HOOTS! Layoffs, basketball, drugs and corruption

art1• The PMA downsizes.

• A young boy with weak bones excels at basketball.

• A place for recovering drug addicts to go.

• Corrupt judges get their due.

Museum of Art cutting its staff

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has announced that, because of a “$90 million-plus downturn in its endowment and waning city financial support,” it must cut its staff, delay exhibits, cancel programs, and trim salaries. The museum is also entertaining the idea of raising admission prices. It will eliminate 30 positions, 16 of which are currently filled, and cutting salaries by five to 10 percent. Interim CEO Gail M. Harrity said that the museum is “committed to a balanced budget,” and that these steps are necessary.

The museum, already in debt from the acquisition of a share of Thomas Eakins’ The Gross Clinic and other works, also acknowledges that corporate donations will be down due to the nation’s recession. An immediate effect of the museum’s decision is the delayed exhibition of “The Crown of Aragon: The Art of Barcelona, Mallorca, Valencia and Zaragoza.” It was to open next February, but now isn’t expected to open until 2011.

This Philadelphia Inquirer article, by Peter Dobrin, is another story discussing the fallout from the nation’s and city’s economic situation. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, like virtually all other organizations and businesses in the city, has to make tough decisions about how they will survive this recession.

Dobrin notes that the cuts in staff are across the departments and areas, but also prompted the museum to draft a statement offering those laid off severance pay and placement services. This, indirectly, puts the plan of the museum into a larger context. Those who were laid off join the ranks of other Americans who have found themselves unemployed. Tying the article to this larger situation helps readers to have a complete picture about what is happening at the museum and across the country.

-Rachel Ross

Photo from www.tonelive.tv/museum.htm.

The Wheel Thing

Okay, here’s the deal. I was surfing local news Web sites for something to either praise or nitpick when I stumbled upon our esteemed professor George Miller’s story on Philly Weekly about Andrew Reid.

Initially I did not want to highlight my professor’s story due to the obvious brown-nosing implications, but then I watched the short video that accompanied his article.

At that point I needed to give props where props are due regardless of appearances. (It should also be noted TUJ Review is not a required course and I will graduate with or without a decent grade.)

That being said, this video is exactly the kind of journalism that deserves praise. A one to three minute package, easily shot and edited, when done well adds a great dimension to online news.

wheel_thingVideo reporting can and should be a crucial component to the future of news on the Web. The fast-growing popularity of sites such as YouTube reflects the desire of users to watch video. Journalists must find a way to effectively incorporate more of it into their work . With print jobs on decline, their careers may depend on it.

HOOT! (I’ll take that A grade now…)

-Brian Donathan

Kicked the Habit

In this week’s Philadelphia Weekly Christopher Wink explores addiction-recovery houses in Frankford. The article takes a look at several sides of the controversy surrounding these homes, specifically in this neighborhood and Wink successfully explains both problems and benefits to these houses.

Wink effectively uses quotes from a recovered addict, a city councilwoman and the Civic Association’s acting secretary. In the third paragraph Wink uses colorful language to describe how Jeffrey Jackson felt as he kicked his drug habit: “…he’s starving and sweating and can’t somebody stop that rain from coming in?” This is an affecting and appropriate use of bad grammar. The fourth graf is a direct quote from Jackson, recounting his interaction with the director of the house-which was less than stellar.

Wink also uses very strong verbs throughout the story, including “squawking” and “struggling.”

One suggestion: quotations from someone involved in the “bad houses” would add depth and strength to the article. Perhaps he tried, but no mention is made of it in the story.

-Victoria M. Indivero

Digging Beyond the PA Kickback Judges

Cheers to Dave Lindorff, not only for injecting a proper dose of venom into his article about the Pennsylvania kickback judges, but also for using this story as a launching point into a broader investigation of for-profit detention centers.

I am not one to advocate the abandonment of objectivity as a guiding principle in journalism. But I do recognize that in certain instances and within particular venues, opinion and partisanship have their place. The case of two Pennsylvania judges getting paid by corrections corporations to throw kids into jail for minor infractions is just one of these instances. And the Philadelphia Independent Media Center is the perfect venue for it.

These disgraced public servants, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, deserve no quarter in accounts of their crimes. They pled guilty to crimes of avarice against those most unprepared to defend themselves: economically disadvantaged children. These two men obviously had the legal acumen and resources to defend themselves if there was any question as to their responsibility in the matter.

Dave Lindorff, in the Philly IMC article “Judges Nabbed, Jailing Kids for Kickbacks,” recognizes this reality and removes the kid gloves of objectivity. He even goes as far as to muse about locking up these rapacious child-abusers in one of their favored juvenile centers for a little payback. Poetic justice indeed.

Lindorff, however, is not satisfied with merely expressing his strong opinions on this breach of the public trust. The article ends with an appeal for information about other suspicious sentencing practices or cozy connections between judges and for-profit corrections groups. In a world of episodic, surface-level journalism, independent media practitioners like Dave Lindorff force the issue on providing much-needed context and inspire others to investigate further.

-Lance Duroni

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