Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back in Delaware, again...

this time, working for one of the other big credit card banks located in downtown Wilmington. The usual concerns about security aside, the difference in workplace atmosphere between this bank and the one where I worked at the beginning of this year is like night and day.

There's also some change in the appearance of Wilmington in the intervening months. The Christina riverfront now sports rows of townhouses on its south bank, with a high-rise apartment tower nearing completion right next to them. Construction cranes loom over the heart of downtown as ads in the train station tout the first speculative office building to be built in the city since the 1970s.

A co-worker described all this activity as an attempt to emulate Philadelphia . And right now, downtown Philadelphia is a place worth emulating. New residents continue to flock to the city center, and new apartments, condos and townhouses continue to rise to meet them. Even the most negative Philadelphians cannot help but comment on the city's new energy and liveliness. Dowdy old Philadelphia has suddenly become hip and happening, and it feels good.

It is this last quality that Wilmington is still unable to emulate, and it looks highly unlikely that it ever will. Delaware may be a great place to work and a pleasant place to live, but its first city still has a ways to go before it matches its bigger sister up the road.

They're Not Asking The Right People

This past Sunday (Dec. 25), Philadelphia Inquirer editor Amanda Bennett penned a column in the paper's "Currents" section that purported to offer a little good news about the Greater Philadelphia region's leading daily newspaper.

The Inquirer, Bennett told us in her essay, recently surveyed its readers and found that they like what they see in the paper more than they did three years ago. Moreover, 80 percent said they would recommend the paper to a newcomer as a way to keep up with what's going on in Philly and environs. On top of that, another survey conducted by Inquirer parent Knight-Ridder shows that most readers consider the Inky more informative and well-written and trust the journalists who produce it.

That's all very nice. What Bennett forgot to mention in her article is that with each passing year, there are fewer of these readers to survey. The Inquirer's circulation continues on its five-year downward trend, a trend shared by many other large dailies. These former readers, it appears, no longer find the paper speaks to them.

If the newspaper industry were serious about halting its long, slow demise, the publishers and eeditors should be surveying their former readers to find out what has led them to stop reading. Why do increasing numbers of people find daily newspapers no longer relevant to their lives? Where do they turn for news and information now? What, if anything, should--can--journalists do to regain these ex-readers' attention and affection?

I wish I had an answer myself. But I think it has something to do with telling compelling stories in a concise manner--the effort that should be at the heart of journalism anyway.