NF Magazine – “North Philadelphia’s young people making the news” – began as a free online newsletter containing articles for aspiring photographers, amateur models, and other youth of North Philadelphia. Continuing the pride and traditions of the former Model Citizens Program and building on foundations established in the Creative Writers Program, the e-zine combined photography and community service, as a way for students to stretch their talents and realize their potential.
What began as three distinct ideas – Clemente News, a local middle school student newsletter; NorFilly™ Model Citizens, a community outreach and youth development effort aimed at engaging youth in civic responsibility; and Escritor X™ Creative Writers After School Program (CWASP) – morphed into a printed leaflet entitled the NorFilly™ Tips & Hints Newsletter. Recognizing the power and necessity of the web to bring rich ideas and compelling stories to more readers, the team behind design and distribution of Tips & Hints embraced the internet and a broader audience. NorFilly™ Online News Source was born in late 2003 as a place to draw on the vast experience of prior programming and the brilliant design of web technologies.
Beginning with its official launch in January 2004, NorFilly™ Magazine also became a place for other community members to get involved in the goal of helping our youth achieve greater things for themselves, their families and ultimately, their communities. This included an invitation to local community and social services agencies, non-profit organizations, churches and small businesses to give their input each month and be featured in the magazine for free.
Five months into development of copious static HTML pages (featured on this archive site), all the while tinkering with content management systems (CMS) that opened new and more efficient ways to share news via dynamic content, NF Magazine became the new moniker. It had become evident that the rate at which new story ideas and youth highlights were being pitched to the magazine precluded the continuation of the static HTML format. With its rebranded title, NF Magazine joined the 21st century and transitioned to CMS in time for its fifith edition in May 2004.
Thanks to the speed at which digital images and dynamic context reaches online audiences, NF grew in popularity and credibility over the next three years. Through hard news and human interest story coverage, mixed with strategic event and project sponsorship, NF became the place young people visited to learn what’s going on around them, according to one mother writing to the magazine, via its online forums, about her son.
At the end of 2005, approaching two years into production, NF Magazine was invited to visit High School Sundays (HSS), a weekly night club event modified for teens and hosted at Club Diesel in Philadelphia’s Hunting Park section. Under direction of partners DJ Redz (Jorge Diaz) and DJ Mig Dog (Miguel Torres), teens (dubbed “Sunday Villainz”) both attended and helped organize HSS events and activities over time. NF Magazine covered the inaugural HSS event in December 2005 before joining as a presenting sponsor at the start of 2006. Later, the event also garnered attention from Sneaker Villa (now DTLR Villa) and La Mega radio station, where teen organizers hosted their own talk show briefly.
During this heyday, the magazine benefited from the enthusiasm and availability of a vast network of youth volunteers, called NF Reps, who not only attended events and orchestrated magazine activities, but also championed the cause of the magazine and fought for its continuation despite dwindling resources. Demand for the magazine had grown such that guest writers and promotional models were needed to write about and represent the magazine at multiple events each week, sometimes two or three activities in a day. Between El Concilio’s Annual Awards Gala and Puerto Rican Day Parade in the fall and ASPIRA’s Annual Gala in the winter, NF had become a recognized news and publicity vehicle throughout Philadelphia.
Between 2006 and 2007, NF Magazine hosted its own events and activities and sponsored others’ initiatives, as its readership spread beyond Philadelphia. The magazine caught the eyes of Philadelphia Latino Pageant and a newly formed Miss Puerto Rico Pennsylvania Pageant. Editor and publisher T Martin was nominated for Hispanic Choice Award’s “Artist of the Year” for his contributions to bring community and youth stories to the forefront through the magazine. Readers in other large cities requested that satellite operations be established to replicate the model in other urban communities. Los Angeles, Miami and Trenton were all considered as possible satellite locations, pending available human and financial capital to spread to those areas.
As HSS popularity plateaued, the DJ team started hosting a night club scene for adults at the failing Amici’s restaurant, once a popular neighborhood diner that struggled to keep up with changing times and community demographics. The Friday night event with the DJs was a last-ditch effort to attract a younger, more hip crowd through Amici’s doors, and NF Magazine was invited as a vehicle for publicity. The venture was short-lived, and neighborhood conditions soon forced HSS out of Club Diesel shortly after Amici’s shuttered its doors. Club Diesel would later close for good as well, following numerous disturbances related to its regular business.
In the meantime, HSS had drained NF Magazine’s resources to the point that maintaining its luster post-HSS proved difficult. In effect, NF had peaked, and other print and online magazines were taking center stage. With attentions diverted to other projects, content at NF Magazine dwindled, and readership spiraled in response. Technical problems also visited the magazine and slowed its return to normal operations by 2008.
Ultimately, technical issues unwound NF Magazine as a going concern. As with all new and changing technologies, the CMS underlying the magazine was not well supported by the web host, and security vulnerabilities gave hackers an advantage only four years into full online production. Still, by 2009 community support was at an all-time high, and several editor’s notes warning of a possible closure were met with disappointment on one end and outright resistance at the very idea on the other. When the web host, failing to increase its server security to prevent further damage by hackers, pulled the plug on NorFilly.com, they offered no help in determining the root cause of the vulnerabilities and no assistance in recovering archival content.
NF Magazine ceased as an online news source sometime in 2009, though not before garnering large community support and accomplishing many goals toward the development of youth and their communities. For several years after its 2009 closure, NF Magazine remained a buzzword in Philadelphia’s entertainment and dance communities. In response to continued requests for event coverage and youth highlights, editor and publisher T Martin authored a blog, “FY411: Just So You Know”, that continued a feature of the same name from NF Magazine. Once more, new, diverse interests curtailed the effort until recently.
Now, 11 years later, recoverable articles from those early four HTML editions that first heralded the great ride ahead for the online news source have been collected here as a memorial. If things go to plan, these archives will be moved again, this time to a memorial website hosted on its original domain – NorFilly.com. Check back here for updates on that development.