Alum, students offer tips on Phila. culture

The Daily Pennsylvanian
January 25, 2006

John Carroll

When John Carroll started his first Web log at Penn as a senior in 2004, he estimated his site's audience would be about 100 friends.

Today he enjoys a few more readers -- 5,000 to 10,000 more monthly.

Carroll is currently editor of, a trendy blog detailing news, culture and goings-on in Philadelphia.

The idea for the site came early last summer when life-long Philadelphia native Carroll was avidly reading, a blog focused on New York City. As he noticed the site expanding to other cities, he began to wonder why it hadn't come to Philadelphia.

When Carroll got in touch with Gothamist founders Jen Chung and Jake Jobkin, he found that Gothamist was indeed assembling a team of writers for a Philadelphia expansion.

"It turns out they didn't have someone to take that top spot, so it was offered to me and I took it," he said. "I'm glad I did."

But before Carroll would launch Phillyist on July 11, he needed to put together a team of city-savvy writers.

Carroll posted ads on and contacted other Philadelphia bloggers, but made sure to contact Penn's Kelly Writers House as well.

"It's such a great place for writers that it just seemed to make sense to me," said Carroll, who was deeply involved at the Writers House in his days at Penn. He currently audits a class there.

Carroll had hoped that two Writers House staples in particular would reply to his call for contributors: College senior Jill Ivey and College sophomore Jessica Haralson.

Carroll was Ivey's peer adviser her freshman year and had taken classes with her as well. She signed onto Phillyist as an Arts and Entertainment columnist.

Through his work on a feature article for 34th Street Magazine -- published by the Daily Pennsylvanian -- chronicling the first issue of Penn's erotica magazine, Quake, Carroll also came to know Haralson, the magazine's editor.

"I knew Gothamist had a popular Love and Sex column, so I thought Jessica would be perfect for that, and luckily she thought so too," Carroll said.

Both Ivey and Haralson contribute regularly to the site, Ivey publishing weekly theater listings and a varied opinion column and Haralson publishing Phillial, a sex column.

It is a position which Carroll acknowledges Penn helped prepare him to take on.

Penn is "where I started blogging, where people initially started reading me in a more public format," Carroll said in reference to both his personal blog and four years spent as writer and editor for Street.

"That whole experience shaped who I am: the person, the writer and a resident of the city," Carroll said.

His work at Penn also helped to land him the job at Phillyist.

"Jake and Jen liked what they read there," Carroll said in regards to his blog. "They looked at some of the stuff I did at Street, too, so it was enough for them to think I could take on Phillyist."

"We definitely seem to have become much more popular," Carroll said. "It's been good to see the site grow, and good to see a developed readership at this point."