Notebook in the NY Times Magazine
by Erika Owens on Aug 07 2009
In the August 9 New York Times Magazine, an article about the newspaper industry in Philadelphia highlights the Notebook as one of the emerging new media in the city and compliments the quality of its coverage. Times reporter Michael Sokolove writes that the Notebook "breaks stories and is notably well written."
Here is an excerpt:
"In January, the Knight Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant to The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. Its editor, Paul Socolar, may be something like the journalist of the future. He is earnest, dedicated to a cause, foundation-financed and, to this point, read by a narrow audience. I accompanied him to a press briefing for the rollout of the Philadelphia school district’s $3.2 billion budget. He quickly imbibed a thick handout filled with charts and long columns of numbers and jotted down questions, which seemed a bit sharper and harder to answer than those asked by the reporters from the city’s two dailies.
The Notebook actually started publishing in 1994, and Socolar, who had two children in the public schools, became its editor five years later. During his tenure, Socolar told me, The Public School Notebook refined its mission: its editors and contributors still consider themselves advocates for change, he said, “but it became equally clear to us that we have to do reporting, have journalistic standards and publish real news stories.”
It has largely achieved that. The Notebook, a five-times-a-year print publication, breaks stories and is notably well written. The grant was to improve its Web site and, as Socolar put it, start a “two-way conversation” with readers. But a broad audience and impact, two goals of traditional journalism, have been hard to attain. Socolar acknowledged that The Notebook’s core readers are insiders — principals, teachers, district administrators and highly engaged parents. “There is a jolt you can get out of an Inquirer story that I know we don’t,” Socolar said.
The new money helped energize The Notebook’s Web site, but it will take time before it generates more traffic and hosts a dynamic dialogue. “It’s still pretty modest,” Socolar said. “About 400 visitors a day — 500 or 600 on really good days. And some of those folks are stumbling upon it because they’re looking for the movie ‘The Notebook.’ ”
In Philadelphia, the Knight Foundation has also supported the Web site Plan Philly, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania that reports on planning and zoning at a level of detail never approached by the city’s newspapers, as well as the city’s version of EveryBlock.org, a “hyperlocal” that provides microscopic, data-driven information on segments of the city — home sales, crime, health-code violations at restaurants and so forth. A proliferation of blogs and Web sites cover the arts, sports and food scenes in Philadelphia. A Web site called the Media Mobilizing Project, also underwritten by the Knight Foundation, seeks out the stories of immigrants and other minorities, which newspapers, even at their best, rarely did a good job of telling."
Check back soon for more about the Notebook and its role in this evolving newspaper industry.