On the Radio

Team Local tells all on Uptown airwaves 

Astute readers will remember Uptown Radio from the WHYY interview we covered last month, where some of WJYN’s most popular personalities dished on what it’s like to command the airwaves every week. Local broadcasters produce more than 25 hours of original content per week: sports, comedy, news, announcements… They’re big on community pride, and often shine a light on people, businesses and other organizations doing good things in Philadelphia.

Like us! As a partner in WHYY’s News and Information Community Exchange, we’re exploring new opportunities in each other’s orbit. Uptown Radio’s Lateef Maximus III invited us on his show, Tall Talk, where he and cohosts E. Grizzly and Lady O interview locals who are doing good things or stuff listeners should know about  — “We talk about things people care about right here on the block.”

We were only too happy to oblige!

INTERVIEW INCLUDES: Lateef Maximus III with E. Grizzly and Lady O interviewing
The Local’s Steve & Carolyn Fillmore (founders/editors in chief) with Lenora Gaillard (N.I.C.E. correspondent) via ZOOM (7/28/21)

Lateef
Community radio at its best: Uptown Radio WJYN 98.5 FM. We’ve got a Northwest Philly newspaper, The Local — they represent the East Falls and Germantown area. We’re partners with WHYY’s News & Information Community Exchange program. They got a paper, we got the radio so, you know, let’s get them working together.

Tune in to HISTORIC Uptown Radio

Carolyn
We started out in 2014, just covering history in the East Falls neighborhood where we lived. As we started covering meetings and events, we realized there’s still a big need for printing this stuff up. A lot of people aren’t online and even those that are, we tend to be in our own bubbles. It’s easy to miss stuff. A monthly paper gets all the important information in one place, which is handy.

Steve
And now with N.I.C.E., we’re carrying content that’s not always specifically about NW Philly but it’s still of interest to anyone in the city. Grassroots news that’s relevant to our readers, wherever they may be.

Our boundaries have always been really fuzzy anyway. We distribute in East Falls, Germantown, Wissahickon, Roxborough, Mt. Airy, Allegheny West… even Lower Merion.

Lateef
I really don’t know too much about that area.

Carolyn
It’s super diverse, like a cross-section demographics throughout the city. There’s rich, poor, powerful, vulnerable. There are families with colonial heritage here going back for generations, and likewise there are descendants of the people who worked for them – some who were probably enslaved by them. There are conservative Italian and Irish Catholics, liberal/progressive transplants from Center City and the suburbs. Basically everyone you can think of lives in NW Philly! So we write for a diverse audience, which tends to have wide appeal.

Lateef
Are you at LaSalle University or any of the schools around here?

Steve
Funny you should mention LaSalle, Carolyn and I are both graduates.

Carolyn
I was a year behind in the same major and we actually had a class together but I don’t remember him. We met up on a group Wissahickon hike in 2009 and eventually deduced our paths had crossed in the early 90’s.

Lateef
Let’s get Lenora talking because she’s really an exciting part of the operation.

Lenora
I’m a busybody. I don’t have nothing to do, but mind other people’s business.

Carolyn
Lenora’s the best! She’s a senior, retired, and now she’s learning a whole new career for us. We really appreciate her work on everything from gun violence interviews to covering community events.

Lateef
We really got to be blessed with Lenora’s presence here at our Radiothon back in June. It’s good to have you back again. It won’t be the last time either.

Lenora
No, and my daughter has said we were going to come down here one day, just hang out with y’all.

Grizz

Lenora told us all about the history of the Uptown Theater, that was really cool! You used to go there a lot with your friends back in the day.

Lenora
I told you I’d double check the admission price, and I was right. Everyone else remembers it was $1.95 – $2 to get into the Uptown. And that wasn’t for just one group! They would have three or four, maybe five acts. I can’t remember all the groups we saw there.

And then the house behind the Uptown, I don’t know the name of that street but there was a lady over there who fixed food for all the musicians. And they’d go over there and relax between shows.

Lateef
Miss Pearl! Yeah, I’ve heard the legend. She used to throw down in the kitchen. Everybody went, all the big stars. Get themselves over to Miss Pearl behind the theater. Good old soul food.

So let’s get back to the area — I don’t know much about Germantown and East Falls. What’s going on?

Carolyn
There’s a lot of art and live music here. There are some really interesting productions – beer gardens and comedy nights and vendor fairs tucked away in little corners you’d never look twice at.

Steve
There’s good food here too, Grill and Dutchy serves fantastic Jamaican food, and there’s the new Bistro on the Mall with a great patio and Germantown Espresso Bar is such a community space too. Attic Brewing! Speaking of hidden beer gardens.

Carolyn
And there’s iMPeRFeCT Gallery, another great spot. They do a rhumba every Friday, they’ve been doing this forever, they draw such warm, artistic, eclectic crowd. There’s food and drink and I think it’s a pay as you go kind of thing. Super chill. If I only had one weekend to experience Germantown, I would start there, definitely.

In East Falls I would head to the river and grab takeout from Slices Pizza on Ridge Avenue, then walk it over to the wall under one of the big stone bridges. The Wissahickon is really close, too. To me, that’s the best thing about living here, the river and the park. I guess that’s two things.

Grizz
OK so now I’ve got questions about the newspaper, and I’m just gonna say it:  print is dying, what are you doing?

Carolyn
You’re right. Newsprint is dying  –  but it’s also a really unique and important arm of the media. Especially on a local level where bigger outlets don’t bother to cover. News is still happening, people need to know. We don’t have the answers, of course. This paper has basically been one big experiment for us, trying to see if we can reinvent the medium so it offers something you can’t get online.

So now we’ve got two illustrators, and we’ve switched to a format that can accommodate more original art and design. Ideally, we want a paper that informs the community and also inspires them. Good information in a compelling design on the printed page. Maybe that’s a way to uplift the medium?

This year we changed from “broadsheet” to “tabloid” format & added illustration

Lateef
I appreciate that. When I’m out of town, sometimes a local publication catches my eye, “Oh look someone took the time to make this!” so I gotta check it out. I’m so pleased that you guys are actually going about this in a different way and trying to capture people’s eyes and imaginations.

Do you have any advice for a DIY guy trying to print their own magazine or newspaper?

Carolyn
It’s ridiculously easy to self-publish these days. We’ve done like 90% of our design since the beginning – when we did 100%! And we were using a free program, PicMonkey, that we still use today although it’s now a subscription service. That program is like magic, it’s got all kinds of fonts, graphics, features. You can resize images for all different social media formats…. There are a ton of programs out there, though, any will do but if you want people to read your content, you’ll need good images, that’s just how people absorb info these days, visually, or so we’ve found.

But that’s easy to pick up, and will get you far on social media. But when it comes to print on actual paper, that really is a special skill set. And there’s a special program, too, everyone uses Adobe InDesign, it puts text into columns you can adjust and carry over to different pages.

Steve
When we were just starting out, I did some web tutorials that got us through the first year. Barely. But once we were printing over 12 pages we needed to pay a layout designer. Upwork.com is a good place to look for freelancers, by the way. Just make sure they’re comfortable working in print, cause there’s definitely a learning curve for digital-only designers.

Grizz
Now the media has been taking a beating lately – do you feel opinionated commentary is detracting from the integrity of journalism?

Carolyn
We’re actually all about opinionated commentary! We did a lot of research about how so-called “objective” journalism is nice in principle but very unrealistic. Every story does not necessarily have two equal sides. Sometimes one side is just bonkers – and honest coverage needs to reflect that. We’ve been called “mean” and “unprofessional” for speaking the truth as we see it, but we always list sources and welcome honest debate.

Steve
Opinion isn’t a bad thing, when it’s informed. And we show where we’re getting all our information. And we also try to invite people to share their own thoughts and sources, to weigh in on our facts with theirs. We love to include comments threads when we print articles shared previously online.

And the thing is, even when you try to report objectively, you still have to pick which facts to share and who to quote. So at the end of the day, you’re still making a choice about what you’re putting out there. Historically, newspapers have always been about voice anyway. Philadelphia used to have 100+ newspapers, and they all had their own voice. So we’re honoring that tradition.

Grizz
What about misinformation? Especially on a local level where, as you say, there’s not a lot of reporting being done. How do you verify the stories people bring to you from the community?

Carolyn
We’re so fortunate that we have a couple of real investigative journalists on our team. Because there are rules for sourcing a story, right? So once a former server of a local restaurant came to us about the owner, who (she said) was cheating employees left and right and also fudging on his “vegetarian” menu by using ingredients with animal protein. Among other things!

She told a great story that sounded legit to us. Our journalists, however, were unimpressed by her documentation so we passed. It’s a shame if was true, but it’s not our position to make unsupported accusations.

Steve
We’ve done articles about misinformation, and how to check sources for bias. Sites like Mediabiasfactcheck.com are very helpful knowing who to trust and what to take with a grain of salt.

Lateef
Have you had to deal with a lot of angry readers?

Carolyn
Oh my god. We could read emails all night. I’ve made so many Fallser faux pas! We’ve been attacked on Nextdoor. We’ve been cursed at in the streets. Banned from a community event! We get regularly trolled on our own community Facebook page. People can get extremely protective of any possible criticism about their neighborhood. Oh well. There’s no such thing as a perfect community; if everyone’s happy with our news, we’re not doing our job. Even the most negative feedback is helpful on some level. At the very least it’s often hilarious.

Lateef
This city will tell you the truth about yourself, no matter what you’re doing. Playing sports or making a paper, Philly’s a tough crowd. Yeah but it makes us tough, makes us step up our game.

Now how has the pandemic affected your ability to cover the neighborhood?

Steve
I know people are really tired of Zoom, but it’s really expanded our reach. We’re able to meet people without having to leave our desks, which is a huge time-saver alone but then on top of that, we can record meetings too. And then run them thru transcription software, which basically writes the article for us. Obviously we need to edit and do all the images and stuff but still. It’s not just a time-saver but has also significantly increased our productivity!

Carolyn
And since 2020, we’ve had a lot of contributors too. People getting fired up, wanting to jump on soap boxes and talk about social justice issues, defunding the police and everything. It’s so satisfying when neighbors step up and use our platform to amplify their voice. That’s what we’re here for!

And now thanks to an Illuminate the Arts grant, we have a budget to pay contributors for sharing their content. We don’t have a lot, but we hope it’ll be a start.

Lateef
Can freelance writers write an article and send it to you?

Carolyn
Yes! Please and thank you! Anyone with anything to share in our pages can submit content – or just pitch us your idea(s). Email editor@nwlocalpaper.com. We will get back to you asap. It’s that easy!

We’ll take art, illustrations and photos. Reviews of shops, restaurants, venues, events. Lists of things and raves, rants, rundowns, reports, recipes, meeting recaps – you don’t have to be a writer, we are crackerjack editors.

Steve
It could be as simple as sending us some photos from a local event. Throw in some captions, tell us what’s going on. If we can use it, boom there’s your article. It practically writes itself!

Lateef
Alright, you hear that? Freelancers, get in here! And to everybody listening, check out The Local paper, it’s in East Falls and Germantown and Northwest Philly. Thank you for being our lovely guests!

The Local turns 7 this year — big thanks to our readers, sponsors and contributors for making free independent press possible for our community.

CALLING ALL CITIZEN JOURNALISTS: our free-wheeling pitch meetings almost always include at least one free beer! Email us at editor@nwlocalpaper.com for dates and details.

BIG THANKS TO TEEF, GRIZZ and LADY O and UPTOWN RADIO for this awesome interview!

Tune into Tall Talk every Wednesday at 7pm PM on WJYN 98.5FM and uptownradiophilly.org. Follow Uptown Radio on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for great events and original Philly programming you won’t hear anywhere else. 

About The Local 101 Articles
The Local byline reflects community-created content (usually from social media, often from audio/video sources) that we've collected and edited into an article for our website/newspaper.

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