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The Center was begun in 2009, with major support from the William Penn Foundation, to support journalists and journalism in the Philadelphia region. Since then, CPIJ has organized a variety of programs and projects that have trained journalists and students, encouraged innovation and collaboration, and provided outlets for citizens – particularly those in undercovered communities – to interact with journalists.
One major endeavor of the Center was the creation in 2012 of AxisPhilly, a nonprofit, public-service news website focused on local civic issues. The site, which has featured investigative reporting, data analysis and commentary, was awarded the Online News Association’s Award for General Excellence for a small news site in 2013.
While the quality of the work on the site was lauded nationally, it did not achieve consistent local impact and fell short of serving as a collaborative hub for the emerging news ecosystem, both of which were goals at founding. At this time, the Director of CPIJ, Temple Department of Journalism Chair Andrew Mendelson, and the new Dean of Temple’s School of Media and Communication, David Boardman, have decided to focus the Center on other pursuits.
One new endeavor will be for CPIJ to serve as an incubator for new local-news initiatives. The first of those will be a strategic partnership with a Philadelphia-focused startup in development by former Digital First Media executive Jim Brady. Brady, who will also teach a course in entrepreneurial journalism in the school, intends to create a news service that will seek to cultivate audiences currently disengaged from traditional news products.
“AxisPhilly has been a worthy experiment and its staff has produced some remarkable work,” Boardman said. “But we and our funders are looking for new ways to have a positive impact on the local-news ecosystem in the region and to promote meaningful public-interest journalism. We’re excited about our incubation initiative, and in particular to create the opportunity for a visionary such as Jim Brady to work with our students and faculty.”
Brady recently left Digital First Media, which publishes more than 800 print and online products across the country. Previously, he was general manager of TBD, a local-news startup in the Washington, D.C., region, and before that was executive editor of washingtonpost.com.
Boardman said CPIJ will continue its many current programs and will develop new ones. The Center will take over from AxisPhilly the administration of OpenDataPhilly, a portal that enables citizens and journalists to easily access data of civic importance.
Among its current programs, the Center:
• Organizes training in modern, technology-driven reporting techniques and sustainability issues, for professionals and students.
• Convenes conversations between the press and various communities, particularly those underserved by media.
• Sponsors local journalists to attend national training conferences.
“We’re excited about raising the profile of CPIJ going forward,” said Center Director Mendelson. “We look forward to continuing to support area journalists and strengthening journalism in a region that clearly needs it.”