Any print devotee who hoped against hope the new ownership of Interstate General Media might let Philly.com whither and die — or at least fade into the background — had better rethink their goals. New owner Gerry Lenfest today appointed an interim executive editor to the website: Mike Topel.
While the title carries an “interim” label, Topel’s experience suggests he’s not here to wind down the website, but instead continue its growth as a news operation. For one thing, he’s an Inquirer veteran, somebody who spent a decade at the paper and rose to be editor of its New Jersey bureau, as well as the deputy national/foreign editor, ending up as senior editor for digital content at Philly.com before leaving for New Jersey.
He returns from Digital First Media — the nation’s second-largest newspaper chain — where he served as news channels editor and supervised some content for the company’s Project Thunderdome, which created non-local content for all the chain’s newspaper websites. He previously worked for AP in Denver and Boston.
Lenfest, in a statement, said Topel’s appointment reflects his mission to contribute “the finest journalism to our region.”
“We are not only selecting an award-winning journalist to oversee that mission from a digital perspective, but we are also taking a first step in establishing both a united digital strategy and stellar digital leadership team for our company,” Lenfest said.
Topel’s appointment may also reflect the sudden ascendance of Jim Brady on the Philly journalism scene. Brady was the editor-in-chief of Digital First Media and the Thunderdome project until April. Temple University announced earlier this month that Brady (former editor of WashingtonPost.com and TBD.com) would arrive to teach a course in entrepreneurial journalism at the school — the university will also serve as an incubator will be a local news startup, Brother.ly, backed and overseen by Brady.