Temple pulls plug on AxisPhilly news site

Posted: June 08, 2014

Temple University is shutting down AxisPhilly, the nonprofit public-service news website that investigates and reports on civic issues in the city, the university announced Friday.

The website, administered by the Center for Public Interest Journalism at Temple, was started in 2012 with a grant of about $2.4 million from the William Penn Foundation, which has indicated it would not renew funding, said David Boardman, dean of Temple's School of Media and Communication.

"We needed to do something," said Boardman, who added that the site was nearly out of money. "The burn rate was such that this was going to come to an end one way or another unless we could find new funding. It was our judgment that finding funding for this . . . was not where we wanted to put our energy."

AxisPhilly, which offers data analysis, commentary, and investigative reporting, employs four full-time staffers and a temporary editor, all of whom will lose their jobs at the end of next week, he said.

AxisPhilly won a national online journalism award last year for general excellence among small news sites and broke major stories, including the controversy over J. Whyatt Mondesire's financial management of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.

Its reporters also assisted the Philadelphia Daily News in its recent series on poverty. On Friday morning, two news stories on the Philly.com website were based on reporting by AxisPhilly.

But Boardman said the site ultimately drew too few readers and was having too little local impact. He said the university wanted to look for new projects that would support other journalism endeavors in the city rather than run a news website that was just one of many competing outlets, he said.

"When I came here, it struck me that what's needed most in this region is entities that help fuel the emerging ecosystem and connect entities to broker the strengths that each of them bring," said Boardman, former executive editor and senior vice president of the Seattle Times, who started at Temple on Sept. 1.

As part of its new focus, Temple will work with a Philadelphia start-up run by Jim Brady, a former executive at Digital First Media, that publishes more than 800 print and online products around the country. Brady also will teach a course in entrepreneurial journalism at Temple.

Brady's start-up will aim to "hit younger audiences that may not be using traditional journalism resources," said Andrew Mendelson, director of Temple's public interest journalism center and chair of the journalism department.





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