Pew Launches Philadelphia Research Initiative

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The Pew Charitable Trusts today announced the creation of the Philadelphia Research Initiative, a new research unit at Pew to study critical issues facing Philadelphia. Larry Eichel, highly-respected, veteran Philadelphia Inquirer reporter and editor, will serve as project director.

“The Philadelphia Research Initiative will provide impartial research and analysis on a variety of timely issues, for the benefit of decision makers, the news media and the public,” said Donald Kimelman, director of Pew's Philadelphia Program. “I cannot think of anyone more suitable to head the project than Larry Eichel. He brings an impressive record of impartial, in-depth reporting and a strong understanding of policy issues. We are thrilled to have someone of his caliber lead this new unit.”

The initiative will produce highly readable, in-depth reports that provide facts and analysis of complex and important issues, often comparing Philadelphia to other cities. It will also research policy solutions, listing the pros and cons of various options. Reports will be modeled after past Pew-commissioned studies, including “Philadelphia 2007: Prospects and Challenges,” and “Philadelphia's Quiet Crisis: The Rising Cost of Employee Benefits,” which was co-published with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Research Initiative will give Pew the resources and structure for in-house research, though, when special expertise is required, it will also commission studies from outside parties.

In addition to major reports, the new unit will publish briefs that illuminate front-and-center issues, and an annual “State of the City” report that will track trends on a wide array of key indicators of the city's vitality—from crime to employment to cultural participation. In addition, an annual benchmark poll of Philadelphians will track attitudes on key issues facing the city, views of its leadership, and the public's sense of whether the city is headed in the right or wrong direction.

Eichel will join Pew on November 24, 2008 to lead the new unit.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Eichel said. “Our goal is to make a significant, ongoing contribution to the public dialogue in the city and the region.”

Eichel has been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1974, where he covered issues ranging from urban affairs to national politics, most recently covering the 2008 presidential campaign. A former foreign correspondent, national correspondent and op-ed columnist, he has written in-depth series on Philadelphia's tax burden and on the transformation of public housing in the city. From 2002 to 2006, Eichel was also adjunct professor at Temple University, where he taught courses in journalism.

Eichel graduated Magna cum Laude from Harvard University with a bachelor of arts in government, and authored two books—“For Those Still at Sea,” (The Dial Press) and “The Harvard Strike” (Houghton Mifflin.) Eichel has won numerous journalism awards, including the National Sigma Delta Chi Award for coverage of the 1984 presidential campaign and National Headliners Award for coverage of the 1985 MOVE disaster in Philadelphia.