Introducing … Philadelphia Sunday

Philadelphia-Sunday-400This weekend those of you who subscribe to Philly Mag’s newsletters will see something new show up in your inbox. It’s called Philadelphia Sunday, and it’s a brand-new digital product that we hope feels like a cross between a weekly magazine and the good, old-fashioned Sunday newspaper.

What’s in it? A mix of all-new, digital-only features and columns, plus highlights from our latest print edition. Our goal is to give you something you can relax and enjoy as you sip a cup of coffee on Sunday morning — timely news pieces, compelling long reads, provocative columns, and smart lifestyle stories that will help you get the most out of Philadelphia in the week ahead.

(Not already a newsletter subscriber? Sign up right here:)

Philadelphia Sunday is the latest in a series of adventures we’ve embarked upon in the last few years. Half a decade ago we were mostly just a print publisher. Today, in addition to two thriving print products (Philadelphia magazine and Philadelphia Wedding), we have a fast-growing web site with 10 robust channels as well as a full slate of magazine-produced live events (including last week’s mega-successful ThinkFest).

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Former Ambassador Joe Torsella and FringeArts’s Nick Stuccio on Friendship

Joe Torsella and Nick Stuccio on Long Beach Island, 1985.

Joe Torsella and Nick Stuccio on Long Beach Island, 1985.

PM: You guys have both had successful careers. Joe, you launched the Constitution Center and were recently an ambassador to the U.N. Nick, you founded FringeArts. And you’ve known each other since you went to high school together in northeastern Pennsylvania.

JOE: I actually am responsible for all of Nick’s success, by virtue of our high-school relationship. That seems bold, I know.

NICK: But it’s kinda true.

JOE: We met each other in early high school, I think in Mrs. Podesta’s … what was the class, geometry?

NICK: Geometry. We knew each other casually. But we became friends when Joe here decided to direct a play. Because Joe was going to be a famous theater director. Read more »

The Taney Dragons Speak!

Row 1: Zion Spearman, Jared Sprague-Lott, Tai Shanahan. Row 2: Erik Lipson, Joe Richardson, Carter Davis. Row 3: Kai Cummings, Eli Simon, Jahli Hendricks. Photography by Justin James Muir

Row 1: Zion Spearman, Jared Sprague-Lott, Tai Shanahan. Row 2: Erik Lipson, Joe Richardson, Carter Davis. Row 3: Kai Cummings, Eli Simon, Jahli Hendricks. Photography by Justin James Muir

PM: Could any of you have predicted you’d go to the World Series?

Jared Sprague-Lott: I knew we had the talent, but if you run into one really good team that’s better than you are … so … not really.

PM: When did you start to think you had a chance?

Joe Richardson: When we won states. Collier [from Allegheny County] was the hardest team by far.

Erik Lipson: [banging a plastic soda bottle] I’d like to answer that question. Okay … what was the question? [laughter] Read more »

Chris Matthews and Ed Rendell Talk (and Talk) Politics

Chris Matthews and Ed Rendell. Photograph by Justin James Muir

Chris Matthews and Ed Rendell. Photograph by Justin James Muir

PM: When did you guys first meet?

ED: [laughs] I have no idea.

CHRIS: I just remember that he and Billy Green [then Philadelphia’s mayor] were trying to take my job away. This was back in 1980. I was speechwriter for Jimmy Carter. All the big-city guys ganged up on us.

ED: This was the Kennedy-Carter presidential primary. I was supporting Kennedy.

CHRIS: Teddy came to town, and he was eating Philly pretzels and meeting with the Cardinal. You could do that in those days. And Carter was in his Rose Garden because of the [Iranian] hostages. And I’m handling Philly. These guys rolled us over. Read more »

The Conversation Issue: Can We Talk?

conversation-issue-nov-2014-cover-400x540This is the transcript of a chat on Slack — the intra-office messaging system Philly Mag uses — between editor Tom McGrath, senior editor Richard Rys and editor-at-large Christine Speer Lejeune.

TOM: We’re calling this the Conversation Issue. You two oversaw the whole package. Explain what we’re up to here.

RICH: A fool’s errand?

CHRISTY: Haha. For real. Proof that the art of conversing isn’t dead, despite Google’s and Apple’s best efforts. We wanted to have the city’s most interesting people talk to each other and see what stories came out.

RICH: I keep coming back to the idea that in this age of high tech, we’re communicating more than ever, but the art of conversation is often lost in all the texting and tweeting and Facebook-status-updating. This issue is a chance for folks to put their phones down — for the most part — and really talk to each other.

CHRISTY: Emojis can only go so far.
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ThinkFest Preview: Ajay Raju Wants Philadelphia to Be a World-Class City

Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju, left, will be interviewed by Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath.

Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju, left, will be interviewed by Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath.

Ajay Raju doesn’t think small. He has ideas about building his law firm, storied Dilworth Paxson, into something new and different on the legal scene. He and his foundation have launched a new initiative, the Germination Project, aimed at turning today’s most talented teens into Philadelphia’s next group of leaders. (Read more about the project here.) Mostly, he has notions of transforming Philadelphia into a city that is second to none. On the planet.

“I’m sure in my belief that what’s around the horizon is an opportunity for our city to reform and reshape the contours of our potential,” he told Philly Mag’s John Marchese in a profile published last spring. “Why can’t we? It’s a blank slate. If you can be a magnet to attract the best and the brightest, you have a real winning shot. I want Philadelphia to be the Ellis Island of the new global corporate community and City Hall to be the new Statue of Liberty.”

That kind of lofty talk has fueled speculation that Raju would one day like to be mayor. Whether he wants to be or not is an open question, but you can hear more of Raju’s ideas for Philadelphia at next month’s ThinkFest, where I’ll have the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about everything from art and philanthropy to why Philadelphia’s business community needs to become a stronger voice in our civic issues. Will some of what Ajay Raju talks about seem out of reach? Maybe. But our city needs dreamers – desperately – and this is a chance to hear from one of the most compelling voices in town.

Join us on November 14th at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business for a day of the city’s smartest people sharing their biggest ideas. Read all of our ThinkFest 2014 previews here, and buy your tickets today.

Grow Your Own: Ajay Raju’s Germination Project

ajay-raju-headshot-400x400When Ajay Raju moved from India to America as a teenager, he was struck by something odd: Unlike in India, where the smart kids were the cool kids, academic achievers here were at the bottom of the social pecking order, well below the jocks, cutups, ­bullies, even stoners. What’s more, Raju noted as he got older, future Chase Utleys had a built-in ecosystem to help them develop their talents — coaches, camps, leagues, professional scouts. Future Barack Obamas or Michael Nutters? Not so much.

Raju, 44, who co-chairs the law firm Dilworth Paxson and is occasionally mentioned as a future mayoral aspirant, now hopes to do something to help those young brains. This fall he officially kicks off the Germination Project, a program that will provide intensive mentoring to some of the region’s most promising teenagers — while also, Raju hopes, laying the groundwork for a future leadership class in Philadelphia.

How’s it work? High schools — there will be 10 in the pilot phase, a mix of public, private and parochial schools from the city and suburbs — will nominate sophomores they consider to be their most promising future leaders. A selection committee will then choose anywhere from one to three kids from each school to become official Germination Fellows. While some of the schools participating in the program will be in poorer areas of the city, Raju says the goal isn’t to reverse socioeconomic inequities; it’s simply to find the generation’s elite, no matter where they might be. “We’re not trying to build the Navy,” he says pointedly. “We’re trying to recruit and train the Navy SEALs.”

If that suggests rigor, that’s the point. The mentoring portion will include more than just hints on how to write a thank-you note; kids will work with executives at institutions like Comcast and Jefferson to implement potential solutions to some of Philly’s biggest problems. And participation in the program won’t end once the kids have graduated. Raju imagines that the Germination Project will in time become a network of local super-achievers. The only catch? To remain a Germination Fellow, participants need to return to Philly after college and contribute to the improvement of the city.

Most intriguing may be the Germination Project’s website, where we’ll be able to follow participants’ lives and careers over time in what Raju says won’t be all that different from a reality show. “This isn’t a short-term thing,” he notes. “This is a 50-year love letter to the region.”

See Aju Raju discuss the Germination Project at ThinkFest, November 14th at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.

Originally published as “Grow Your Own” in the November 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

What It Was Like to Be the First Runner on the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk | Photograph by Laura Kicey

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk | Photograph by Laura Kicey

Last Friday, I got the chance to walk on water. And it was awesome.

All right, technically I was running—and it was over water—but you get the idea. I had the pleasure to be the first (maybe? I think?) person ever to run on the brand-new Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, which has its official opening tomorrow and hosts a sneak preview 5K tonight at 6:30 (sorry, it’s sold out). Why me as the ceremonial First Runner? Well, Philly Mag is working on a big package about running in Philly, and the powers that be at the Schuylkill River Development Corp. were nice enough to give us access to the Boardwalk to shoot some photos. Yeah, sometimes it’s cool to work at a magazine.

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Best of Philly 2014: Behind the Scenes

best-of-philly-2014-logo-400x400One recent afternoon, associate editor Joel Mathis — who covers media, politics and other Important Stuff for our website, Phillymag.com — had an experience most investigative reporters would undoubtedly relate to: He met a confidential source at a restaurant in town for a secret exchange of materials. The handoff went well — the package Joel received led to a nice scoop for us — but there was one part of the encounter that was maybe not so All the President’s Men.

Joel arrived at the clandestine meeting having just gotten a chest wax.

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The Most Powerful Man in Philadelphia

Brian Roberts Comcast

Photography by Adam Jones

The last time we ranked the most powerful people in Philadelphia, in November 2009, Brian Roberts came in at a solid but not spectacular number 11. The book on Roberts was that he used his clout to run his company and not necessarily to influence life in the city.

So what’s happened in four and a half years that’s vaulted him to the top of our list? Simple: Comcast is vastly larger, more powerful and more ambitious than it was then — a reflection of Roberts’s growing vision for the company.

Since acquiring control of NBC Universal in 2011, Comcast has become one of the world’s most prominent and profitable media conglomerates, with interests in everything from Internet service and home security to movies, TV production and theme parks. And its momentum shows no sign of stopping. In February the company announced its intention to buy Time Warner Cable, which — if the sale is approved by the FCC and the Justice ­Dep­artment — would give it control of 30 percent of all U.S. cable and Internet markets. Perhaps more importantly for Philadelphia, the company also announced plans to build a second office tower in Center City — this one designed by renowned architect Norman Foster. (Ground will be broken this summer on the new building, which will bring 6,300 temporary construction jobs and 2,800 permanent positions to Center City.)

Philly Mag editor Tom McGrath talked with Roberts, 54, about the state of the company, plans for the new building, and how Philadelphia’s fate is now entwined with that of its most high-profile corporation.

With the focus on innovation and technology, your new building seems to be a statement about where Comcast is headed as well as a major commitment to Philadelphia. Does it feel that way to you? It does. Initially the project was started by simply … we’re out of space, which is hard to imagine. We’re always careful not to get ahead of ourselves, but we have a thousand employees who work in downtown Philadelphia who don’t have an office in the Comcast Center. And so the project began purely out of space needs. Once we started to discuss what we would build, that’s when I felt we should try to think about what the company’s needs are going to be. Where is the growth coming from? And a lot of that growth is around innovation and technology.

And that raised the question: Should we build that in Philadelphia? And the answer is, we think we can successfully recruit and attract the talent, and retain the talent, and do something that perhaps no one is doing anywhere in the country — build a vertical campus, and have the newest part of the campus be completely different from the last building and give it its own personality and sense of purpose.

Ten years ago, Comcast was mostly a cable company. After the NBC Universal acquisition, you became a cable and content company. How do you see yourselves going forward? We’ve thought about that question a lot, and with the help of [chief communications officer] D’Arcy Rudnay, we have a real definition. We view ourselves uniquely at the crossroads of media and technology. We are helping to create news, entertainment, sports, broadband, connectivity for homes and businesses, new advertising platforms. There are other news and sports and media companies, and there are other cable companies, and there are people who only focus on phone and wireless. Our company has the opportunity to touch all of those spaces here and, hopefully in the future, around the world.

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