What the Committee of Seventy should teach other nonprofits about publishing

The Committee of Seventy is a 110-year-old local good government activist group known best in Philadelphia for its oversight of city elections. With the retirement of their popular newsman-turned-leader, the nonpartisan nonprofit is seeking a new Executive Director. This is also a unique opportunity for the group to update how it can best serve its mission to combat corruption. It has a clear alignment with public affairs journalism — something other mission groups should learn from.

For my undergraduate academic year 2004-2005, I was a policy intern at Seventy, spanning outgoing director Zack Stalberg and his predecessor Fred Voigt, whom I also interviewed for a college thesis project. From then through to my Election Day volunteering, I’ve long been inspired by their work.

But like Stalberg was meant to do when he replaced Voigt, Seventy is again in need of an updated look at how it can best accomplish their goals. If I were to launch an organization with the goals Seventy has today, in an era with newfound opportunities to build civic-orientated coalitions, web publishing for audience building would certainly be part of the strategy.

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Either build the news site for the mission or build the mission for the news site

Updated I gave a presentation similar to this theme to a pair of college classes recently, one of which resulted in these takeaways.

To have a news community ‘succeed,’ it needs to either be built around a mission or the mission needs to be built into its community.

That means, if, for the foreseeable future, a more competitive, newly web-based news and information environment best attracts audience by way of connecting a community to a mission, those best suited to succeed will have one.

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Philadelphia Museum of Art: thoughts on making the Parkway temple to impressionism more accomodating and more relevant

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the country’s largest, oldest and most influential.

Still, founded in 1876 and looming on the Ben Franklin Parkway for 90 years, the Museum’s leadership knows being a historic, cultural icon in Philadelphia doesn’t make it immune to financial distress. The bankruptcy of the once legendary Philadelphia Orchestra has made that clear.

It’s with this that several of the museum’s most active board members brought together in late January something of a focus group of mostly 30 and 40-something young leaders in Philadelphia to help discuss its future. Thankfully, Liz Dow of Leadership Philadelphia, which largely invited the focus group members, brought me into the conversation.

The conversation largely lacked a focus that is most often seen as a determining factor in successful focus groups. Still, the 90-minute lunch and dialogue was interesting enough that more than a month later, I find myself with a few dozen swirling thoughts on the subject. I wanted to share them here.

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Is your news organization a fire hose or a block party?

News organizations should recognize themselves to be either a fire hose or a neighborhood block party and, if particularly robust, they should have both and discern the different strategies for each.

After joining an Aspen Institute Roundtable in D.C. back in June, I met up with NPR Project Argo’s Matt Thompson, who I teamed up with around CAT Signal a few months earlier. As we tend to do, we got lost in a long and rambling conversation that came to a philosophical point from Thompson: not enough news sites recognize what they are, simply a fire hose, spreading their audience to what is interesting and important.

First, two quick definitions in this context: (a) a fire hose site has relatively large traffic with more drive-by readers and (b) a block party site has relatively less traffic with highly focused and more loyal readers. In our conversation, Thompson introduced the ideas of fire hoses. I started thinking about block parties.

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15 best Back on My Feet videos we made in a year

Short, compelling videos of interest travel well on the web.

That means video can take your brand, organization, mission, message or call to action with it. I served my media director role with Back on My Feet for less than a year, but I’m proud of moving the staff to more frequent video creation for those reasons and to give our members — people experiencing homelessness — a platform to share their stories.

Looking back, though I shared other metrics from my time there, I realized I never shared the best of what I thought was some meaningful video for just a start.

So, below, that’s what I do, highlight 15 of the best videos we created during my tenure as media director, clamoring on email that “everything is content!”

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What is Editorial Strategy: Definitions for Content Strategy and more

I try to keep things simple.

Because there is so much crap out there, I like to think if you can’t describe simply, quickly and tersely what you do, then it’s probably not important.

So, in introducing my work with Technically Media, I kept it simply to that we build audiences, which is something of a tag line of ours.

But there are those in the industry and near to it who are a bit more interested in what exactly we’re proposing.

We’re calling what we do editorial strategy, something of a subset of a growing movement called content strategy, which usually falls under user experience design and differs itself from content marketing.

It’s a concept that pulling with content you create is going to become just as much as a given as pushing with social media you control.

But what the hell does all of that mean?

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