Stories that never ran: the Philadelphia workplace in five years

More than a year ago, I handled a half dozen interviews and a couple rewrites on a story for the Inquirer that covered what Philadelphia workplaces will look like in the future. As is sometimes the case, it never found its home in print.

The story’s primary timeliness has been lost, but I think it still has merit. So, with permission from my editor, I share it below, in addition to a slew of extras from the heavy lifting of reporting.

It was meant to be a localized version of a Time magazine cover story that caught my attention.

Below, read the story, see portions of my interviews that didn’t make it into the piece and watch some related video news pieces

Continue reading Stories that never ran: the Philadelphia workplace in five years

Inquirer: My first couch surfing experience

My travel mate Sean Blanda (left), Zurich, Switzerland couch surfing host Dule Misevic, and myself in November 2008.

A full-length travel story of mine focused on the five year anniversary of CouchSurfing.com at first destined for the Philadelphia Inquirer last January never found a home there. After a back and forth, I went another direction and it got a tad stale for the daily’s travel editor.

So, because I’ve shared other stories that didn’t run as planned, I’ll do so today. Additionally, as always, I also like to share some grafs that were reworked and items I cut from my original story, which also can be seen below.

ZüRICH, SWITZERLAND — I just can’t find chopped beef for cheesesteaks anywhere. But cheese? Well I have my choice of cheeses in the largest city of this European country known for its favorite holey dairy product.

I snag a jalapeno-laced Swiss cheese and settle for a pound of ground beef I plan to mince. After picking up fresh rolls, peppers and onions, I am back climbing hilly Kornhausstrase, a busy road northwest of the city center that rides over the Linth River to Zurich’s residential neighborhoods. As a jet-setting tourist, this is a part of Zürich you would never see. Unless, of course, you are couch surfing, which is why I am here.

CouchSurfing.com, the online hospitality-exchange giant, is celebrating six years this month and has nearly 1.6 million members, but it hasn’t lost its mission. For five weeks in fall 2008, I made something new of the tired European backpacking trip by hopping from one stranger’s couch to another, not for money, but in the name of cultural exchange. I never had a better experience than my first, sleeping on a tan couch in the leafy northern extreme of Zürich, Switzerland.

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Recent experiences in listening to your customers

jumper-cables

Nobody in business will ever say he isn’t concerned with listening to the customer. Really proving it, of course, is the difference between well-loved companies and those that aren’t.

Even notoriously frustrating Comcast has gained ground with its use of social media — a powerful mechanism for communication that, despite all the attention, we still may have yet to fully grasp. But beyond the buzz, the real value is hearing from customers who experience your products, whatever they may be — from buying tires to reading news.

I had two experiences with the concept recently, one from your friends in old media.

On Friday, I was driving a car that wasn’t my own through Flemington, N.J., though I had been holding on to the keys quite a bit in the past few months and noticed no warning signs of trouble. After filling up the tank at the Quick Check — something of a North Jersey Wawa, 7-11, fill-in your moderately well-liked convenience store that makes hoagies etc. — I turned the key and.. nothing.

I got the chance to offer, as a regular customer, my thoughts but didn’t feel anyone cared — how strange a successful regional corner store chain can’t do what old media did the same week.

Continue reading Recent experiences in listening to your customers

Love for and lessons from a newspaper's 180th anniversary

A screeenshot of the multimedia presentation from the Philadelphia Inquirer celebrating its 180th anniversary.

Go look at the online multimedia presentation on Philly.com celebrating the 180th anniversary of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

If your interest in newspapers or Philadelphia or freelancing or new media or designing or anything else. Go there.

Packaged with a keepsake insert in yesterday’s Sunday print edition, it shows depth and breadth, intellectual and historical stimulation with engaging and beautiful design. I was excited to get my print edition and played online, as part of the preview Technically Philly was granted.

I’m an engaged young reader who clicked and played and more. Although my interest level is hardly representative of most my age; I have been calling for and eagerly awaiting such an historical promotion for months, if not a year or longer still.

But they did it bigger and better than I could have imagined. I’m thrilled to see an institution I respect and admire tell the world just why it matters so much.

Big credit goes to the staff and administration of Philly.com and the Inquirer for doing a bold and forward-thinking package and doing it well. Other newspaper executives should take notice of the work done by Inquirer online editor Chris Krewson and those he credited — Frank Wiese, the Online Projects Editor, and Cynthia Greer, an artist in the Inqy’s graphics department.

And did you hear the big news that came out of it?

Continue reading Love for and lessons from a newspaper's 180th anniversary

Inquirer: Dogs call for a neighborhood in change

At Orianna Hill Park in Northern Liberties, Basil is petted by owners Lisa Lee, center, and Scott Nealy as Marie Barnes watches. As the neighborhood has become trendier, the pets have proliferated. (RON TARVER / Inquirer Photographer)
At Orianna Hill Park in Northern Liberties, Basil is petted by owners Lisa Lee, center, and Scott Nealy as Marie Barnes watches. As the neighborhood has become trendier, the pets have proliferated. (RON TARVER / Inquirer Photographer)

Why an influx of dogs are often a sign of a neighborhood in change is the focus of my story for the Style & Soul section of today’s Inquirer.

Dogs may not have caused Northern Liberties to change from blighted to trendy, but they sure were a sign that change was coming.

Twenty years ago, when Frances Robb first moved to the neighborhood north of Old City, dogs were about as rare as a parked BMW. But as Northern Liberties went from edgy to trendy, the canine pack grew. Read the rest here.

Read the full story, comment and then come back for what didn’t make it in.

Continue reading Inquirer: Dogs call for a neighborhood in change

Reader response: kind words for a ballerina tale

Sometimes it’s the stories you don’t quite expect to, that get one of the warmest responses.

I posted two weeks ago about a story on the secret lives of ballerinas I wrote for the Inquirer.

It came on the same day as my Philadelphia Weekly cover story on suburban rapper Asher Roth. While the Roth profile has gotten more than 40 comments and the glare of Phawker, my ballerina feature has received a small outpouring from pleased readers.

On Facebook, a number of old high school friends noted their interest in it, and I get messages from many others, including my 18-year-old, sports-obsessed cousin. More than a few e-mails came in and on other social media, I was surprised to find a handful of notes from readers.

I put a lot of my freelancing work out there, but I rarely get more than a couple responses at a time. I didn’t expect a quiet story on ballerinas to bring such a response, particularly not on the same day as a big, loud profile on a growing pop icon.

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Inquirer: The secret life of a ballerina

Brooke Moore finds her offstage challenge outdoors, hiking national parks across the country. Photo by SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer
Brooke Moore finds her offstage challenge outdoors, hiking national parks across the country. Photo by SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer

I cover the secret passions of a handful of Pennsylvania Ballet dancers in a story for the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday.

It was last summer when Brooke Moore figured she and her father had probably scared away a mountain lion.

The deer they discovered was freshly killed, its leg just torn off; there were no bugs and the blood trail was visible. The two didn’t pay it much mind, though, and continued their weeklong, 85-mile backpacking trek through the Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands.

Just another day in the life of a ballerina. Read the rest here.

See the story, comment and return to see the Pennsylvania Ballet in action and to read what didn’t make it in my story.

Continue reading Inquirer: The secret life of a ballerina

Inquirer: Devon Theater reopens in Mayfair

Devon artistic director Michael Pickering oversees a rehearsal of "Nunsense," the inaugural show for the new theater. AMANDA CEGIELSKI / Staff Photographer
Devon artistic director Michael Pickering oversees a rehearsal of "Nunsense," the inaugural show for the new theater. AMANDA CEGIELSKI / Staff Photographer

The Devon Theater‘s proud reopening on Frankford Avenue in Mayfair was detailed in yesterday’s Sunday Inquirer by theatre critic Howie Shapiro and me.

About 400 people, dressed for a gala, will take their seats Friday evening in what once was a dilapidated Frankford Avenue movie house. Three women in nun’s habits will pop up, administering parochial-school demands: Get rid of the gum! Flip off those cell phones!

The lights will dim, the loopy musical Nunsense will begin – and Northeast Philadelphia will have its first professional live-performance theater, in an area where many people (those in the Northeast included) may not expect to find one. Read the rest here.

Check out the genuinely interesting story, comment and then come back and see some extras below.

Continue reading Inquirer: Devon Theater reopens in Mayfair

Live, from the Northeast – it’s theater (Philadelphia Inquirer: 3/22/09)

Devon artistic director Michael Pickering oversees a rehearsal of "Nunsense," the inaugural show for the new theater. AMANDA CEGIELSKI / Staff PhotographerDevon artistic director Michael Pickering oversees a rehearsal of “Nunsense,” the inaugural show for the new theater. AMANDA CEGIELSKI / Staff Photographer

By Howie Shapiro and Christopher Wink | Philadelphia Inquirer | March 22, 2009

About 400 people, dressed for a gala, will take their seats Friday evening in what once was a dilapidated Frankford Avenue movie house. Three women in nun’s habits will pop up, administering parochial-school demands: Get rid of the gum! Flip off those cell phones!

The lights will dim, the loopy musical Nunsense will begin – and Northeast Philadelphia will have its first professional live-performance theater, in an area where many people (those in the Northeast included) may not expect to find one.

The opening of the sparkling Devon Theater is an example both of neighborhood tenacity and of a professional Philadelphia theater community whose growth – against the economic odds – seems unstoppable.

“I welcome them to the theater community,” says Margie Salvante, executive director of the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. “The theater industry, on a national level, is really focused on Philadelphia as a hot spot right now.”

Continue reading Live, from the Northeast – it’s theater (Philadelphia Inquirer: 3/22/09)

Live, from the Northeast – it's theater (Philadelphia Inquirer: 3/22/09)

Devon artistic director Michael Pickering oversees a rehearsal of "Nunsense," the inaugural show for the new theater. AMANDA CEGIELSKI / Staff PhotographerDevon artistic director Michael Pickering oversees a rehearsal of “Nunsense,” the inaugural show for the new theater. AMANDA CEGIELSKI / Staff Photographer

By Howie Shapiro and Christopher Wink | Philadelphia Inquirer | March 22, 2009

About 400 people, dressed for a gala, will take their seats Friday evening in what once was a dilapidated Frankford Avenue movie house. Three women in nun’s habits will pop up, administering parochial-school demands: Get rid of the gum! Flip off those cell phones!

The lights will dim, the loopy musical Nunsense will begin – and Northeast Philadelphia will have its first professional live-performance theater, in an area where many people (those in the Northeast included) may not expect to find one.

The opening of the sparkling Devon Theater is an example both of neighborhood tenacity and of a professional Philadelphia theater community whose growth – against the economic odds – seems unstoppable.

“I welcome them to the theater community,” says Margie Salvante, executive director of the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. “The theater industry, on a national level, is really focused on Philadelphia as a hot spot right now.”

Continue reading Live, from the Northeast – it's theater (Philadelphia Inquirer: 3/22/09)