Philadelphia Metropolis

Metropolis - Philadelphia News and Journalism

Metrop­o­lis is a “news, analy­sis and com­men­tary” site from vet­er­an Philadel­phia reporter Tom Fer­rick (Wikipedia). An alum of The Philadel­phia Inquir­er, Tom’s spent the last half-dozen years talk­ing to every­one who will lis­ten about the future of print and Philly news. He’s done talk­ing and is show­ing what can be done on a bud­get bud­get. From “This is Metrop­o­lis,” the lead arti­cle:

Local news­pa­pers, TV and radio sta­tions are retreat­ing from in-depth cov­er­age of region­al news either due to eco­nom­ic or audi­ence con­sid­er­a­tions.

The retreat has been grad­ual, but no one expects it to stop. The com­pa­ny that owns the region’s largest news­pa­pers — the Inquir­er and Dai­ly News — is in bank­rupt­cy. The size of the edi­to­r­i­al staffs at the papers con­tin­ues to shrink. The prog­no­sis for metro dailies here and else­where is not good. The jour­nal­ism prac­ticed by these papers is still robust, but the eco­nom­ic mod­el that has sus­tained it is erod­ing. If these tra­di­tion­al sources of news fal­ter or fail what will take their place?

The site was built in Mov­able Type. The most promi­nent fea­ture is the slideshow dis­play of fea­tured arti­cles. Tom has seen a sim­i­lar effect on anoth­er jour­nal­ism site and a search found the “Slid­ing Hor­i­zon­tal Ban­ner Rota­tor” at Active Den, a great site to pur­chase pre-built Flash files. Mov­able Type entries are out­fit­ted with cus­tom fields to enter images and links. Mov­able Type then cre­ates a cus­tom XML file for the “Main Sto­ries” feed, which is then picked up and dis­played by the Flash ban­ner. In addi­tion, the site uses Google Adsense to pro­vide income.

Vis­it: Philadel­phia Metrop­o­lis

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Making New Factions

Strange­ly enough, the Philadel­phia Inquir­er has pub­lished a front-page arti­cle on lead­er­ship in Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing, “Friends frus­trate some of their flock, Quak­ers bogged down by process, two lead­ers say”. To me it comes off as an extend­ed whine from the for­mer PhYM Gen­er­al Sec­re­tary Thomas Jeav­ons. His cri­tiques around Philadel­phia Quak­er cul­ture are well-made (and well known among those who have seen his much-forwarded emails) but he doesn’t seem as insight­ful about his own fail­ings as a leader, pri­mar­i­ly his inabil­i­ty to forge con­sen­sus and build trust. He fre­quent­ly came off as too ready to bypass rightly-ordered decision-making process­es in the name of strong lead­er­ship. The more this hap­pened, the more dis­trust the body felt toward him and the more intractible and politi­cized the sit­u­a­tion became. He was the wrong leader for the wrong time. How is this wor­thy of the front-page news­pa­per sta­tus?

The “Mak­ing New Friends” out­reach cam­paign is a cen­tral exam­ple in the arti­cle. It might have been more suc­cess­ful if it had been giv­en more sea­son­ing and if out­sider Friends had been invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate. The cam­paign was kicked off by a sur­vey that con­firmed that the great­est threat to the future of the year­ly meet­ing was “our grey­ing mem­ber­ship” and that out­reach cam­paigns “should tar­get young adult seek­ers.” I attend­ed the year­ly meet­ing ses­sion where the sur­vey was pre­sent­ed and the cam­paign approved and while every Friend under forty had their hands raised for com­ments, none were rec­og­nized by the clerk. “Mak­ing New Friends” was the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to tap younger Friends but the work seemed designed and under­tak­en by the usu­al sus­pects in year­ly meet­ing.

Like a lot of Quak­er orga­ni­za­tions, Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing has spent the last fif­teen years large­ly rely­ing on a small pool of estab­lished lead­er­ship. There’s lit­tle atten­tion to lead­er­ship devel­op­ment or tap­ping the large pool of tal­ent that exists out­side of the few dozen insid­ers. This Spring Jeav­ons had an arti­cle in PYM News that talked about younger Friends that were the “future” of PYM and put the cut-off line of youthfulness/relevance at fifty! The recent polit­i­cal bat­tles with­in PYM seemed to be over who would be includ­ed in the insider’s club, while our real prob­lems have been a lack of trans­paren­cy, inclu­sion and patience in our deci­sion mak­ing process.

Philadel­phia Friends cer­tain­ly have their lead­er­ship and author­i­ty prob­lems and I under­stand Jeav­ons’ frus­tra­tions. Much of his analy­sis is right. I appre­ci­at­ed his reg­u­lar­ly col­umn in PYM News, which was often the only place Christ and faith was ever seri­ous­ly dis­cussed. But his approach was too heavy hand­ed and cor­po­rate to fit year­ly meet­ing cul­ture and did lit­tle to address the long-term issues that are lap­ping up on the year­ly meet­ing doorsteps.

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard some very good things about the just-concluded year­ly meet­ing ses­sions. I sus­pect the year­ly meet­ing is actu­al­ly begin­ning a kind of turn-around. That would be wel­come.

 

Don’t miss:

Of Theo, threats and selective press quoting

The Baby Theo blog got a men­tion in today’s Philadel­phia Inquir­er, It’s almost as good as being there, by Kathy Boc­cel­la. They missed out on a huge rat­ings bonan­za by not pick­ing Theo for their pic­tures. Stranger was that two inter­views pro­duced only one off-topic sub­stan­tive line: “Mar­tin Kel­ly [sic] expe­ri­enced the worst of it when some­one threat­ened his infant son on his Baby Theo Web page [via Archive​.org, as it appeared around the time this arti­cle was writ­ten].

Above: Theo on learn­ing he wasn’t going to be the fea­tured baby pho­to in the Inquir­er piece… Real pho­to cap­tion: This week­end Julie Theo and I took a mini vaca­tion to the Penn­syl­va­nia coal regions. One of the stops was the beau­ti­ful­ly restored Tamaqua train sta­tion, where Theo’s great great grand­fa­ther, the first Mar­tin John Kel­ley, worked as a Read­ing Rail­road con­duc­tor. We woke the lit­tle guy up from a car nap to see the sta­tion and snap this pic­ture, cru­el par­ents that we are.

The Baby Theo site has been a lot of fun and it’s had great com­ments and emails of sup­port. It’s real­ly a shame that the arti­cle only used it to strike that tired old refrain about the pos­si­ble dan­ger lurk­ing on the inter­net.

The threat had noth­ing to do with Theo or with the baby blog. I’ve run a promi­nent anti­war web­site (closed, was at non​vi​o​lence​.org) through two wars now, and in the nine years of its exis­tence I’ve amassed quite a col­lec­tion of abu­sive emails. I try not to take them too seri­ous­ly: most come from sol­diers or from the fam­i­lies of solid­ers, peo­ple desparate­ly afraid of the future and sure­ly torn by the acts they’re being asked to com­mit. The inter­net pro­vides the psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tance for oth­er­wise good peo­ple to demo­nize the “com­mie Saddam-loving peacenik cow­ard.” You could get mad at a Pres­i­dent that active­ly mis­leads the coun­try into war but it’s eas­i­er to turn your anger on some schmuck who runs an anti­war web­site in his spare time. Send­ing threat­en­ing emails is itself cow­ard­ly and anti-democratic, of course, and as I’ve writ­ten on Non​vi​o​lence​.org, it’s ter­ri­bly inap­pro­pri­ate for “mil­i­tary per­son­nel to use gov­ern­ment com­put­ers to threat­en the free speech” of a dis­sent­ing Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. But it hap­pens. And because it hap­pens and because South Jer­sey has its share of pro-war hot­heads, you won’t see our spe­cif­ic town men­tioned any­where on the site. When I asked the Inquir­er reporter if they could not men­tion our town, she asked why, which led to the threat­en­ing emails, which led to the ques­tion whether Theo specif­i­cal­ly had been threat­ened.

And yes, there was a retired Lieu­tenant Colonel who sent a par­tic­u­lar­ly creepy set of emails (more on him below). The first email didn’t men­tion Theo. It was just one of those every­day emails wish­ing that my fam­i­ly would be gang-raped, tor­tured and exe­cut­ed in front of me. I usu­al­ly ignore these but respond­ed to him, upon which I received a sec­ond email explain­ing that he was mak­ing a point with his threat (“You, your orga­ni­za­tion and oth­ers like you rep­re­sent the ‘flab­by soft white under­bel­ly’ of our Nation. This is the tis­sue of an ani­mal that is the tar­get of preda­tors.” Etc., etc., blah, blah, blah). This time he searched the Non​vi​o​lence​.org site more thor­ough­ly and specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned Theo in his what-if sce­nario. This was one email out of the thou­sands I receive every month. It was an inap­pro­pri­ate rhetor­i­cal argu­ment against a political/religious stance I’ve tak­en as a pub­lic wit­ness. It was not a cred­i­ble threat to my son.

Still, pre­cau­tion is in order. I men­tioned this sto­ry to the Inquir­er reporter only to explain why I didn’t want the town list­ed. When I talked about the blog, I talked about old friends and dis­tant rel­a­tives keep­ing up with us and shar­ing our joys via the web­site. I talked about how the act of putting togeth­er entries helped Julie & I see Theo’s changes. I told Kathy how it was fun that friends who we had met via the inter­net were able to see some­thing beyond the Quak­er essays or polit­i­cal essays. None of that made it through to the arti­cle, which is a shame. A request to not pub­lish our home town became a sen­sa­tion­al­ist cau­tion­ary tale that is now being repeat­ed as a rea­son not to blog. How stu­pid.

The cau­tion­ary les­son is only applic­a­ble for those who both run a baby blog and a heav­i­ly used polit­i­cal web­site. When your web­site tops 50,000 vis­i­tors a day, you might want to switch to a P.O. Box. End of les­son.

For­tu­nate­ly with the inter­net we don’t have to rely on the fil­ter of a main­stream press reporters. Vis­i­tors from the Inquir­er arti­cle have been look­ing around the site and pre­sum­ably see­ing it’s not all about inter­net dan­gers. Since the Inquir­er arti­cle went up I’ve had twice as many vis­its from Google as I have from Philly​.com. Viva the web!


More:
For those inter­est­ed, the freaky retired Lieu­tenant Colonel is the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of a pri­vate avi­a­tion com­pa­ny based in Flori­da, with con­tracts in three African nations that just hap­pen to be of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to the U.S. State Depart­ment. Although the com­pa­ny is named after him, his full name has been care­ful­ly excised from his web­site. I don’t sus­pect that he real­ly is retired from U.S.-sponsored mil­i­tary ser­vice, if you know what I mean… Here’s your tax dol­lars at work.

A few news­pa­per web­sites have repub­lished up the Inky arti­cle and two blog­ging news sites have picked up on it:

  • Yet Anoth­er Baby Blog­ging sto­ry uncov­ers dan­ger — but it’s not true ran in Blog​ging​Ba​by​.com: “When some­one threat­ened his son on his Baby Theo Web page, he took the site down; but left up a pic on his home page. Well, that is, accord­ing to the arti­cle, which some­how man­aged to not check its facts (maybe, ummm – go to the link you includ­ed in your arti­cle?) and dis­cov­er that, in fact, Baby Theo’s page is alive and well. We’re glad, Theo’s a cutie.”
  • Baby blog­gers ran in Net­fam­i­lynews. “The $64,000 question(s) is: Is this a shift of think­ing and behav­ior or, basi­cal­ly, a mis­take?.. Mar­tin Kel­ly, whose baby was threat­ened by some­one who vis­it­ed his baby page, would lean toward the mis­take side of the ques­tion.” (No I wouldn’t, as I explained to the web­mas­ter lat­er)