Editor’s Letter


I often speak to groups about what it is we do and don't do here at Philadelphia
magazine. We seek to reveal the region to itself. We don't mix
advertising and editorial. We take issues seriously. We don't take
ourselves too seriously. The question I'm asked the most, however, is
one for which I don't have an easy answer: How do you come up with your
stories?

Usually, it's just a function of being engaged, of asking questions
and questioning answers. With this issue, though, I have a concrete
example. About a month ago, my friend Bob visited from upstate New
York. He was struck by the vibrancy on our streets; Bob hadn't been
here in years, and he recalled how Center City was a ghost town in the
early '90s. “I even remember your mayor had to announce a special
program to compel businesses to stay open until eight o'clock—all of
one night a week,” he said. We looked at each other, my so-called brain
trust and I; that was a mere decade ago, we realized. Now the New York Times is calling us the Big Apple's “Sixth Borough,” and National Geographic Traveler
has anointed us the nation's “next great city.” So our cover package
was born: How the hell did we not only rebound, but suddenly become
nationally known as—dare I say it—hip? In “The Next Great American
City” (page 106), executive editor Tom McGrath describes how we've
arrived at our very own tipping point, with the sort of perspective
that only long-form magazine journalism provides. And he posits some
creative ideas on how we can keep the momentum going.

From there, our cover image choice was a no-brainer, especially when Rick Stengel—author, former editor at Time
magazine, and current CEO of the Constitution Center—observed to me
that if Ben Franklin were alive today, he'd be a condo-flipping blogger
in Northern Liberties. So we asked Rick, whose museum this month
unveils its exhibit celebrating Ben's 300th birthday, to expand upon
just how Franklin is the perfect symbol for our town's modern-day
renaissance (page 112). Ben, Stengel points out, would exhort us to do
what McGrath prescribes—to see ourselves as innovative, and to get
beyond our Schuylkill-half-empty self-image.

This issue also marks the debut of “Couplings,” Jessica Pressler's
column on relationships and sex (page 82). Pressler, who made a name
for herself skewering local blowhards (yours truly among them) in the
pages of the Philadelphia Weekly, has recently written for us
about Jennifer Weiner, Gervase Peterson, and the glamour girls of local
PR. Now she unleashes her unique insights and wit on the local dating
scene. Her column will run every other month, rotating with “Loco
Parentis,” Sandy Hingston's award-winning meditations on parenting. It
promises to be a fun read, but, like “Loco,” one that sheds light on
increasingly complex social phenomena; it's harder to have a
relationship than ever, it seems. Pressler will look into why that is,
and she'll certainly entertain while doing so.

Count me among those Iggles fans who loved Terrell Owens last year
but now consider him a smacked ass. At least, that's what I thought
until senior writer Matt Teague did something none of the local scribes
ever thought to do: traveled into T.O.'s past in search of the roots of
his apparent psychosis. (That's another way stories here get generated:
We realized that even with all that's been written about T.O., we
didn't know much about who he really is.) Knocking on doors in Owens's
hometown of Alex City, Alabama, Teague came up with plenty—including an
exclusive interview with Terrell's dad—that helps you understand the
tragic beginnings of the superstar's narcissism (page 114). After
reading Teague's piece, I'm not saying I'm ready to be in T.O.'s
corner. In fact, I'm still sure he's a smacked ass. But I understand
him a lot better. That's what great magazine writing can do—take you
beyond the headlines to a deeper level of understanding. Enjoy.