A free monthly newspaper for community and democracy seeks local hearts, minds, and spirits.
WANTED: Neighborhood cheerleaders, whistle blowers. jesters, artists, talents, influencers, educators, nurturers, advocates, adventurers, and hosts.
FOR: Free independent press for neighbors, by neighbors.
Make no mistake: there’s a pronounced but indescribable difference between reading something online and seeing it in print. A newspaper is analog: real life in your hands. Where digital media provides a constant firehose of information, the permanence of print allows for reflection and contemplation. Online you can make uncomfortable data disappear with a swipe but in print, you gotta face it on the page in black and white.
Another handy thing about print: it leaves a paper trail. Literally! We can’t make our community leaders sign contracts whenever they make promises, but we can write up their words for everyone to see, and hold them accountable. A local newspaper can call issues out, propose solutions, and illuminate possible conflicts of interest — and even hypocrisies.
Local newspapers can also bring us closer as neighbors! By sharing stories and photos, we celebrate our unique history and culture. We can document the characters and enterprises that make our communities so special, and send out a “bat signal” for other like-minded people to seek a home here. A free local paper is an incredible tool to inform, unite, and promote a neighborhood across all demographics.
In the 4 years we’ve been publishing The Local (aka “East Falls Local”), neighbors have fought for and won safety improvements for Henry Avenue as well as a new playground, a brewery, and a beer garden. A new Registered Community Organization formed (and now has easily triple the membership of EF’s original RCO, Community Council). And a decades-old stalemate between Jefferson/Philadelphia University and a handful of near neighbors with absurd demands finally ended, thanks to a community who read up — then spoke up — for sensible negotiation.
TRUE STORY: The old guard here is so freaked out by locals speaking up, this May they began spending Council funds on their own publication — promoting themselves as “East Falls’ REAL newspaper.” Guess who’s helping them? Chestnut Hill Local, another paper that’s owned by a Community Civic organization. Which is totally not our style.
Seems like a fine model, no one’s suggesting it’s not important to hear what community organizations have to say. But there’s an inauthenticity, we think, to anyone claiming to speak for a whole neighborhood. Our goal has always been to document living here thru our own eyes, and invite others to do the same. We don’t compete with traditional-style news, we complement it with personal perspectives. (Including art, humor, design, and whatever else our contributors offer that’s relevant to our readers.)
A local newspaper also provides a perfect opportunity to practice disagreeing respectfully and intelligently. Instead of one “objective” article, we’ll print two pieces: one from each point of view. And we’ll add feedback from Facebook, Nextdoor, Twitter, and our website, where every post includes source links and a comments field. Readers are encouraged to decide for themselves where they stand on local issues.
EXPRESS YOURSELF! No worries if you’re not a writer; as your editors, we’ve got your back. Editorials/soap boxing/elevator speeches/etc most welcome — supported by facts, of course.
No need to be political or to submit full articles, even. Short human-interest items are great too — a photo and a blurb can tell a great story: a giant squash from your garden, a great meal at a local establishment, a cool event you think your friends would like. Anything you might share on social media, could be fun to see printed in a monthly round-up.
With over 5000 followers and consistent dot-com traffic, we can promote your business, your blog, your social media platforms. We’ll share practically anything online, but with print obviously we are limited on space. A great way to get your content printed — and perhaps make some money, too — is to find a sponsor for your page (basically we split the revenue, editorial guidelines apply, email us for info or come to the next meeting for details).
Germantown and East Falls both share a rich legacy in NW Philly. Not long ago, Fallsers would dress up to go shopping in Chelten Ave’s department stores, and our river front has been a favorite local fishing spot forever. East Falls residents are a natural market for Germantown’s music, dining, culture, history, and shopping. Events and nightlife, too.
As next door neighbors, we’re also concerned with each other’s politics, traffic, and development. Maybe we can learn from each other’s challenges, too? We’re all just people here, doing our best. Let’s share info and resources across traditional borders, and see what happens.
INTRODUCING… The Local for Germantown (kind of)
The Local is a 24-page free monthly newspaper for NW Philly that focuses on the East Falls neighborhood because that’s where we live. We’re inviting Germantown contributors to add 8 – 12 pages of your own original content every month, to make a vibrant, colorful print/social media hybrid for both neighborhoods. An idea so crazy It. Just. Might. Work.
FALLSERS & G’TOWNERS: Register now for our first free Content Creation workshop, where we’ll review submissions guidelines and answer all your questions about our model and editorial process. Email email@example.com or sign up thru Meetup.com/NW-Philly-Local-Network.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q: How do we distribute the paper?
A: We drop stacks at local businesses/libraries/offices to hopefully bring neighbors out of their houses and into the community. Also, we encourage block captains to deliver the newspaper face-to-face as an opportunity to check in with neighbors & say hello. (Email us if you’d like to be a drop location for distribution, or to sign up for free home delivery.)
NOTE: We do not paper entire blocks indiscriminately, which seems wasteful to us. Also, our content might be free, but it’s not a pizza menu. Our contributors rock, it’s worth a little effort to help ensure no Local is just tossed aside unread, like junk mail.
Q: What’s the environmental impact of a newspaper?
A: Statistics vary but, for what it’s worth, every month when we drop off new papers, we pick up any leftovers of the previous edition and take to recycling.
Q: What kind of content is appropriate for the paper?
A: News, events, reviews, tips, announcements, meeting recaps, essays, blogs, photos, poetry, fiction, memoirs, expert advice, new businesses – email us to get on the list for the Content Creation that will outline specs.
Q: Is the paper a non-profit or a for-profit business?
A: We’ve got non-profit status thru CultureWorks of Greater Philadelphia, where we are a project under their humanities wing.
Q: What about journalistic integrity?
A: We believe modern “objective” journalism is a myth, that no source is 100% trustworthy and it’s up to readers to use their own judgement evaluating what they read. When writers are up-front about their own opinions and self-interests, audiences have an easier time making sense of the information they’re ingesting. Online, posts contain source links and a “comments” field where guests can chime in.
With a country so politically volatile and divided, we think it’s important to foster educated, productive, respectful debate in our communities.
Q: Who is in charge of what gets printed?
A: Starting out, we’ll handle the editing on a one-on-one basis with each contributor. In our 4+ years of publishing, we’ve got a good feel for what can most effectively and helpfully engage our audience. We’ll hold regular workshops & “advisory board” meetings open to all contributors for brainstorming and feedback as we grow to serve a wider demographic in Germantown.
Q: When can Germantown’s section spin off to create its own newspaper?
A: We feel we need to trust in the organic process, and give this new hybrid of two neighborhoods a chance to evolve with new readers and contributors. Perhaps Germantown will spin off, or maybe we’ll marry into an interesting blend, and want to stay together. We could turn into a thicker paper for NW Philly or even a magazine.
Q: What could go wrong?
A: Everything or nothing, but most likely somewhere in between. Let’s try our best in good faith to understand and learn from each other. And not take ourselves too seriously.
Big thanks to Marcus Heppinstall for coordinating our first Germantown/Local meeting, and for everyone who came out (and have already contributed content!).
SAY NO TO APATHY & CYNICISM! Three neighborhood groups provide authentic, informative conversations that may inspire you to engage:
Workshops forming now! Citizen journalists, sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org for dates and details.