” If only in this respect, the Huffington Post is a great newspaper. It is not unusual for a short blog post to inspire a thousand posts from readers—posts that go off in their own directions and lead to arguments and conversations unrelated to the topic that inspired them. Occasionally, these comments present original perspectives and arguments, but many resemble the graffiti on a bathroom wall.”

It is that democracy that is being injected into media, user-generated reporting and the like, that most scares critics. As the example of a Huffington report incorrectly suggesting those displaced by Hurricane Katrina had taken to eating corpses.

The article’s strongest point is that newspapers and blogs and other forms of new media are converging. Huffington Post is adding traditional elements – like hiring Thomas Edsall, a forty-year veteran of the Washington Post and other papers, as its political editor – and newspapers are accepting the digital age, slowly – with podcasts, online updating and more.

PBS’s Frontline had a four hour special investigating the challenges facing media today. Former Los Angeles Editor Dean Baquet makes some keen insight and gets respect in the industry for it.

(Hat tip to the very popular journalism blog by Howard Owens, where I picked up very nearly all of these sources).

Number of Views:2238

Steve Emerson: from Alaska to New Jersey, for family

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in Friday’s edition.

Steve Emerson came back from Alaska almost a decade ago, and things are just starting to thaw now.emerson-steve.jpg

Emerson Personnel Group, the staffing and recruiting firm that Emerson’s parents started in Cherry Hill, N.J. 38 years ago, has had a slow transition of power, from father to son to brother in the time since his return in 2000.

“Almost glacier-like,” Emerson, 51, said.

Emerson had co-owned the business with his brother and served as vice president, but has recently finished the process of buying out his brother, who wanted to venture out on his own.

“Now I’m even in charge of things I don’t want to be in charge of.” the oldest brother of four joked.

It has been a family business since Emerson’s mother and father launched a Dunhill Staffing franchise in 1971.

“It has been advantage, to be able to say we’ve done this for 38 years,” he said.

In 2000, they bought out the franchise and put the Emerson in the name.

“There’s the pride and the passion of having your name on the door. Not that we wouldn’t always work hard and do the right thing, but it means something more,” he said. “I’m Steve Emerson, and this is Emerson Personnel Group.”

His youngest brother Bill had been at it for 18 years, but now is a one-man recruiting firm in Moorestown, N.J.

While Bill took increasingly took over control from their aging father, Emerson lived in Alaska for more than two decades, working as a mental health therapist mostly in Fairbanks.

“My wife and I were planning to fish for three months and stayed for twenty years,” he said. “Once you get passed the cold and the darkness, it is the most spectacular place on earth.”

He returned, though, and spent eight years with the family business, before finally taking over complete ownership.

The company does most of its work placing temporary administrative personnel, but increasingly does a portion of its work directing executive searches and direct hire for companies throughout the region. But he has plans. He’s leading the company into staffing positions in the allied health fields, hoping to grow the business even more.

“In recruiting, you’re always looking for a niche that won’t go away,” he said. “Oh, and I’m looking for a sales person. It’s tough to find a good sales person.”

Emerson has two sons who might someday want to carry the business further.

His mother is a shareholder; his brother still consults for the company, and his father comes into the office regularly. Emerson’s wife Mary is the office manager. It is still a family affair, indeed.

“We love each other because we see a ton of each other,” he said, noting the advantage a family business has. “When you’re home, you’re still thinking about the business, about how to fulfill our mission of becoming the best and the most excellent staffing agency in the region.”

See other reporting by Christopher Wink here.

Number of Views:2992

Helping kids out of the closet, into the Attic

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in yesterday’s editionthe_attic_drawing.jpg.

Dr. Carrie Jacobs works with kids who happen to be gay, and it seems to affect her fundraising.

“In 1993, no one was serving these kids,” said Jacobs, the executive director and co-founder of the Attic Youth Center. “We had trouble finding funders. Nobody wanted to be a ‘gay agency.”

The Attic, a home for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, is celebrating its 15th year of operation.

For it, the non profit is hosting its Crystal Gala celebration on Nov. 15. Next week, on March 29, they’re having a preview party.

Though the Attic has solid funding from the William Penn Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust, in additon to city money and private donors, the group hopes to expand but has been met with challenges, Jacobs said.

“The category that we get the least funding from is corporate,” she said. “Maybe I’m not reaching enough, but I think that means something.”

The organization started as just an eight week pilot program out of a spare room in a now-defunct Center City nonprofit.

More than 40 kids came for support during those first eight weeks, on the fourth floor. Practically the building’s attic, they thought.

“We couldn’t stop the project after that,” she said. The Attic Youth Center was born, though stigmas persisted.

The stereotype that AIDS was a gay epidemic lingered, charitable groups hesitated and corporate donors fled.

“Even the LGBT adult community in 1993, they were fighting the image that gay adults were recruiting young kids, so they wouldn’t help,” Jacobs said.

In time, as the group became further established and gay culture was more open, the Attic, too, found more support.

In 2000, the group got its own building, on 16th Street south of Locust. In that time, what started as a support group has morphed into a full service community center and social services agency, full of social activities and health and education programs, serving young people up to the age of 23.

“We’ve been so fortunate, it has been an amazing experience,” she said, “There are kids who I still know from the first day of the Attic. We are a home and family to them.”

They serve 100 kids a week and more than 10,000 in the past decade and a half. Likely more will come.

“Where kids suffer the most is the institutions that are charged with caring for them,” Jacobs said. “Like welfare and schools. without trianing, they’re really battered and abused. We’re here to help.”

See other reporting by Christopher Wink here.

Number of Views:2043