Category Archives: Philadelphia watch: Hyperlocal vs. Social Media

The debate is brewing about the financial stability of hyperlocal sites. When Gannett laid off people its New Jersey hyperlocal sites died with the layoffs.

The problems, however, seem to have been that the hyperlocal reporters had to file for the website and the Gannett newspaper, with no local advertising support from the company to generate revenue. See the story at

Jack Shafer, the media critic at Slate, wrote two columns about hyperlocals–columns I missed before the holiday weekend. In the first, Shafer, who does a superb job at covering the media, argues that people tend to use social media to talk about local news. He sees interests as more important than geography. Therefore, he dismisses AOL’s Patch, for example, as a costly exercise in futility. See the first story at 

Shafer took some body shots from those who run successful hyperlocal sites, so he ran a second column at, which includes comments from critics of the first column.

I run a hyperlocal site at At the moment, I have the luxury of not having to worry about making money because students are the reporters. Tuition and lab fees pay the bills.

With dwindling state budgets, however, I expect that there will be a discussion of how to make more money from the site, which is relatively successful small site with about 800 unique users and 1,500 page views per day since we seriously launched the site two and one-half years ago.

I believe that people want information about their neighborhoods AND their interests. Facebook also tends to isolate many of us with our friends wherever they may be throughout the world without any public sphere to discuss the issues of our neighborhoods. I think that hyperlocal can deal with local issues and interesting people nearby without bogging down into village council meetings and other boring stuff.

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Filed under Education, Journalism, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Neighborhoods watch: Ryan Dunn Hit a Nerve in Society

All right. I still don’t really understand the fascination with Ryan Dunn and Jackass, but I am getting there. runs a piece that tries to explain the fascination with Dunn at

I guess it has to do with the fact that I don’t understand people who climb mountains, skydive or test the limits where death is a distinct possibility. I guess I did that when I was younger as a war correspondent. So maybe Dunn and I did have something in common. The only thing is war scared the hell out of me. I still don’t understand why someone would stick a toy truck up his you know what.

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Filed under Journalism, Philadelphia, watch: Inquirer Gives You a Print Story; We Give You the Full Story in Text and Video runs a story about two sisters trying to make Germantown a better place to live. The Inquirer story gives print. Philadelphia Neighborhoods gave it to you Sunday in print and video. Take a look at

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Filed under Journalism, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Neighborhoods, watch: On the Afghan Beat with Trudy Rubin

My colleague and longtime friend, Wolf Achtner, pointed out that Trudy Rubin, on a tour of Afghanistan and Pakistan, reported today what already appeared in German publications four days ago.

Nevertheless, there is no reference to that report. We used to call that plagiarism in my day. You know, I think it’s still called plagiarism. But maybe Trudy doesn’t have a good Internet connection–only sources that tell her stuff that people already know.

Okay, it’s my last post for the moment on the intrepid Inky reporter. But it’s so much fun to see how a bankrupt newspaper can spend money to send a bankrupt reporter to cover nothing while spending a whole lot of money. Sorry.

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Filed under Journalism, Philadelphia,, Uncategorized watch: Where in the World is Trudy Rubin?

I know some people want me to be nicer to foreign affairs expert Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer. But I have important news: she’s disappeared. Not in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but from

When you go to the Trudy Rubin link, you only see nine photos.

Your intrepid reporter–that would be me–has found Trudy. She’s behind the pay wall of the newspaper. I am not certain whether that means that the Inky is embarrassed by what she is writing or actually think people would pay to read it.

Using my investigative talents, I found a way around the pay wall so that you, my readers and viewers, can see what Trudy is up to.

I found today’s dispatch from Kabul:

KABUL, Afghanistan – The talk of talks with the Taliban has taken on new momentum in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden. Even as the Taliban was mounting its spring offensive, Afghan officials told me of recent meetings in Qatar and Germany between U.S. officials and a Taliban official named Tayyeb Agha, who may – or may not – be an emissary of Mullah Omar. And there lies the rub. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called for a diplomatic surge that will build on military gains produced by the U.S. troop surge. The hope is that Mullah Omar and his Quetta shura (core Taliban leaders) might be sobered by the U.S. ability to hit bin Laden and to break up their networks, and thus be willing to reconcile. Yet conversations with U.S. and Afghan officials and members of the former Taliban government make clear that, even today, no one is certain who can speak for Omar. Nor do they know what he wants. (Despite last week’s rumors of his death, he is believed to still be alive, and hiding in Pakistan.)

Harper back: I have put on my media decoder helmet to try to decipher the above. It may take me a few months, but I will post when I have determined what all of this means. Harper out.


Filed under Journalism, Philadelphia, watch: I May Be Sued for Failing a Student

The father of a student has threatened to file legal action against my colleague and me for giving her a failing grade in our class.  The allegation is that we engaged in “improper, unfair or arbitrary” grading.

The syllabus for the class runs 13 pages, with numerous tutorials online and four adjuncts to help any student. More than 98 percent of the students over the past four years have passed the course on the first time around. Only two students out of nearly 400 have failed the course twice. This student has failed it twice. In fact, the student can try one more time to pass the course.

There was a suggestion that we waive the requirement for the class for this student so that the individual could graduate. My colleague and I declined that option. If a student cannot pass the capstone course for a degree, should academics simply give someone a pass because he or she cannot do it? I don’t think so.

There has been a lot of talk about grade inflation. What we are talking about here is providing a degree to someone who has not mastered the skills necessary to obtain the degree.

A college degree needs to mean something. The student needs to have mastered critical elements of a program. If he or she has not, then I believe that the student should not get the degree. Such an action cheapens the academic program.

Although the New York Times is not my favorite publication, it provides some insight about what happens on college campuses today. See 

My colleague and I stand for excellence in education. Our class is difficult, but the people who make it through constantly tell us how important the experience was and how it shaped their lives.

In academia there is a term “helicopter parents,” which means that parents will come in to try to help their kids when they face academic or social problems. The notion that a parent plans to file a lawsuit against us for failing his kid is a bit much. I will file more as the legal process continues.


Filed under Education, Philadelphia, Temple watch: Trudy Rubin States the Obvious

Following is what Trudy Rubin, the foreign affairs expert extraordinaire of the Philadelphia Inquirer, has written:

The sad truth is, in order for bin Laden’s death to resonate, a lot of actors in the Afghan conflict will have to choose reason over emotion. Pakistan will have to recognize that the biggest threat to its survival is not India, but its foolhardy support of radical Islamists. Karzai will have to recognize his regime’s corruption plays into the hands of the Taliban. And the Taliban will have to recognize it can’t again rule Kabul.

So is bin Laden’s death a “game changer”? No one knows yet, but I will be asking everyone I meet that question and writing what I find along the way.

Harper back: Please note that it should be: So is bin Laden’s death a “game changer?” If you are going to use a cliché, at least get the punctuation right!  Um, India and Pakistan both have nukes. The countries have been battling for a few years since 1947. I think the United States should pull out of Pakistan, but what I don’t understand is that Trudy is in Afghanistan and writing about the Indo-Pak conflict. Put emotions aside? The Mideast and the Near East are all about emotions and tribes and past conflicts that go back centuries. Wars start because of emotions,  not rationality. It really is amazing that her column is called Insights! Maybe it should be called A Lack of Understanding of History.

I am glad that Trudy is on the scene to write about the trite, the obvious and the inane. It’s good to see a newspaper in bankruptcy spend its money so unwisely to spend a lot of money for her obvious and totally irrelevant articles. Only time will tell, as Trudy will say at some point, between flight delays and dinner reservations.

Again, I will only post the screen shot and not the URL. I’m really glad that Trudy is there. It means I don’t have to look far for the absurdity and the lack of intelligence of the legacy media.

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Filed under Journalism, Philadelphia,, Terrorism