Forty leaders in Philadelphia media were on hand last week for the unveiling of a structure to develop more public affairs journalism in the region, as proposed by a university research center on behalf of the William Penn Foundation.
From 8:30 a.m. to after 2 p.m. on Jan. 7 inside the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission conference room of the American College of Physicians Building in Old City, a series of discussions focused on bolstering the next generation of news gathering in Philadelphia around community-building and replacing competition with collaboration.
Explicit details were left slim to encourage a dialogue, but loosely defined, Jan Schaffer, the executive director of American University-housed J-Lab, recommended an aggregated content hub that could be supplemented by a limited editorial team. The funded sustainability of that recommendation was not detailed, but rather suggested to be put off for three years until an appropriate level of support was developed, she said. Hers were only recommendations for the Penn Foundation. No action was announced, nor taken.
Rather, Schaffer, a former Philadelphia Inquirer business editor and Pulitzer Prize winner, led a fact-finding research project for the better part of 2009 on behalf of the Penn Foundation, which included more than 60 interviews and ran from July to October. The day was her chance to gauge response. She has not yet submitted a formal proposal but, she said, expects to do so this quarter. Last week’s open unveiling and ensuing feedback would inform her final suggestions, she said.
The ramifications of what Schaffer proposes could have a historic impact. That is, if anything happens at all.
I’m working with acouple, following many and thinking about a great number more hyperlocal, niche and other online-only news sites in this country of ours.
I talk a lot about where content comes from in a healthy, efficient news-gathering entity today or in the near future.
Whether it proves untenable or inaccurate or not isn’t necessarily the point. I have some goals for the geographically-based hyperlocal I’m helping in building — NEast Philly — and I want to float them.
Below I share what that looks like in my head, what it looks like now under the tireless effort of its editor and team of contributors and how it’s looked in the past.
News-gathering can be profitable — there are oodles of examples of them. The challenge is taking those dollars to create the most efficiently-produced local journalism.
The big solution and sure trend of the future is fostering a community that covers itself.
The Quick Take
Citizen journalism is a transitional phrase that will soon be as dated as ‘horseless carriage’ is now
But we’re in a period of transition so the ‘citizen’ distinction serves a purpose.
So I’ve been thrilled to see that NEast Philly, the year-old, hyperlocal news site for Northeast Philadelphia to which I contribute and handle Web operations, has been slowly receiving more reader submissions. Lately, Editor Shannon McDonald tells me she’s receiving an item or two a week from readers.
We’ve been encouraging readers to send in photos, brief write-ups of their community events and any other kind of reporting that anyone can do. It’s coming, but still most comes from McDonald tracking down information, submissions and contacts.
I’m one to describe this as ‘UGC‘ — user-generated content — and have been known to use the phrase “citizen journalism.” After doing so once more, I was pointed to a few dated conversations about just how dated that phrase might be, and I have some thoughts on why it’s a concept that still has value.
Held two weeks ago today, the invite-only affair was blasted the world over by way of social media, notably a wildly active Twitter hashtag, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth sharing my experience at the Nov. 11 event.
Community newspapers in Philadelphia remain wary of the Web, if any stock is to be paid to a morning panel from a journalism innovation conference held this month at Temple University.
Their thoughts just might be relevant to community-focused news gathers across the country.
Hosted by Temple’s journalism department, the Philadelphia Initiative for Journalistic Innovation was a day’s worth of smaller sessions focusing far less about the plight of big newspapers and more about smaller, more entrepreneurial ventures. Yes, the future of news just might be a series of conferences about the future of news, but I was happy to see a greater focus on the business side of the industry.
With the help of supportive chair Andy Mendelson, Temple journalism professor George Miller put together one of the first future of news conferences I’ve seen that tried to really pay attention to sustainability through profit. There’s incredible value in that, so I was thrilled to be a part of it.
Along with my two fellow co-founders of Technically Philly, I presented twice a session called ‘Be a Publisher Now’ on free tools that news-organizations and bloggers could make use of to create become more efficient and better prepared. See our presentation slides here.
I also got the opportunity to sit in on a session focused how community newspapers were dealing with the 21st-century’s dramatic paradigm shift in news-gathering. That’s where I was left more than a little puzzled.
Bright and passionate 20-somethings pleaded the case for their products, eager for funding to follow the $25,000 and three months of mentoring they received at DreamIt. It was an exacting event.
It was also interesting to think of Technically Philly, a news site I helped co-found that is very much a startup. The conversations I had with some of the young entrepreneurs after the event were startling in similarity to the struggles I’ve had with TPhilly.
Last fall, Shannon McDonald, who is now on the tail end of a media firestorm, began plans to launch a quarterly print publication called NEast magazine, covering Northeast Philadelphia. I pushed her to think of beginning online — even if her core demographic was a working class community not heavily entrenched online. I thought it was an opportunity to begin a brand for cheap, making her known to what potential advertisers, readers and sources she could.
You’re supposed to learn from teaching, or something like that.
I suppose with that knowledge in hand, I knew I’d learn something when, two years ago, I first walked into the Franklin Learning Center, a magnet high school in the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia.
I was there to help launch a student newspaper. I, too, was a student, writing for The Temple News, the college newspaper of Temple University.