August 21, 2014

Will Steacy was in his New York apartment in 2011 when he got a call from his father in Philadelphia. It was bad news. After almost three decades at The Philadelphia Inquirer, his dad was being laid off.

The call was painful. Steacy, a professional photographer, had spent the last three years chronicling financial hardship at the Inquirer for a project he called Deadline. Starting in 2009, he began capturing images that depicted the Inquirer’s struggle to survive during an era of diminished ad revenue: vacant desks, trash bins piled high with newsprint, an old typewriter being used as a bookend. Steacy took a break from the project for a month. When he came back, the first image he captured was of his dad’s old desk.

Credit: Will Steacy

Steacy’s father’s desk after he was laid off. Credit: Will Steacy

“That was a hard picture to take,” Steacy said.

Now, three years later, the project is almost finished. He documented the paper’s move from its longtime home at Broad Street — fondly known as the “Tower of Truth” — to new offices in a former department store. Steacy decided not to shoot photos in the Inquirer’s new building, preferring to end his project where his father ended his career.

Credit: Will Steacy

The Inquirer newsroom at Broad Street the day after the move. Credit: Will Steacy

Although he financed the entire project himself, Steacy turned to his audience for help when it came time to publish the photos in a book. He held a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter that ended Tuesday, leaving him with slightly more than $26,000 — $16,000 more than his stated goal. He says he’ll spend the extra money on improving the book, which will be given to backers who donated $50 or more.

“I’m just so incredibly honored and humbled by the outpouring of generosity and support,” Steacy said. “Friends and family have supported me, but even more so, complete strangers.”

The five-year project has bookended several important events in Steacy’s life. In 2010, his family had just finished putting up the Christmas tree when when his father’s heart doctor called, telling them to go to the hospital right away. He needed a quadruple bypass. In October 2011, his dad was laid off, snapping a family tradition in newspapers five-generations long. The thought of stopping the project after that occurred to Stacey, but his father wanted him to continue.

Credit: Will Steacy

“Buyouts.” Credit: Will Steacy

Then, In July 2013, Steacy and his girlfriend were heading back from a wedding when they abruptly decided to get married. They found a town clerk who offered to marry them in one of two places — a nearby graveyard or outside the municipal building by a tree. They chose the tree. The birth of his son, Miles, came this May.

The book will be printed and distributed to Steacy’s Kickstarter backers in the coming months. But the project won’t be over for Steacy until he puts the book into his father’s hands.

“When they were moving out of the former newsroom, my father wasn’t there to say goodbye to it,” Steacy said. “So I took it upon myself to say goodbye for him.”

Credit: Will Steacy

Letters of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s flag are missing in the paper’s elevator lobby the night of the paper’s move from the building on Broad Street. Credit: Will Steacy

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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