The news business is the only where the CEO isn’t meant to control controversy

This summer, I was really proud to receive a leadership award from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. The next day the local tech news site I cofounded, Technical.ly, ran a highly critical analysis of that school’s signature business plan competition and widely panned it as having lacked any real successes in 15 years.

Awkward.

A year ago, we replaced me as Editor in Chief and I have been transitioning to more of a publisher (connecting and overseeing business and editorial). The experience brings up an interesting reminder of my role in a news organization I helped found but no longer have complete control over.

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5 Aljazeera hackathon projects that signal future news innovation

On editorial teams that I’ve been a part of, two tasks not core to reporting still take up time that I think could be more automated. Both were attempted to be addressed at Canvas, the first media innovation hackathon organized by Aljazeera in Qatar this weekend.

I am proud to say I was there in Doha this week serving as one of 10 mentors for the 90 participants from 37 countries who were chosen out of 1,600 applicants (40 percent of those chosen were women). The winning projects were chosen out of 19. (Other favorites)

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Linking methodology at legacy media online for competitor scoop: Example

A Technical.ly Philly reader sent a photo our way of SEPTA transit agency maps with a prominent station’s name renamed to reflect a nearby hospital chain, suggesting a possible sponsorship deal. Then our editor Zack Seward reported it out and we shared the item as an interesting possibility — SEPTA appropriately demurred from comment.

Then the name change was actually announced a week later.

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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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NEast Philly: everything I learned by working on this now-closed hyperlocal news site

The hyperlocal news site NEastPhilly.com that served Northeast Philadelphia for five years stopped publishing in December and was closed by founder Shannon McDonald. During that time, I helped her with strategy, reporting and web work. Since its closing, I’ve wanted to share a few lessons from that time.

Find out why Shannon decided to stop publishing NEast in her own post here. Below, I share what I learned (find other writing here I did about NEast here).

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Journalism isn’t what we should try to save: Philly example

A couple times a year, someone in Philadelphia technology will say to me, what that community really needs to broaden its prominence is “its own Tech Crunch,” a reference to the established and influential tech business blog with Silicon Valley roots. The implication is, with all due respect to the maturity of Technical.ly Philly (relative to our newer, smaller markets) and its readership and regular events, that Philadelphia needs a megaphone to a global audience of investors and talent.

When someone says this, I hide my cringe and instead I politely nod, before changing the subject.

Of course, a statement like that shows a profound lack of understanding of audience, goals and impact in online media. Tech Crunch is established and influential because it covers big, well-funded tech business nationally, not a fledgling community in a non-traditional hub. Technical.ly Philly looks the way it does because of where it is. It doesn’t have national readership because it isn’t national in focus. The people who say “we need a Tech Crunch,” are confusing outcomes and solutions (Silicon Valley was the global tech leader first, then it spawned Tech Crunch, not the other way around).

This is a problem that happens elsewhere.

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Journalism DNA: Is Technical.ly a journalism outlet?

Acts of journalism are challenging and at times infrequent things for local news organizations. Pushing a community and seeking to find outcomes through difficult questions is the best of what media can do. Balancing that with the work tied to creating a sustainable news venture is a consuming one. Here’s where I am in my thinking about that process.

When we launched in 2009 what has since become Technical.ly, we always prepared for a content mixture that would include information and community journalism. We were trained in a newspaper worldview that put a type of ethical paradigm and professional standards that we embraced, even as we challenged its traditions.

Along the way, I found out that I want to build something that could have an impact. Pessimists are nothing but spectators and reporters are almost always pessimists.

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Innovative News Storytelling: 5 ways and dozens of examples

Define the mission underpinning the work of your news organization, and then allow yourself to experiment with new and potentially better ways of telling stories.

That’s my interest in finding new innovative storytelling methods, and so I was excited by the chance to share examples with nearly 100 reporters and educators who visited a session I cohosted during a national news innovation conference in Atlanta last week.

Know why you’re doing your coverage and find the method that best creates that outcome. While that may mean a beautiful, highly produced product like the Serengeti Lion web interactive from National Geographic, depicted above, my focus here is sharing low-cost or free ideas for inspiration.

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5 things I told Google about innovative local reporting online

Before the full Online News Association conference kicked off in Atlanta, I was on a panel discussion about lessons from local reporting online during an event Google held for members of the media.

I was joined by Joaquin Alvarado from the Center for Investigative Reporting, Thomas Wheatley from Atlanta’s Creative Loafing and Bryan Leavoy from WSB-TV and the moderator Daniel Sieberg from Google.

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Baltimore City Council’s first hearing on innovation economy; our role in it

The largest event we helped organize during the second annual Baltimore Innovation Week was our opening party that drew 1,000 people to Penn Station Plaza in partnership with the Gathering food trucks and Station North Arts and Entertainment Inc.

The party activated a public space, as seen in the above photo from the event’s beginning, widened the reach of a narrow technology community and brought about other partnerships. It was fun and exciting and big.

But likely the event with bigger direct impact was the small Baltimore City Council hearing we helped launch with District 7 Councilman Nick Mosby, the first ever city council hearing dedicated to the innovation economy in Baltimore.

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