'Your average resident doesn't understand what a nonprofit board does': A Q&A with Julie Zeglen - Generocity Philly

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Oct. 15, 2019 2:56 pm

‘Your average resident doesn’t understand what a nonprofit board does’: A Q&A with Julie Zeglen

Former Generocity editor Julie Zeglen started here in October 2015 and became Technical.ly's managing editor in January 2019. On the event of Generocity's 10th anniversary, we asked her all the questions.

Julie Zeglen judging a media pitch competition at Comcast NBCUniversal's LIFT Labs in May 2019.

(Courtesy photo)

All this month we have been bringing you special content celebrating Generocity’s 10th anniversary: a Q&A with Technically Media CEO Chris Wink; our top 10 best-read stories; now this Q&A with our former editor, Julie Zeglen. And we’re not done yet. Keep checking in through the end of the month for more!

We asked Zeglen — who came to Generocity from the Star Community Newsweekly in October 2015, and became Technical.ly‘s managing editor in January 2019 while still managing Generocity — about her editorial journey here.


Generocity: When did you first become aware of Generocity? What made you want to become its editor?

Zeglen: Years before I signed on full time — I actually wrote two articles for Generocity as a young freelancer in 2014, before I got my first reporting (and later, editing) job at a hyperlocal print weekly in Philly’s River Wards. At the time, I knew almost nothing about the inner workings of nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations, but Generocity stayed on my radar because I admired the work being done by those organizations.

Technically Media struck me as a ~cool~ place to work, as it was run by youngish digital media pros who seemed to be interested in experimenting with story types and community engagement, which later proved to be extremely true. I’m happy to have stayed with the team for nearly four years, now as sister site Technical.ly’s managing editor.

Fun fact: CEO Chris Wink interviewed me for the job by phone while riding his bike home from work, which I took to mean that I was absolutely not being taken seriously as a candidate. He hosts a lot of meetings by bike, I’ve come to learn.

Generocity: You were the first editor, right? What was the first thing you did when you became the editor?

Julie Zeglen and Tony Abraham, 2016

Zeglen: First editor under the Technically Media umbrella, yep. My first day was trial by fire: A community happy hour had been scheduled for that evening for the express purpose of introducing the public to Generocity’s new editor and reporter, me and Tony Abraham. (That’s when I learned that I’d need to do a lot of public speaking in this role.)

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We also spent the first few days thinking about big-picture things like, What are Generocity’s core areas of coverage? Who’s our target audience? What does solutions-based reporting look like? We didn’t publish many stories in those first few days, or launch our daily newsletter for another month or so. We were a new team restructuring an old news product, and we had groundwork to lay — even redesigning the website.

Generocity: Tell us what was the first story you covered or who was your first interview?

Zeglen: My first-ever Generocity story was as a freelancer, over a year before I was hired — I wrote about the now-defunct Department of Making + Doing in University City. (Try not to cringe when you click on that link and see how badly the old site’s design transferred to the new, or when you read my writing; both are much, much better now, IMO.)

Since we had a full-time reporter in Tony, I didn’t write daily. But early on, I did cover the Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia‘s 2015 conference, including the then-new Nonprofit Repositioning Fund, and the growing awareness of nonprofit mergers as a method for sustainability. That first (for me) conference was an incredibly helpful primer for topics we’d go on to cover in depth over the years.

Generocity: In what ways did Generocity evolve under your leadership? In what ways has your understanding of issues, the city, etc., been shaped by your engagement with the nonprofit sector?

Rappelling for Outward Bound.

Zeglen: Phew. We got really good at not only reporting on things that happened in the social impact sector, but why they mattered, and how professionals working in it could get smarter/better/faster in tackling our city’s biggest issues. I’m proud of increasing Generocity’s year-over-year readership drastically during my time as editor (which I know has continued under its new head!), and of piloting successful projects like the editorial calendar and Power Moves.

Your average resident doesn’t understand what a nonprofit board does, or how nonprofits do or don’t run like businesses, and what social entrepreneurship and impact investing are. I also didn’t know those things. I do now, and I hope other layfolks do, too, as a result of reading Generocity — and that those who did know them now understand them more deeply, too. They’re why this news site exists.

Generocity: What is your favorite Generocity memory?

Zeglen: I really loved interviewing Cristina Martinez and breaking the news locally that she’d be featured in a “Chef’s Table” episode last September. That story happened because we’d reported on her work before and her team trusted us to get the story right, so they came to us first.

Favorite memories, though, are of out-of-office staff times — from our company retreats to Philly Tech Week to picnics in Washington Square Park. It’s easier to go to work when you like the people there, and luckily, I always have here.

Generocity: Give us your prediction — what will Generocity be 10 years from now?

Zeglen: Reporting on how we solved poverty, achieved equity and managed to pay front-line social service workers a living wage. I mean, I hope.

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