Category Archives: hoot

Hoot! Tackling Complexities and Pointing Out Problems.

Daniel Denvir’s City Paper article “Living on the Edge” navigates complex social issues to deliver a convincing verdict on a shortsighted policy decision. Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year would eliminate General Assistance (GA) payments. These nine-month, one-time welfare payments help to maintain Philadelphia’s system of recovery houses.

These establishments offer low-rent housing and medical assistance to recovering addicts, a significant number of whom rely on their GA payments to afford these services. There are a host of problems with many of the recovery houses, including exploitation of the recovering addicts for cheap labor, but as a whole they provide a valuable service in keeping addicts off the street and on the path to recovery.

The article argues that if GA was ended, Philadelphia would see an increase in crime.

Denvir has a difficult task ahead of him with this argument due to the complexities surrounding both drug use and welfare. The failure of many of the recovery houses to meet basic standards of accountability and effectiveness also complicates the argument. The article quotes activist organizations, government bureaucrats, recovery house owners and addicts themselves in order to paint a picture of an imperfect but necessary system.

Denvir’s most compelling argument from an economic perspective is that many of these GA recipients will wind up in jail if they can no longer pay the costs of recovery houses. And that will ultimately cost the state more than the GA program would.

Text by Brendan Clay. Image via City Paper.


Hoot & Howl: The Reporter As Critic (And Vice-Versa).

In its very essence, the recent Philadelphia Inquirer article “Art poised for eager crowds” is a hard news/ general arts piece, announcing the May 19 opening of the new Barnes Foundation on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

In the way typical of hard news reporting, the article delves into various concrete facts about the museum. For example, when it mentions the operating budget for the museum, the article notes how 20 percent of that budget will come from endowment money. The article also notes the number of visitors the museum expects to have in the first few years. It notes the number of membership subscriptions the museum has been able to take in so far. The article even goes so far as to state how much those memberships and entrance tickets cost.

Striking, then, is the way this hard news reporting is actually embedded in a larger story that is more art criticism than general arts reporting. The larger story is about the Barnes and more specifically about the significance of the Barnes collection itself. As such, this article by Stephan Salisbury represents a hybrid of general arts news reporting and art criticism.

Continue reading

Hoot! Six Sources Prove on a Trend Story (Plus Historical Context and Future Predictions).

Kudos go to Philadelphia City Paper’s John Vettese for his inquisitive and well-sourced article from Feb. 23 on the growing number of rock clubs in Center City and why that influx is occurring in 2012.

Vettese’s article makes an astute observation: besides The Trocadero, there weren’t many rock venues in or around Center City. That, according to Vettese and his sources, has resulted in fragmented audiences: “You can play a show in South Philly, and you’ll only see that crowd in South Philly,” says Goldilocks Gallery’s Matthew McDermott.

Continue reading

Hoot! Objective Journalism Still Exists!

This story from the Philadelphia Inquirer talks about the latest decision of Philadelphia School District to turn four schools into chartered schools.

This article opens up with a typical lead that contains the what, why and how elements. The reporter provides the detail about how the city school district plans to turn these schools over to chartered organizations. On the other hand, the reporter is able to provide the voice on the other side that represents the Philadelphia Teachers Union. By balancing the story with voice from two sides, the reporter shows the typical trait of objectivity of journalism.

After presenting voices from both sides, the reporter then starts to provide some background information to provide the story more depth. It also allows readers to link back to what has happened in the past and offers a clearer understanding of what’s the whole operation going to be about.

Besides background information, the reporter also provides the future direction of the whole event. The Philadelphia School District’s decision on other schools is of the top interest of parents and other school teachers. This strategy can effectively lead the story to other possible follow up stories in the future. Then the reporter enlarges the range of discussion to the overall examination of school performance and how that might affect their destiny in the future.

One little part that the article can try to improve is the part when the reporter lists out the general information of the schools. For an article that actually has other more valuable things to focus on, the reporter actually can omit this part, especially since the readers of the Inquirer are based in the Philadelphia area. Putting all that information in one paragraph will be a little bit too dull. In order to not disinterest the readers, the reporter can actually assume that people know where those schools are and use that portion for a better purpose.

– Text by Hao Wei Yang.

Hoot! The New York Times Scoops the Philly Papers on Their Own Story.

This New York Times article is about the potential shift of the ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and

The authors started the story with the alleged meeting chief executive and publisher Gregory J. Osberg had with the three senior editors of the news organizations. Although Osberg denied it, the industry fears that the shift might interfere with the news independence of the Philadelphia papers.

Former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell is leading a group of the area’s most powerful Democrats who might likely to have new control over the newspapers. The authors said many potential bidders have been purposefully discarded when the Inquirer decided not to run their stories. And the Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of The Inquirer, has rejected their offers. Continue reading

Hoot! Bloomberg Staff Teaches Me How to Write for Business. Howl: Bloomberg Teaches Me How to Ignore the Skinning of the Earth.

Depending on what streams on your Twitter, you may have heard about the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

In a January 19th web article posted in The San Francisco Chronicle but written by Bloomberg, a pro- Keystone appeal is made.  The Obama administration has denied the construction of the pipeline and to assuage the readers, the article’s lead and title asserts that Keystone will forge ahead.  Even investor appetite is whetted when management gurus say that Keystone is the “biggest infrastructure project on the continent.” (Really, this quote is gravy!) Continue reading

Hoot! The Review That Inspires (As Well as Answers Questions).

I read about the “Zoe Strauss: Ten Years” photo exhibit and I want to see it in person.

However, I want to get a better idea about the photographer and the exhibit beforehand so I read a Philly Weekly article posted on Jan.18: “’Zoe Strauss: Ten Years’ Is a Poignant and Sometimes Chilling Look at Our City.”

What makes this article great is that it approaches the subject in a non-cliché way. It is not a typical neutral critique with narrative facts and art-promoting tone. The beginning of the piece makes good use of Strauss’s close relationship to her South Philly roots to relate to her photo exhibit. Given a few examples of Strauss’ work, readers get a better understanding of what this exhibit is all about – the humanity of the daily life in the city of Philadelphia.

The writer carefully reveals the experience of Strauss as a photographer through a few outstanding photos. After the knowledge of Strauss’ past and her experience as a photographer, readers might ask, “So, what makes her stand out and why would we want to see the exhibit in person?”

This is when the writer really gets down to grab readers’ attention by pointing out the uniqueness of this exhibit.

“This firm separation between mute people and vociferous language in Strauss’ photography can grate against assertions that she gives a voice to both the joy and desperation of America’s hardest-hit citizens,” the writer delivers. “When faced with Strauss’ portraits of people, you might ask, ‘What would they say?’”

The brilliance of this piece is that it makes you want to go and see the exhibit and find out what you are curious about.

– Text by Ning Shao. Image by Zoe Strauss, via Philly Weekly.