PlanPhilly leaving Penn to join WHYY’s growing news operation

 (Electronic image via PlanPhilly)

(Electronic image via PlanPhilly)

Since WHYY launched NewsWorks.org in late 2010, PlanPhilly has been a trusted, valued member of our network of content partners.

Now, we’re making it official: The city’s award-winning leader in coverage of land use and development will formally become part of WHYY and NewsWorks.

PlanPhilly will leave its original home at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design, and join WHYY’s growing newsroom.  PlanPhilly began as a project of Penn Praxis, PennDesign’s clinical practice arm.

PlanPhilly’s founding editor, Matt Golas, will join WHYY’s staff as project editor, based in our newsroom.

In its nine years under Golas’ leadership, PlanPhilly has become a must-read destination for news about planning, development, transportation, historic preservation and sustainability in Philadelphia.

But just as important has been PlanPhilly’s focus on the formal and informal governmental processes behind topics like property zoning and design. Its writers have shone light on the inner workings of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, provided thoughtful coverage on neighborhood disputes, and decoded processes which can seem mystifying from the outside and frustrating from the inside, for city residents trying to accomplish seemingly simple tasks like adding an addition on to a house. 

“The PlanPhilly team is thrilled to be a part of the WHYY/NewsWorks newsroom,” Golas said, calling it an opportunity to expand the reach of their coverage to new audiences. “We will also, for the first time, be able to develop a revenue generation strategy that will enable us to sustain our watchdog coverage.”

Golas, a longtime journalist and former Philadelphia Inquirer metro editor, said a focus on non-partisan coverage and civic engagement, grounded in traditional journalism values, has been central to its success.

Along the way, PlanPhilly and its reporters have won awards and recognition for moving issues forward — most notably, the future vision for a seven-mile stretch of the Delaware River waterfront. City officials credited PlanPhilly’s coverage with touching off an effort to rewrite Philadelphia’s 50-year-old zoning code.

“But we didn’t stop there,” Golas writes today in an editor’s note announcing the move. “We grew into a professionally staffed, non-partisan news watchdog that informed and engaged citizens in the design, planning and development processes in Philadelphia.”

Their “License to Inspect” tool provides targeted, customizable data from the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections. Twice, PlanPhilly has been cited among Planetizen’s Top Ten sites for planning and design coverage. PennPraxis and PlanPhilly have been recognized by the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for urban design and historic preservation coverage.

For WHYY/NewsWorks, the partnership was a natural way to strengthen its commitment to timely, useful, civically-minded news coverage, said Chris Satullo, WHYY’s vice president for news and civic dialogue.

“WHYY/NewsWorks could not be more pleased to welcome PlanPhilly into our journalistic family,” Satullo said. “We’ve worked closely with Matt Golas and his team over the last five years and have always admired their energy, accuracy, sense of fairness and passion to serve the Philadelphia community.”

Bringing PlanPhilly into NewsWorks will also allow this team of talented, experienced journalists to broaden the reach of their coverage through audio, video and community events, and dovetail with other ongoing projects.

“We also look forward to PlanPhilly expanding its scope to the suburbs and beyond in connection with our Keystone Crossroads initiative,” Satullo said.

PlanPhilly and its new relationship with WHYY are made possible through a grant from the Wyncote Foundation.  

“We at Wyncote Foundation are proud to support PlanPhilly’s in-depth, high-impact coverage of built-environment issues, and we’re grateful to PennPraxis and PennDesign for providing strong institutional support and subject-matter expertise as a foundation for its watchdog reporting,” said Wyncote’s David Haas. “We look forward to supporting PlanPhilly as a project of WHYY, where we believe it will be successful in building a broad base of support for its mission.”

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