After four years of planning, there will be another strategy direction in the coming months for the collaborative journalism effort that has been an interest of the high-profile William Penn Foundation for the better part of a decade.
Last March, some movement was taken by Neil Budde, the former news executive who was brought into town to take leadership of the now branded AxisPhilly.org, but, citing a growing gulf in expectations between him and funders, his departure was announced earlier this month after just a year and a half on the job. As it was said in the official release: Budde agreed to step aside “in light of its inability to raise sufficient second-round funding to support an aggressive initial business model.”
In other words, Budde spent more and made less than his funders desired and was heading in a direction that didn’t have the full support of the leadership and advisers at the Center for Public Interest Journalism, which is housed at Temple University and is administering the William Penn grant (updated: changes at the top of Temple’s communications school may also impact here, I’m reminded). But, as I’ll share below, Budde might likely argue he didn’t get the time he needed to get where he wanted to go.
In either case, in the coming weeks, an advisory board, foundation officials, consultants and university administrators will lead a group of identified stakeholders and Axis staff members through another strategy effort to, again, steer what is left of the funding toward a goal that, at its origins, was to grow the level of public affairs journalism and civic dialogue in Philadelphia.
As an interested observer and in an effort to gather my thoughts, I want to share here what I think could come next for Axis Philly, expecting to want to refine this after getting feedback. As per usual when I write these things, this is a massive collection of thoughts, not a neatly curated treatise.