If you had to choose one word to describe the state of the local news industry in the United States right now it might be “uncertain.” But does that also describe the situation in Philadelphia?
Across the country, there’s been an astonishing drop in the number of traditional print newspapers, and online outlets have struggled to find a financial model that allows them to step up as real replacements. According to a recent report, at least 1,300 communities nationwide are now completely without local coverage.
That’s not really the case in Philly.
Despite a contraction that decimated the city’s once robust alt-weekly scene and forced the consolidation of its two daily papers and biggest news site, media players here are still pushing forward.
We have the nationally-renowned Resolve Reporting Collaborative, which brings together Philadelphia news giants with the city’s niche outlets. The country’s oldest Black newspaper is still publishing daily. An institute focused on supporting journalism is making specialized grants as it works to figure out its role. And emergent news sites, print magazines and locally-centered broadcast shows continue to populate the rapidly changing landscape.
Can the progress be sustained? And why does it matter?
Those are the questions we’ll be tackling at a panel I’m leading Saturday at GREATPHL19, the city’s first 24-hour ideas fest.
Joining me on the second day of the innovative event will be a collection of folks from all parts of the local news industry:
- Kerith Gabriel, editor of Philadelphia Weekly
- Dave Davies, Fresh Air co-host and former WHYY and Daily News reporter
- Martin Pratt, local editor and reporter for Your Black News
- Yossi Lichterman, strategist at the Lenfest Institute
After a brief intro, when I’ll talk about how Billy Penn was acquired by WHYY and what the future holds for that merger, we’ll discuss the local news problem as a group. The most important part of this: your input and questions.
Tickets to the festival are good for all the sessions, which kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, and go all the way through 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5. Each one takes place on the top floor of a historic building at 7th and Callowhill streets.
Other folks you might want to drop in for include High Street Hospitality’s Eli Kulp, groundbreaking LGBTQ lawyer Angela Giampolo, REC Philly founder William Toms, art curator and Streets Dept blogger Conrad Benner, Mural Arts founder Jane Golden, Indy Hall founder Alex Hillman, and social entrepreneur Lyonzo Vargas, among dozens of others.