J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

Networking the News: Basic Timline

Posted by chanders on October 5, 2011

Quick update: this timeline is more of a timeline of “characters in the book” than it is a definitive history of every event in Philly journalism in the last 20yrs. That might help explain the somewhat idiosyncratic inclusion or exclusion of events. In the end, the book is part history but also part ethnography, which means it is as much about access to people as it is “history.”

Just finished a basic timeline I’ll be using as I wrap up my edits on Networking the News, my book on local news in Philadelphia in the digital age.  Please feel free to weigh in with corrections, additions, or general thoughts about things I got wrong / missed / got right.


News Events in Philadelphia

News Events Nationally


  • The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin closes, part of a wave of consolidation in the news industry. Philadelphia now has two daily newspapers owned by a single national chain, Knight-Ridder
  • The New York Times reports on threats to turn Philadelphia into a “one newspaper town” by closing the tabloid Philadelphia Daily News. Various iterations of this threat are repeated, under different circumstances, over the next fifteen years.
  • Phillylife.com – an entertainment only version of the Philadelphia newspapers—is launched. It is later renamed Philadelphiaonline.com.
  • The City Paper, a local alt-weekly, launches “City Paper City Net.” Modeled after Prodigy and AOL, the site supplies news, email, usenet, and BBS access


  • The website GrooveLingo is launched by a self-described “bored college student.” The website is designed to cover the Philadelphia music scene.
  • The New York Times goes online.
  • Philadelphiaonline.com launches “Blackhawk Down,” a massive experiment in collaborative, long-form, digital storytelling.


  • Philadelphiaonline.com is renamed Philly.com. It also begins using a content management system (CMS) for the first time, replacing its earlier flat file system.
  • In December, Karl Martino launches the “collaborative blog” Phillyfuture.com. Originally hosted at http://editthispage.com, the site invites Philadelphians to register as either editors or contributors.


  • Blogger is released by PyraLabs. The software is designed to make online self-publishing – later known as “blogging” easy and ubiquitous.
  • The first “Independent Media Center” opens its doors in Seattle. The IMC is founded to provide grassroots coverage of demonstrations against the World Trade Organization. It is one of the first digital media websites to emphasize participant-powered journalistic coverage of breaking news.
  • The Philadelphia Independent Media Center, a branch of the larger IMC network, opens in the summer to cover the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.


  • Knight-Ridder centralizes control of its local newspaper properties through Knight Ridder Digital, which launches with 33 websites. As part of this change, operations and website management are consolidated.
  • Knight-Ridder also begins to rethink the role of its online local media properties, attempting to brand them as local “portals” which contain not only news, but are gateways to an entire geographical region.
  • The dot-com “bubble” bursts.
  • Philly.com redesigns its website, with a look and a CMS that is now part of a Knight-Ridder standard.
  • The small, personal blog Metecat is founded by a web developer who has dabbled in programming. The site is entitrely personal and covers topics like the best lobster rolls and craft beer.
  • A technology staffer with the Philadelphia Daily News travels to San Jose to hear a lecture by Dan Gilmor. He returns to Philadelphia and advocates that the papers should embrace “blogging.” Later that year, the first Daily News blog, “Barks Bytes” launches.  It covers the Philadelphia Eagles, but is discontinued after the season ends.


  • Former full-time journalist and freelancer Amy Z. Quinn launches the blog “Tales of a Feminist Housewife.” In 2005 the blog is renamed “Citizen Mom” and becomes one of the more important blogs in Philadelphia.
  • Joey Sweeney, sometime music critic with local alternative weeklies The City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly launches Philebrity, a website designed to integrate an alt-weekly attitude with an interative digital presence.
  • A staffer with the Reading Eagles launches “Berks Phillies Fans,” a website chronicling the Philadelphia Phillies. The author originally sees it as a way to make group emails about the trails of the baseball team more public and permanent. The site is later renamed Beerleaguer.
  • The Philadelphia Daily News launches a special blog, “Campaign Extra,” which covers the 2004 Presidential Race. In 2005 the blog is renamed Attytood and is maintained by Will Bunch.
  • Karl Martino re-launches Philly Future, moving away from the idea of a “group blog” and towards a site which is powered by RSS feeds aggregating the best content of other local blogs.
  • Philly.com and the Philadelphia Daily News launch “The Next Mayor,” an attempt to combine public and networked journalism to report on the Mayors race online.


  • Knight-Ridder, owner of the Philadelphia newspapers, announces it is breaking up and selling its assets.


  • A variety of Philadelphia journalists gather for the first and only “NORGs” conference, to discuss building a networked news organization in the city.
  • The Pew Foundation discusses launching a website nicknamed “The Phly,” which would rely heavily on user-generated content and citizen journalism. The site is never launched.


  • The Philadelphia Inquirer begins to staff a “breaking news desk.”
  • The author begins his longest period of ethnographic fieldwork in Philadelphia.
  • Pew once again considers launching a journalism project in Philadelphia, under the informal moniker of “The Y-Factor.” The initiative would be  large-scale: a staff of nearly 60 reporters, editorial desks, 6 or 7 verticals, an embrace of “citizen journalism,” and an initial cost of between $4 and $5 million dollars. Once again the site is never launched.


  • Newspapers, in part due to pressures from the solidifying digital information environment and in part due to the onset of the Great Recession, suffer one of their worst financial years on record.


  • Philaelphia Media Holdings files for bankruptcy.
  • Three young journalism entrepreneurs, graduates of Temple University, found Technically Philly, designed to actively chronicle Philadelphia’s start-up scene.


  • The Philadelphia newspapers are auctioned off as a part of bankruptcy proceedings. Attempts by the current owners to retain control of the properties fails, and the papers are now controlled by a consortium of banks and hedge funds.
  • The local public radio station WHYY launches Newsworks, a local news website combining original digital reporting, aggregation, and content from the radio news team.
  • The William Penn Foundation commissions a report on the Philadelphia Media Ecosystem, and draws up plans to create a “network news” hub online.
  • The Philadelphia Daily News begins staffing a breaking news desk.
  • The new CEO of the Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the local newspapers, announces a number of new initiatives including launching a startup incubator at the newspapers and placing some paper content behind a partial paywall
  • The Philadelphia newspapers begin to sell digital subscriptions as part of an all-inclusive tablet.


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