Philly is known for its extra-savvy local news scene. A massive infrastructure of food websites, development forums, style blogs, and other niche sources constantly feed the demanding and infamously 'pushy' Philly consumer. Not surprisingly then, local media is evolving to compete; media outlets are literally embedding themselves in neighbourhoods and places to get that extra edge and tell stories from the ground, from and for the people.
In Philly, this movement is being lead by Flying Kite Media and their very relevant ‘On the Ground Campaign’, which officially got a big reboot this year. The Campaign is a ‘let the people tell the news themselves’ effort where the media organization seeks out a vacant storefront space or underutilized space in neighbourhoods no one is covering and runs their operations from there for 90 days.
For over 4 years Flying Kite has been dedicated to uncovering and reporting on those stories typically lost in the shuffle. They do this best through On the Ground, which was initially created in May 2012 but went idle at the end of 2013.
During its first run, Flying Kite used On the Ground to engage with local people, places and companies and tell their story in the way you only can when you’re literally reporting from on the ground.
After the 90-day period, it was onto the next neighbourhood. in no time, the Campaign was up and running and digging deep into another corner of underreported Philly.
At the end of its year trial run and with 4 compelling neighbourhood narratives told, it was clear the Campaign had grown into something bigger than just telling the untold local story. Using their storefronts as catalysts, Flying Kite began bringing people together with common ground and holding art gallery openings, design charrettes, community meetings and outreach events.
Michelle Freeman, Flying Kite publisher and On the Ground organizer, began to understand these experiences as opportunities to connect local people with their community. Through maintaining relationships across neighbourhoods, Flying Kite was becoming a medium to connect community movers and shakers with others doing similar things across the city.
With its reboot now under way, the Campaign's focus this time around will be on cross community connecting – creating and fostering citywide partnerships that allow Flying Kite to link more resources to neighborhood stakeholders and leaders. This is particularly beneficial in Philly where organizations servicing all of Philadelphia often don't have the capacity to be in every neighbourhood.
“If Flying Kite can help in our little way to offer support and fill the gaps by connecting these dots, that's what we want to do,” says Freeman. “On the Ground has not only become a way for us to showcase underreported and underrepresented neighborhoods, but is our opportunity to be a connector between neighborhoods and throughout the city.”
Freeman says once they physically move onto another neighborhood, they maintain relationships in the previous locations and communities they resided in. “This allows us to continue to provide occasionally cover in Flying Kite and provides us the opportunity to connect neighborhoods to one another on an ongoing basis,” adds Freeman.
Despite the new mantra, Flying Kite is still a Philly news organization and so with On the Ground they will be sure to do what any self respecting local Philly media outlet would do – they’ll keep it real.
For Flying Kite this means sticking true to the Campaign’s roots. On the Ground reboot will still embed themselves in city neighbourhoods for 90 days each, they’ll still set up operations in vacant storefronts, and they’ll keep telling those local stories that would otherwise go untold.
“From the media standpoint, there are many neighborhoods that are underreported on,” explains Freeman. “[This] leaves them with a weak identity or awareness to the general public and the city at large. At the end of the day we just want to expose what and who is helping to move their neighbourhoods forward.”