Thanks for coming to office hours. Here’s what we learned at #meetbillypenn

News doesn’t happen in a newsroom. That’s what we said when we asked people to #meetbillypenn last week and chat with our staffers in a few locations in and around Center City. We want to hear from people in places that matter to them about issues that matter to them. So after polling people about convenient times and locations, I – along with Reporter/Curator Anna Orso and Editor Chris Krewson – ended up in Old City, Center City, Fishtown, East Passyunk and University City.

We hope we were able to answer everyone’s questions about who we are and what we’re trying to do. We learned a lot, too, and wanted to share it with you.

WE HAVE TO START SMALL

We have to do well before we can do good. It’s a line we keep repeating to ourselves and to each other. It’s tempting to go far and wide into Philly’s seemingly infinite neighborhoods, but it’s not realistic right now.

We chose a handful of neighborhoods to start office hours in because they have some of the biggest concentrations of the people we’re trying to reach – digitally savvy, issue-oriented millennials. That’s not to say other audiences aren’t important or that our core readers don’t live in places like Parkwood or Eastwick.  But we also need to remember that just because Center City-adjacent neighborhoods are full of younger, typically higher-earning residents, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more going on.

And frankly, visiting more than a few neighborhoods in a week would be a logistical nightmare. There are three of us, soon to be four. Everything we do is going to involve meticulous planning. We’re definitely going to hold office hours in other areas of the city, but we’ll do it in one area at a time, and based on feedback from people who live in those areas.

If we try to do too much too soon, we’ll burn out and won’t be able to do much of anything.

YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO FIGURE US OUT

We get it. We’re not the first to say we’re going to do news differently. You’re understandably skeptical.

A lot of our visitors last week didn’t necessarily come with story ideas, and that’s what we expected.  Mostly, people just wanted to meet us in person and really get a sense of what we’re trying to do. We’re a mobile platform for a better Philly. Simply put, we’re giving readers the next step. We’ll deliver headlines, dive deeper on some stories and then provide a way to act. Maybe it’s a link to a petition, maybe it’s an event or community discussion.

YOU WANT MORE COVERAGE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

There was plenty of news coverage about Ferguson protests in Love Park. But what about this one in Clark Park? Why is it that when issues touch people all over Philly, news coverage seems to just focus on a single piece of it?

The short answer is that it’s easier for reporters to hang around a central location so they can report on as many stories as possible. The more complicated answer is that it’s difficult for a newsroom of any size to be everywhere.

We can’t promise to be in every neighborhood all the time (see above). But not covering something in person isn’t the same as ignoring it. Part of our mission is to point people to things that matter, whether we’re personally able to write the story or not. As our site develops and our staff grows, we’ll make it easy to submit ideas and events.

LET’S CONSIDER THIS A PARTNERSHIP

Making Philly better is kind of a big task, and it’s going to take a lot of work. We’re not going to make Philly better just by writing a daily newsletter or reporting a few stories. You’re not going to make Philly better just by reading those stories. But it’s that next step where everyone can start to make a difference.

Our goal is to keep you informed and provide ways for you to act on the news. We’re going to give this our all and we’re open to feedback. We expect the same from our readers, and judging by the response at last week’s office hours, this is the beginning of a wonderful partnership.

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