Executive Editor Sabrina Vourvoulias Leaves Al Día


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from Al Día founder and CEO Hernán Guaracao.

Al Día News‘ Executive Editor, Sabrina Vourvoulias, has left the publication, she announced Sunday on Facebook.

“In personal news: I’ve just tendered my resignation at Al Día News,” she wrote. “I have loved working with many fine colleagues during my four years there and I walk away with some absolutely terrific memories. I’ll be freelance writing, editing and opining (in two languages, of course), and intend to do coffee in Philly often — so hit me up!”

Under Vourvoulias’ leadership, Al Día launched English language content, which quickly became a must-read for many of the city’s decision makers. Through smart commentary, she and the publication advanced the city’s conversation about race. Vourvoulias, who had been with the company since 2012, declined to comment on her resignation.  Read more »

Stu Bykofsky Demands Daily News Remove His Byline from Article

Photo by Victor Fiorillo

Photo | Victor Fiorillo

If you happened to pick up a copy of the Daily News on Monday at your local newsstand, one thing you wouldn’t have seen in it was a column from Stu Bykofsky. Oh, the longtime Daily News staffer did write a story, which wound up online and, apparently, in a home delivery edition, but it was omitted from the majority of the newspapers out there. So what gives? Read more »

What Acel Moore Meant to Journalism — in Philadelphia and Beyond

Acel Moore. Photo | NABJ Facebook

Acel Moore. Photo | NABJ Facebook

The Civil Rights Movement and the riots that swept through dozens of American cities in the 1960s also exposed a hole in mainstream newsrooms across the land.

The white reporters and editors who staffed those newsrooms had little knowledge of the people who fueled the movement or the communities that erupted in rage.

To make matters worse, many of those reporters and editors didn’t know how much they didn’t know, because there was no one in their universe to tell them.

The Philadelphia Inquirer was fortunate to hire someone early on who could. That person was Acel Moore, who spent his entire career at the paper and died this past Friday at age 75. Read more »

Billy Doe’s Lawyer Pushes Back on Newsweek Cover Story

Ralph Cipriano, left. Slade McLaughlin, right.

Ralph Cipriano, left. Slade McLaughlin, right.

Billy Doe’s lawyer is pushing back against a Newsweek cover story that questions his client’s veracity in several Philadelphia Catholic Church sex abuse cases.

“I would think Newsweek would do some modicum of investigation of its journalism to make sure it was fair and unbiased,” said Slade McLaughlin. He took particular aim at the story’s author, Ralph Cipriano, a longtime Philly journalist who has covered the case closely for years.

“Ralph has an agenda,” McLaughlin said. “Ralph has his points to make.”

Cipriano this week stood by his reporting. “There’s no reason to believe this kid,” he told Philly Mag. He said criticism of the story amounted to “shooting the messenger” — and avoiding tackling hard questions raised by his reporting.

“My agenda was to expose a suspect prosecution and a fraudulent ‘victim’ who gamed the system,” Cipriano said in response to McLaughlin’s quote. “And he couldn’t have done it without his legal enablers, beginning in the district attorney’s office and ending with Slade McLaughlin.

Newsweek deputy editor Bob Roe also defended the story in an email to Philly Mag, saying Cipriano ” has consistently demonstrated that his loyalty is to the truth, not the players. We stand by the story.” Read more »

Will Inky, WHYY Compete for Grant Money?

Is this town big enough for two large-scale, grant-funded reporting enterprises? We’re about to find out.

Tuesday’s announcement that the Philadelphia Media Network — owner of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — was converting to non-profit ownership in order to attract grant money raised eyebrows across town at public radio station WHYY, whose own non-profit reporting efforts are, of course, largely paid for by grants and donations.

We asked Tuesday if the philanthropic pie was big enough to support both news organizations. It seems that WHYY officials have the same question on their mind.

“There is real potential that we will have more competition for our own fundraising among the donor community,” WHYY CEO Bill Marazzo said in a Tuesday email to staff, adding: “I have no doubt that WHYY has the quality of staff and the depth of experience in news and information to fully meet the challenges ahead.” Read more »

Lenfest “Donates” Philly Newspapers to New Nonprofit Media Foundation

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News newspapers sit on display on a newsstand in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News newspapers sit on display on a newsstand in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Gerry Lenfest has created a nonprofit foundation to own Philadelphia Media Network — the company that owns the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com — and endowed the new institute with $20 million as it oversees the newspapers’ continued operation.

The move places the papers under the auspices of the Philadelphia Foundation, transforming the biggest news operation in America’s fifth-largest city into an unprecedented experiment in preserving large-scale newsgathering in the fast-changing — and fast-diminishing — newspaper industry.

The news was first reported Monday night at Philly.com. A formal announcement will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the National Constitution Center.

“I think it’s unprecedented for a big American newspaper to be turned into a nonprofit,” Rosental C. Alves, Director of Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, told Philly Mag late Monday night. Read more »

New Editor Named at Philly.com

Eric Ulken wide

Eric Ulken is the new editor of Philly.com, the website’s parent company announced today.

The announcement came one day after Mike Topel announced he is departing the position. Ulken had served at Topel’s side as Philly.com’s director of digital strategy since 2014. His old position will be consolidated with his new duties.

“Effective immediately, Eric Ulken will take on oversight of the editorial operations of Philly.com in addition to his existing product strategy and audience development responsibilities,” Stan Wischnowski, vice president of news operations for Philadelphia Media Network, said in a memo distributed today to the newsroom. “In this expanded role, Eric will be a more active presence in the newsroom, helping to guide our digital transformation and build our capacity to deliver the most relevant and useful journalism to the right audiences in the right formats at the right time.”

Ulken previously served in digital posts at the Seattle Times and L.A. Times.

“Philly.com has great traffic, and a great audience in the sense that it’s a desirable audience for advertisers,” he told Philly Mag in 2014. “It’s an audience that we think has a lot of potential to grow and to engage.  I think of Philly.com as having a lot of potential as a premium product, both for users and advertisers. A place where we can run the big Sunday stories and we can also cover breaking news in an effective and compelling way.”

Read Wischnowski’s full memorandum below:

From Stan Wischnowski, Vice President of News Operations for PMN:

As you may have heard, Mike Topel will be leaving PMN for a new editing opportunity at NBC in New York. His last day will be Jan. 15. Mike, an Inquirer veteran who held many editing roles here before working a short time at Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome, brought new energy and instilled a collaborative spirit to Philly.com and the other newsrooms during his time as the website’s executive editor. I’m grateful for his contributions and wish him the best.

Effective immediately, Eric Ulken will take on oversight of the editorial operations of Philly.com in addition to his existing product strategy and audience development responsibilities. In this expanded role, Eric will be a more active presence in the newsroom, helping to guide our digital transformation and build our capacity to deliver the most relevant and useful journalism to the right audiences in the right formats at the right time. He brings to this effort years of experience in change management initiatives in other newsrooms.

Eric came to Philly from The Seattle Times, where he was the director of product management for seattletimes.com, overseeing the business performance of The Times’ flagship digital product, including revenue from advertising and subscriptions. Before that he served as the paper’s assistant managing editor for digital, directing the producer team and coordinating the newsroom’s overall digital strategy.

Eric was previously the editor for interactive technology at the Los Angeles Times, where he led the creation of the Data Desk, a cross-functional team of developers, designers, and reporters responsible for producing data-driven journalism projects. He also served as the managing editor for news at latimes.com

Under Eric’s direction, Philly.com successfully unveiled a mobile site relaunch last month and will launch a full redesign by the end of March. He is one of the team leaders of the Temple-Knight digital transformation project involving PMN, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Miami Herald and The Dallas Morning News.

Some details of the transition remain to be worked out. The critical real-time desk initiative that Mike has been overseeing proceeds apace under the direction of Gabe Escobar and Frank Kummer, and we will have more to share about that very soon.

Philly.com Editor Departs for NY Job

mike topel

Mike Topel, the executive editor of Philly.com, is departing that position for a job in New York.

A spokesperson for Philadelphia Media Network confirmed today that Topel will start his new job on Jan. 18. Details of the new venture are still under wraps.

“While we hate to lose him because of his significant impact here at PMN, we wish him the very best in his next chapter,” PMN’s Amy Buckman said in a statement emailed to Philly Mag. Read more »

2015: The Year in Philly Media

2015 in Philly Media

In a way, covering the big stories is easy.

When there’s a big story to be covered, it’s easy to forget we’re in an era of profound, sometimes painful evolution in the Philadelphia media scene. Maybe the city’s major newspapers had to cut nearly 50 journalists during the holidays, but the big story demands that editors at legacy media outlets forget about diminishing resources for a second and throw everything they have it — and that editors at startup outlets, well, forget their still-insufficient resources and try to report bigger and better than their staffs would suggest.

One look at 2015 would tell you that three or four really big stories happened in Philadelphia this year — the Amtrak crash, the visit of Pope Francis, the race to succeed Mayor Nutter, and the conglomeration of scandals, miseries and indignities that we’ll just go ahead and lump together under the “Porngate” brand — and sure enough, there was an astonishing amount of good journalism from a range of sources about each of these stories.

But there was good journalism being done in the quieter moments too. And not always from expected sources. Those stories and sources deserve recognition, too. Read more »

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