philly-onlinejournalism-long

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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temple-students

Here’s the final math on my middle class $100k college education

I have now fully paid the $100,000 that my college experience from Temple University cost. Here I share the breakdown of some more specifics on what those costs include and how I paid them.

This month, six years after graduating from Temple, I will put $1,800 to close out the last of my student loans. As many of my peers, who attended ‘out-of-state’ universities and are from, relatively speaking, privileged, middle class families will tell you, I accelerated this process considerably. I don’t like debt, so each year since 2010 when I was able to do so, I paid more than I was required to in order to speed the process of getting debt free.

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A photo of a Serengeti lion from a web interactive from National Geographic.

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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Inbox zero: email techniques for more efficient knowledge workers (like reporters) [VIDEO]

For anyone who traffics in ideas, relationships and  communication (and reporters are certainly that), “one of the most important soft skills you can have is handling a high-volume of email,” said Merlin Mann in his well-trafficked 2007 “Inbox Zero” Tech Talk.

The idea here is that time and attention are irreplaceable, finite and the most valuable resources of knowledge workers. So, as silly as it sounds, managing efficiently your email is a major skill.

Yet we all get overwhelmed by the fire hose that is our email inbox (and don’t put any workforce development time to this). For an industry that needs to keep our sources organized and be able to manage relationships (and do so by emailing better), that’s a sin. As I’ve brought on a couple reporters, I’ve found myself working with my cofounder Brian James Kirk, a true student of email productivity, to coach them on better email practices.

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Relationships are currency

Relationships are a currency.

They’re worth something — friendships, acquaintances, colleagues, sources. They enrich our lives and, yes, they are integral to any success. Things get done by people who have relationships, to help guide, support, advise and strengthen goals.

This goes for everyone, but there are surely some industries that need them more than others: construction and development, politics and government and, certainly, reporting and community building. So I think a lot about the connections and people who make up community in all of its forms.

If relationships are one of the most valuable resources we have, why do we so often ignore their impact and why do three types of people so often abuse the role of connection?

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Why 10 percent unemployment and worse is our future, unless we rethink our economy

People waiting in line for unemployment relief in Chicago in October 1960. Photo by Myron Davis for LIFE Magazine

Updated with more perspective on the job-crashing Internet here and more from Vox Media here.

In the next 20 years, the United States and the broader global economy will either dramatically rethink its employment structure or a history-altering societal change will take place.

Of course, unemployment numbers are gamed by those who give up on looking for jobs, but the idea here is that it’s hard to understand why anyone seems to think that the overall unemployment numbers for our country will trend anywhere but upward.

Let me be clear, this is armchair commentary from someone with absolutely no background in economics or geopolitical, socioeconomic trends, so I am writing this hoping for outside insight because I can’t figure this out.

Below, I (a) outline the problem as I see it, (b) look at big economic drivers that seem to be chances for more problems, (c) list all the opportunities I understand that could reverse somewhat this trend and then (d) highlight some of the transformational changes that could lie in wait for the next generation, before offering some more reading and then waiting to get yelled at in the comments.

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Journalism is still letting revenue models slip away: my greatest fear for the future of news

Revenue models for local journalism are still quickly being siphoned off from prospective journalism creators of the future.

We’ve had no shortage of hand-wringing around the future of news in recent years. As I see it, simple access to news and information won’t be the problem of the future, since publishing keeps getting easier which adds to the number of sources (though creating the infrastructure to have a broad set of common facts locally might be. Still that’s another issue for another post).

Instead, I am far more concerned about the future of local journalism. (I am not talking about international war reporting or national politics, as those audiences can be relatively so large that I trust in niche players, like Propublica and the New York Times finding a foothold). Instead, I’m talking about state houses, city halls, niche communities and neighborhoods.

The loss (or failure to recreate) journalism in those places is my greatest fear for the future of asking tough questions and what professionally keeps me awake at night more than almost anything else.

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Social entrepreneurship: how Philadelphia could have a regional distinction for startups

Philadelphia, like any other city that wants to compete in a global marketplace, needs a regional distinction that sets it apart, and in this place, nothing makes more sense than for Philadelphia to define itself as the hub for social entrepreneurship and urban renewal.

Around the world, our hubs of innovation and culture, of education and community are densest and most alive in cities. All of the truly great problems of our time — war and crime and poverty and disease and education and violence and racism and hunger and employment — are either exacerbated by or housed most primarily in our cities.

As a country, if the United States intends to continue to play some form of a major role in the future, the sense seems to be that we will need to do that by continuing to be smarter. Adaptability, industrial might and military strength have served us well, but we need to look for the next train.

Entrepreneurship and the spirit that came out of World War II federal funding (largely in Philadelphia first) helped define the last quarter century of American cultural impact. At a time of high unemployment and a sluggish economy, high technology and scale is meant to be that next train.

So cities do a lot of hand wringing about how to replace widgets with gadgets.

The trouble is that, as a friend put it, if Silicon Valley represents the overwhelming majority of investment in the country, and New York City is in second place, then just about every other city that is even trying is in third place.

How should Philadelphia (like any other big city) try to stand out?

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Shark Tank: 25 things I learned from watching the startup pitch reality TV show

Whether they are meant to be there or not, real business lessons are buried within the made-for-TV, startup-pitch-event-turned-reality-show Shark Tank, and despite the raised eyebrows, I love the program.

A rotating crew of five potential investors, billed as self-made millionaires, hear quick pitches from would-be entrepreneurs of varying skills, interests and levels of experience. Sometimes deals are made; sometimes those entrepreneurs walk away with nothing, aside from a little exposure.

This is not the first time I’ve talked about the show: last fall, I wrote about what the Knight News Challenge could learn from Shark Tank.

I watched most of last season and all of what has come out so far this year. I’ve got to thinking there are a few lessons to be learned from watching. Updated: Tech Crunch has a newer post offering lessons for the show.

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How 9/11 helped shape New York City for the better

The New York 9/11 terrorist attack site view on Sept. 12, 2001 from the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus camera on NASA's Landsat 8. Click to see original. H/t Gizmodo

Nearly 3,000 people are said to have died 10 years ago in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, perhaps more if some first responder deaths are to be included.

That is brutal and sobering and tragic and heartbreaking.

TL;DR — Why I believe the pain of 9/11 helped shape NYC for the better.

  • A long history exists between pain and strength.
  • After 9/11, Americans embraced New York City as patriot territory.
  • After the attacks, an even stronger NYC identity has developed.
  • Following that day, NYC is now protected by more of a veil of patriotism than it perhaps has ever had.
  • Why I wrote this: To argue that a dramatic shift in our national perspectives on NYC changed after 9/11 and it has largely benefited the city.

I grew up in northwest New Jersey, a rural enclave in the New York City region. Like many others there, my parents were from the city and arrived an hour west chasing suburban sprawl. Much of my family still lives in and around that city. They worked in and around the Twin Towers. A couple times a year, my parents would take my sister and me to Manhattan for nice dinners with family; I always wanted to play sandlot baseball or get lost in the woods instead.

I was a sophomore in high school sitting in English class that September Tuesday, but I don’t want to rehash my story. Plenty are doing that and, quite frankly, they are doing a better job of it than I can. Moreover, many people with whom I was in class had parents or other close family working there or near to the buildings. I didn’t, after some confirmation, so my personal story isn’t compelling.

Instead, I want to suggest what might be considered a rather unsettling thought, but I think it’s an important one.

That the most costly, most visual portion of the Sept. 11 attacks in lower Manhattan have, looking back at the last 10 years, been good for New York City.

People died. Real people. At a different time, my uncles, or cousin or sister could have very likely been in that number. Philosophy isn’t developed enough for us to understand why not. Very little is ever worth death. But, I believe, these attacks have propelled New York City to first city status among the few generations of Americans alive for 9/11 in a way that nothing else ever could.

I am not a resident of New York City. Never have been. The city was around me — literally and by means of familial roots, but, no, I wasn’t there that morning and know little of that moment. My arguments here rely most heavily on outside perception, so having roots and family there, but being distant enough to evaluate that perception is a strength, I believe.

Now let me tell you why the idea that something so painful could be beneficial is not only plausible, it is clear.

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