Q&A with Director of Collaboration, Eugene Sonn
"We want to do journalism that answers questions you have that the news isn’t already working on."
Eugene Sonn, lovingly known as Gene or G-Gene, is the Director of Collaboration at Resolve Philly and leads the 29 partner newsrooms that make up the Philadelphia Journalism Collaborative. I recently sat down with Gene to get the scoop on the new reporting project and learn more about his favorite parts of the work.
What is the Philadelphia Journalism Collaborative (PJC)?
We are 29 newsrooms of all sizes and areas of focus that are working together to do community-led journalism with a focus on solutions. We work together in many ways and strive to answer questions Philadelphians have that will help them make life on their block a little better.
How would you describe the difference between Resolve’s former reporting collaborative, Broke in Philly, and its new collaborative, PJC?
Our new effort is not focused on just one subject. Since we have worked together for more than five years, we have built trust and connections with residents and with each other that will allow us to branch out more. But we want to focus on the hidden systems that affect daily life in Philadelphia. We are most excited to dig in where the symptoms of the problems are obvious, but what’s driving them is hard to see.
What question(s) do people ask you most often about collaborative reporting?
Do you really have 29 newsrooms working together? And the truth is we don’t have all newsrooms work on each story, event, or project. But we do have every newsroom participate. They key to energetic participation is making very few parts of our collaboration mandatory and helping partner newsrooms find partners who are excited about a story or event.
What do you want Philadelphia residents and communities to know about PJC?
That we want to do journalism that answers questions you have that the news isn’t already working on. My favorite stories are ones that didn’t come from reporters and editors talking about what they think we should do. They are the stories that start with a question from a Philly resident that I never would have asked.
Why do you love what you do?
I love what I do because I get to work with people all over Philadelphia. And I get to see where people from different areas have the same concerns or questions, even if they may have different ideas for tackling them. This summer, on the same Saturday, I went to two events, one in Hunting Park and the other in Germantown. I ended up hearing from individuals in both neighborhoods concerned about how many homes are being converted into boarding houses, especially ones being done “off the books.” Finding concerns that are shared across neighborhoods makes me excited about working on journalism that I know people can use. And it means we can follow up with the people who told us about this to ensure what we’re doing addresses what they need to know.