Solomon Jones, staff writer
When then-Editor Tim Whitaker interviewed me for my first job with PW, the paper’s offices were across the street from the Latham Hotel. Tim had his back to the window. He was asking me a series of questions and things were going well. Then, about mid-interview, I just stopped looking at him and gazed over his shoulder.
“I’m not ignoring you,” I said, “but there’s a naked lady in the window across the street.”
Tim turned around, and sure enough, there was a woman in a hotel room with the shades completely raised, applying makeup in the buff. She was daring us to look. We obliged. Tim and I have been friends ever since.
There was some pretty good journalism, too. When I wrote “The Soul of Africa,” a story for which I traveled to Ghana to trace the history of the transatlantic slave trade, it was a moving experience, not only for me, but for readers across the region. When I wrote “Sole Survivor,” a column about my wife buying bobos, it was the beginning of a new era for me. That column let me know that I could write humor, and write it well.
Rick Fellinger, staff writer
No doubt, the story I wrote that drew the harshest reaction was “The Mafia Is a Bunch of Pussies.” It grew out of a 1997 trial for the Louis Turra drug gang, which had been plotting to kill mob boss Skinny Joey Merlino over a typical gangland money spat. The quote was just one of many that Turra and his father Anthony uttered on tape in the presence of a federal informant. Louis Turra hung himself in jail, and his father was gunned down outside of his South Philly home shortly after their highly disrespectful comments about Merlino became public record. No story of mine created more buzz in City Hall than “Meet the City’s Dumbest Politician,” a 1997 piece that highlighted the fumblings of former City Councilman Rick Mariano. Not too surprisingly, Mariano later went to jail on corruption charges, but curiously, so has the pol we named in the same story as the city’s smartest—Vince Fumo.
Charyn Pfeuffer, personals; advice columnist
From 1997 to 1999, I ran the Personals and Promotions Department for PW and wrote the oh-so-sassy and opinionated advice column “Ask Me Anything”—pre-Carrie Bradshaw. Dishing on everything from where to go for first dates and sex on the Internet to penis size and my corded orgasmic delight, the Hitachi Magic Wand, I also managed more than 500 singles ads each week and hosted countless singles events (does anyone remember my “Slide Into a New Relationship” lube promo at Shampoo?). My position was one part Chuck Woolery, one part social butterfly—and I loved it.
George Miller, freelance writer
I wrote the story about violence against Asian students at South Philly High in Sept. 2009. That received more reaction than any other story I’ve done for PW, I think.
To me, this was a story so much larger than Asian vs. African-American students. It was a story about changing neighborhoods, poverty in the city, self-empowerment on behalf of the Asian students, and an administration that either didn’t care or just couldn’t do anything.
The commenters reacted along race lines, which was rather depressing. People didn’t discuss solutions, as were offered in examples in the story. Instead, anonymous posters made ugly comments.
No other media outlets followed up on the story to put further pressure on the school district, and that was depressing, too.
Three months later, a daylong series of attacks at South Philly High finally gained attention from the rest of the media, and the district was forced to address the situation.
The students in my story became leading activists, appearing in front of commissions and speaking on camera to the media. They led protests and demanded reforms. I was impressed by their spirit and resolve.
Brian Hickey, staff writer
Philadelphia Weekly was the place that pulled me away from a life of chasing crime stories around Atlantic City during the day and Jagering my way around Sea Isle and Avalon at nights. The stories that stand out in my memory aren’t because of the quality, but because I don’t think I’d have been able to write them at other publications.
Like naming Allen Iverson as Philadelphia’s Man of the Year. Or the much-later anniversary story with Gary Heidnik survivor Josefina Rivera. I think the story I’m most proudest of is the last one I wrote. It was a story about the man who everybody thinks killed four A.C. prostitutes that I was working on before I got interrupted by a coma. Once I woke up from the coma, [Editor-in-Chief] Adamma Ince was more than willing to let me finish it up. I’m both proud and grateful for that.
The paper you now hold in your hands, PW, has been around for 40 years—more or less. Like most media stories, it’s a bit more complicated than that. No matter the changes, though, there is a through line in the paper’s history: a renegade spirit and a determination to give voices to the voiceless.
Letters to the Editor