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Notes From The J-Lab Findings Event

Yesterday, my father and I attended the J-Lab presentation on collaborative journalism in Philadelphia.  It was us, and then every big player in Philadelphia media.  I shook hands with David Haas, chairman of the William Penn Foundation.  He’s the nephew of Otto Haas, who founded Rohm & Haas.  Otto endowed the foundation to:

Improve the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that foster rich cultural expression, strengthen children’s futures, and deepen connections to nature and community

David was there to possibly write grant checks for what the J-Lab recommends.  I found it amusing that while the rest of the room was probably preoccupied with getting some grant action, my father talked to him about Bridesburg and how he knew his uncle.  There was a real reporter from the New York Times was there, he was in charge of digital initiatives.  So were the editors of our own Daily News and Philadelphia Business Journal.

It was so cool being at the bottom of that barrel.  I finally got an outside view of what some in the media thought of us.  Before the meeting I didn’t think we belonged at that table, but afterward I realized that there wasn’t a meeting without us.  We had arrived.  I kinda feel really stupid because I had walked into that meeting really insecure about my place in this new media shift.  I didn’t really research what J-Lab and other foundations were created to do beforehand cause their websites really does a great job of explaining what we do.  Check out the Knights Citizen News Network’s new media kit videos if you’re interested.  They pretty much acknowledge that we have a central place in news these days.

Anyways, they’re proposing to aggregate original content on a new central website.  Kinda copying things that are being done in other parts of the country.  We’re all on board.  Anything we can do to shine a light on Frankford is pretty much our mission statement.  There’s not really a question as to whether the Frankford Gazette wants to be selfish with the original content we produce.  The proposal really had more consequences for the established media in the room.  They make money with their content so they started talking about monetization.  Which is when I got up to leave.  It was a good time though but they seem to only be in proposal mode without any dates set forth.

Here’s some of my other notes, it was really cool that I was repeatedly asked not to quote people directly to ensure honest feedback:

  • Totally out of place here
  • thought it would be more ground breaking but its far more of an establishment vibe
  • so many people I’m not going to have to say anything
  • there are real journalists in the room
  • we’re the least trained so we must be  the bleeding edge
  • I was called a media maker
  • community journalists are becoming trusted sources of information
  • they have a term called “niche-based”, I think that’s us
  • niche based outlets can relinquish stories outside your mission to those whose job it is to cover them(that’s why the frankford gazette doesn’t report murders anymore, takes care of that)
  • got mentioned a screen shot of us included in the powerpoint presentation instead of young philly politics, that’s a win
  • I wore a dress shirt, I should have worn a white snake tee shirt and let everyone see my tribal tattoos.
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I’ve Been Invited To A Brain Storming Session

I spoke with a reporter a couple months ago named Sean Scully.  He was fact finding about what the William Penn Foundation could do to assist emerging journalism trends as they relate to local areas.  He asked a lot of really good questions, questions about how the foundation could possibly nurture and support locally oriented online communities in Philadelphia.  And he asked me if I needed any money for the Frankford Gazette.  He didn’t say I’d get any, but I suppose the foundation was evaluating whether funding was an issue.

I did a lot of babbling with Sean but the one thing I tried to impress upon him what I thought the William Penn Foundation could do a lot with a little by helping put local communities out on the web.  I told him I’d like to see the foundation help put the local civic associations up on the web so their local residents can see what’s going on.  A while back Jon Campisi wrote a piece about how no one under 40 were involved with their local civic associations.  So it almost goes without saying they probably are a little bit behind the times when it comes to technology, let alone blogging.  But I think it’d be a great asset to any community to have it’s CDC or civic association or town watch run a blog or yahoo group or email exchange list, or message boards or whatever.  I think if the WP foundation were able to do an outreach and mentor technology use in getting out neighborhood information, it would create more informed, tighter knit communities.

Anyways, here’s my invite:

December 8, 2009

Jim Smiley

Webmaster, Frankford Gazette

Via Email

Dear Jim,

J-Lab invites you to participate on January 7 in an important brainstorming and visioning session to explore possibilities for new kinds of public affairs journalism for the Philadelphia region.

Your involvement is especially valued because of your generous contribution of time and insights for a media research project J-Lab conducted with a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

At this small gathering, we expect to share those research findings and invite your feedback as a fulcrum for exploring the community’s appetite for amplifying Philadelphia’s unique media assets in innovative ways.

This convening will begin at 9 a.m., with breakfast available at 8:30 a.m. in the main conference room at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, 190 N. Independence Mall West, 8th floor, (the American College of Physicians Building). We will go through lunch.  In the interest of encouraging candid conversation, we ask that discussion comments by individual participants be on background, not for attribution. We also want to limit the size of the group in order to be able to have a meaningful conversation; therefore, this invitation is not transferrable.

Sincerely,Your browser may not support display of this image.

Jan Schaffer

Executive Director

I’ll let you know how it goes.