I don't know if I've ever seen so much handwringing among my brethren in the mainstream media. People aren't reading. Newspaper circulation is crumbling. Bloggers will rule—the Internet, in fact, will make us all obsolete. On and on it goes. Yet this magazine—like many other city magazines—continues to flourish. We're among the nation's strongest in terms of newsstand sales and ad revenue. What gives?
I think we can overthink things. What gives here is what's always given here: Smart people love stories. And, largely through a recurring cast of compelling characters, we tell the story of Philadelphia. The same holds true elsewhere. Pick up New York magazine, for instance, where, through the ongoing dramas of Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and George Steinbrenner, among others, the story of that city has played out for a generation. They're not only compelling characters in and of themselves; through their exploits, something about New York itself has been revealed.
This issue is a great example of how our own recurring characters reflect this city's zeitgeist. There's former celebrity chef Alison Barshak—a glamorous cover girl for this magazine a decade ago—now newly reeducated about the wisdom of customer service and a metaphor for how, after all the glitz and publicity, it really should be about the food. There's radio man John DeBella, a familiar face in these pages for 20-odd years and now the ultimate survivor, newly relevant in light of the departure of his onetime conqueror, Howard Stern, from the free airwaves. There's Ralph Roberts, our area's most dynamic and down-home really, really, really rich guy, still dining for $9.25 at Little Pete's even as he builds a cable company currently taking over humankind. There are Chaka Fattah and Jerry Mondesire, through whom, over the past quarter-century, we've seen the narrative of racial politics in this city unfold; now their feud enters a new chapter, with the next race for mayor hanging in the balance. And, as always, we try to identify those who will represent the story of Philadelphia's future, such as young real estate developer Gagan Lakhmna, who's making his mark building luxury housing in Center City and Northern Liberties. No doubt we'll hear more from him and other co-stars in the longest-running drama we have—call it the Real Philadelphia Story—right here, in these pages.
The coolest thing about this gig is being in on the secrets of our town and then getting to shout them out. That's what food reviewer Maria Gallagher does in our cover package, “50 Restaurants We Love (And Why We Love Them)” (page 72). It's the inside scoop from Maria's little black book, chock-full of her tips on how best to navigate our dynamic dining scene.
Finally, this issue marks the debut of our new upfront lifestyle section, The Good Life, edited by Jessica Blatt, who comes to us after stints at Food & Wine and CosmoGIRL! magazines. “I want this section to be Philadelphians' guide to everything from fashion, beauty, fitness and home to tech, toys, cars, travel and shopping,” says Blatt. “The section should have the same level of irreverence, service, analysis and local-ness as every other page in the magazine.”
For some reason, despite all our technological advances (remember the big lie about how gadgets like my BlackBerry were supposed to simplify our lives?), we live in increasingly complicated times. It's harder than ever to get the most out of this region as a consumer—too many choices, not enough time. Jess Blatt is here to help you manage all that, as she's already done for me personally. She taught me how to fold a pocket square, and now I look vastly more mature than I actually am. In The Good Life, she'll help you aspire to a certain style, too. Enjoy.