HOOTS! Four Stories Where The Philly Media Went Deep.

This Daily News article profiles Lorraine Carter, a grieving mother struggling to raise children in her Grays Ferry neighborhood. The woman’s son, Tyree Parks, was killed in a drive-by shooting the week before print. Instead of simply leading the story with the murder itself, the headline and following summary suggests a discussion about how the victim’s family plans to deal with their environment after experiencing such a devastating tragedy.

The writers should be commended for probing into why these senseless murders occur.

They write about how the streets are at war and generational territorialism. Despite not receiving an extremely insightful explanation from Lt. Joe Dougherty, they included it anyway: “We can speculate on this and that,” Dougherty said, “but most of the time, God only knows what prompts them to actually start shooting at each other. We don’t get that much cooperation.”

Including this quote shows the writers dedication to furthering discussion of this issue in the community. I’ve seen very few stories that try to draw broad social conclusions based on an individual’s death.

If these few paragraphs of discussion were removed, the story would look like a typical sensationalistic murder story. However, I can really appreciate their attempt at explaining this monster of an issue. Philadelphia has seen more than it’s fair share of murders that most of us cannot explain. But every time we ask why, we get that much closer to understanding what happens in our most violent communities.

– Brendan McNamara

• In this three-minute report, Harry Hairston does an excellent job of investigating the raccoon infestation affecting several areas in Philadelphia. I have seen a number of recent stories on “raccoon attacks” on various local news channels, but none of these stories deal with the bigger issue of how these attacks impact residents or how the city is dealing with the infestation.  Hairston’s story is the most thorough one I’ve seen.

Hairston makes the story personal to viewers by focusing first on city resident Paul Bucher, whose dog Emo was attacked so severely by a raccoon that he had to be put to sleep.  Hairston then broadens the impact of the infestation by explaining that it is affecting several Philadelphia neighborhoods and that NBC has received “dozens of complaints.”  He interviews a north Philadelphia resident that complained about the raccoons to city officials on several occasions.  Hairston also interviews a Gaming Commission officer who explains why the raccoon population is becoming problematic.

According Hairston’s report, the city told residents to contact the SPCA to deal with the raccoons, but the PSPCA has been non-responsive. Hairston contacted the PSPCA, which has a contract with the city, for an interview.  The PSPCA claimed it was “too busy” to speak on camera.  The PSPCA gave Hairston the number to several private companies and advised residents to contact those companies to deal with the raccoon problem.  Hairston contacts the companies and discovers that it could cost residents anywhere from $200 to $400.  Hairston then interviews an official from Delaware County who points out that his township, which charges only a fraction of the wage taxes paid by Philadelphia residents, handles all raccoon infestations. Overall- great story.  One point of criticism- there is no discussion of what residents can do now to combat the infestation problem.

– Cherri Gregg

• A HOOT! for Holly Otterbein for her cover story in this week’s City Paper. Otterbein put together an engaging and well-researched story about Petty’s Island, a small stretch of land in the Delaware River between Philadelphia and New Jersey. There’s a lot going on in this story. It quickly covers more than three centuries of the island’s history, while focusing on a contemporary artist who has taken an interest in the island.

Otterbein’s story draws attention to an underappreciated bit of Philadelphia geography with a colorful history. New York artist Duke Riley’s obsession with the island—and his use of it in an upcoming Philadelphia art festival—gives Otterbein a jumping point from which she weaves the various threads of the Petty’s Island story. Like much of the City Paper’s output, this story is hyperbolic at times—“…Petty’s Island is an epic microcosm of America”—but the characters and the subject matter are so off-beat and intriguing that it doesn’t really matter.

Otterbein points attention to a little-known Philadelphia landmark while hinting at the richness of our region’s history and the cultural wealth of the city today. The article is equal parts adventure story, history lesson, and promotion of the arts in Philadelphia. This is exactly what the alternative weeklies should be doing. Too often, articles in the City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly can be absurdly critical, borderline rants. Otterbein’s article exemplifies the better nature of these types of publications. It is a thoughtful, interesting and entertaining story that would never find its way into the mainstream press.

– Jared Brey

• My Hoot for this week is a Philadelphia Inquirer story concerning something that very rarely gets discussed here in Philadelphia: term limits for Philadelphia’s City Council.

City Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. has proposed legislation that would limit terms for City Council members. Under the legislation, council members would be restricted to three four year terms, or 12 years of service in totality. Goode says that the bill would give more people a chance to serve by limiting incumbency. In order for it to become law, a City Charter change would be necessary.

Most council members are against the bill, some have expressed a willingness to hear Councilman Goode out, and others could not be reached for comment.

That I got this much information in the top half of this story is just one of the things that I liked about it. It was very thoroughly reported and gave views from all sides. The story also put Philadelphia and it’s lack of term limits in context by telling readers that the city is one of only two cities in the country, the other one being Chicago, that don’t have term limits.

It was a story that gave people who were not able to attend the meeting enough information to form an opinion about City Council term limits.

– Denis Clay

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