Meet the New Philly.com Brain Trust

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Mike Topel, left, and Eric Ulken of Philly.com.

Meet the new braintrust of Philly.com. These are the guys who may hold the future of Philadelphia’s two major daily newspapers in their hands.

Mike Topel, the executive editor of Philly.com, is an old hand — he worked on the print side at the Inquirer, then Philly.com, before leaving for several years. He returned this summer to lead the operation. Eric Ulken arrived shortly after from the Seattle Times to become the site’s director of digital strategy — a position that has a foot both in journalism and the business of Philly.com

With the recent announcement that the Inquirer and Daily News sites are shutting down and folding into Philly.com, this duo’s work becomes more important than ever to the future of the Interstate General Media, which owns all three organizations. It’s a fraught assignment: The three newsrooms have a spotty record, at best, of cooperation. Philly.com has had its own reputational problems. But the duo vows a renewed emphasis on journalism — and on making that journalism look good on the web.

The two sat down with Philly Mag recently to talk about the future of Philly.com, how to get three newsrooms to cooperate together on the web, what went wrong with the newspapers’ websites, and Philly.com’s advantages in the marketplace.

Oh, and we talked about comments. Of course.

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(Update) Inquirer, Daily News Continue Circulation Decline

Updated with comment from a company spokesman.

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Print circulation at the Philadelphia Inquirer continues its long slide, according to preliminary numbers from the Alliance for Audited Media.

The Inky’s average Sunday print circulation for the six month period that ended September 30th was 312,197, down 12,000 copies a week from the last report in March, and off by roughly 18,000 copies a week from the same report a year ago. (The preliminary “snapshot” numbers can be seen — along with audited reports from March 2014 and September 2013 — below.)

Circulation was down for the Inquirer’s weekday and the Daily News print editions as well.

“The trend lines for our print numbers are very much in line with other major metro newspapers, but we continue to aggressively pursue ways to improve our products,” said company spokesman Jonathan Tevis. “The significant expansion of The Inquirer’s arts and entertainment coverage and the enhancements to the real estate and health sections illustrate this point. Special reports like the Daily News’ city gentrification project also demonstrate our ongoing commitment to providing readers with the news and information they expect from their local newspaper.

“At the same time, we are very encouraged by the progress we are making on the digital content side. Our replica editions remain very popular, and our September web analytics showed more growth in the area of unique visitors from both desktop and mobile. We also saw a sharp increase in our dominance among competing local news websites in September.”

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(Update) Penn State Trustees Won’t Revisit Freeh Report

[Update 2:30 p.m.] Looks like Penn State won’t revisit the Freeh Report, after all.

The Post-Gazette reports:

An alumni trustee’s proposal at Penn State University to revisit the controversial Freeh Report failed by a board of trustees vote of 17-9 today after a contentious near-hour-long debate on the University Park campus.

With the meeting just underway, trustee Anthony Lubrano said members had tried to reach a compromise on the resolution but had failed. “We are just very divided on this issue,” he said.

Mr. Lubrano said the report’s conclusions “damned the university and its culture and certainly harmed our reputation.” He said board members have a fiduciary responsibility to seek out conclusive answers.

[Original] At Penn State, the past is never dead. It’s not even past.

Which is why — more than two years later — the school’s trustees are gathering to discuss the Freeh Report that implicated late football coach Joe Paterno and university administrators in failing to sufficiently pursue or report child-sex allegations against Jerry Sandusky, an assistant football coach, for years before the allegations finally surfaced publicly.
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Penn Course Requires Students to Waste Time on the Internet

This is why Penn is ranked 19th in the world, folks.

Aptly-named “Wasting time on the Internet,” the real-life course will be offered by the Ivy League school’s English department during the upcoming spring 2015 semester.

“Students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs.”

And oh yeah: “Distraction, multi-tasking, and aimless drifting is mandatory.”
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Dear Willie Brown: Don’t Mess Up the Election

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Dear Willie Brown:

I’ve got a favor to ask. You’ve waited a long time to lead TWU 234 on strike — the 4,700 members of your union who work for SEPTA have been without a contract since March, and they’ve stayed at both their posts and at the negotiating table since then. That’s admirable.

Now your membership has decided it’s time to strike. Well, not right now, and not this week. Maybe next week.  Maybe even Monday, Nov. 3.

That’s a really bad idea.

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Top 10 Pennsylvania Careers Destroyed or Damaged by the Jerry Sandusky Scandal

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Now that Seamus McCaffery has retired from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it’s worth asking: How many significant Pennsylvanians have had their careers destroyed or derailed because of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State?

The line between Sandusky and McCaffery isn’t a straight one, of course, but: The “racy emails” that ultimately led to his suspension then retirement were discovered by Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office as it investigated whether her predecessor, Tom Corbett, had done a sufficient job of investigating the Sandusky case in the first place. No Sandusky, no Kane investigation, and maybe McCaffery is spending this week on the bench instead of vacating it.

Here are the Top 10 careers that have been destroyed or damaged, either directly or indirectly, by the Sandusky scandal, ranked by a combination of their relative importance to the entire state and the damage done to their careers. As you can see, the fallout has spread beyond Penn State and fairly widely across several branches of Pennsylvania state government.
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