Alumni recall an alt-weekly

Several journalism alumni worked at City Paper, which was sold last week.

With limited journalism experience and still working on his degree, 27-year-old John McGuire was thrilled when he landed an internship at the Philadelphia City Paper.

A month into the job, McGuire was excited about the responsibility he was given as an intern. He had already covered a pope-related story and was eager to write more.

He had just gotten the OK for his second pitch. Twenty minutes later, the news broke.

The paper was shutting down, and the staff was to follow it out.

“I thought I had something,” McGuire said. “And it just crumbled.”

McGuire is one of many Temple students and alumni who found a second home in the City Paper’s newsroom. The alternative-weekly newspaper was sold last week to Broad Street Media.

BSM is partners with R.P.M. Philly, the company that owns Philadelphia Weekly—City Paper’s competitor. After the sale, BSM announced in a press release that City Paper would shut down.

Many current and former writers were shocked and saddened by the news. In its 34 years, City Paper housed many aspiring Temple journalists as they developed their voices and honed their skills.

“City Paper gave me a start in an industry that I was just beginning to understand,” said Angelo Fichera, a former editor-in-chief of The Temple News and City Paper intern. Fichera now writes for the Inquirer covering South Jersey news.

Fichera watched the news unfold from a distance. However, for those in the midst of it all, it hit them hard.

“It was a bombshell,” said Jerry Iannelli, former opinion editor of The Temple News and staff writer for City Paper.

“Working at any alt-weekly, there’s always this sense of impending dread,” Iannelli said, referring to difficulty the papers had turning a profit. He said, however, that he never thought it would happen to his weekly.

“I thought we would win the alt war,” he said.

Iannelli covered police and crime at the publication for four months. After leaving Philadelphia for Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism, he headed back to the city to be near his girlfriend and work at City Paper.  Now, he’s looking for a new job.

Temple journalism alumna and freelancer Hillary Petrozziello’s byline had become a regular fixture below photos at City Paper. She recalled the staff’s last hurrah covering Pope Francis’ visit to the city.

“It was like going to battle,” Petrozziello said.

As a photographer, Petrozziello said she has struggled finding journalism work and has been laid off from two papers. She started her own company on the side where she covers food, weddings and other events.

Photographers, videographers and artists have been the hardest hit in an effort to reduce costs, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. They experienced a 43 percent decrease in jobs since 2000, the report stated. Comparatively, writers have seen a 32 percent decrease, and editors followed with 27 percent loss of jobs.

In May 2013, the Chicago Sun-Times cut its entire photo staff of 28 in an effort to revive profits. They instead had reporters train using iPhones as cameras. They rehired four photographers amid other staff cuts in 2014.

There have been reports of City Paper’s archives coming to Temple. The Special Collections Research Center in Paley Library has offered to house the decades of stories and make them available to the public.

The writers and photographers who used to work at City Paper said they’re not giving up on journalism just yet.

“This is where my heart [is],” Petrozziello said.

“People have been saying since 1950 that the industry was going to implode,” Iannelli added.

Mariam Dembele can be reached at or on Twitter @MariamDembele.

Editors note: Jerry Iannelli and Angelo Fichera are former editors for The Temple News. Neither contributed in the editing process of this article.

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