The NBA All-Star weekend wraps up tonight, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons representing the City of Brotherly Love in what will be Simmons’ first All-Star Game appearance. This morning we also chat with reporter Erin McCarthy about another kind of contest: one between Delaware County residents and the church that wants to buy a beloved town bar. She tells us all about how debate over the potential sale is playing out on social media.

The week ahead

  • Friendly reminder: Presidents’ Day is tomorrow and Philadelphia School District schools will be closed. If you’re lucky enough to have off, enjoy sleeping in.
  • They’ve played on the same team for nearly three years, but in tonight’s NBA All-Star game, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid face off on opposite sides of the court. It all starts at 8 p.m.
  • Think you’re a pop culture wiz? With the Oscars coming up next Sunday, you can put money on your knowledge in New Jersey, which is the first state in the U.S. to accept legal bets on the awards show.
  • The last time the Flyers faced the Penguins they got pummeled 4-1. Their rematch this Saturday will hopefully be a bit more exciting for Philly fans as the Pennsylvania rivals hit the ice inside Lincoln Financial Field for the NHL’s annual outdoor game. 

This week’s most popular stories

Behind the story with Erin McCarthy

David Swanson

Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with reporter Erin McCarthy, who came across a Delaware County town infuriated by a potential deal that would close their beloved pub and turn the property into a church. For some residents in the town, saving this pub is a matter of money and local pride.

How did you hear about this conflict with the church’s proposed purchase of Barnaby’s?

Since I cover a fairly wide area in the Pennsylvania suburbs, I try to tap into the pulse of the communities by monitoring their town Facebook groups. Not all towns have particularly active ones, but Ridley residents get pretty into theirs, sharing news and rumors and really anything else that’s on their mind. Posts regarding the possible sale of Barnaby’s to a church were getting so many responses, even sparking other posts with new information or town gossip.

Folks were commenting more rapidly than I’d ever seen before on a post in the group. They were starting side debates with one another over their opinions of the bar and the church and the sale, and even seemingly unrelated topics. It was clearly striking a chord.

You mentioned that many rumors were shared on local Facebook groups. Can you walk us through how you verify and fact check claims that people make?

Fact-checking the rumors was fairly easy. I called up the township manager and he told me which were based in fact, which were partly true, and which were totally fabricated. And once the rumor mill got ratcheted up, the township commissioners started posting updates about the sale agreement, including when it was in process and when it was denied.

If there’s an appeal to the zoning officer’s decision, what happens next?

My understanding is that if New Destiny church and Barnaby’s appeal the zoning officer’s initial denial, there would be a hearing in front of the township zoning board some time in March or April. Those who live in the immediate area of Barnaby’s would be notified of the hearing date and time. Knowing how passionate residents are on both sides of the issue, I’m sure many residents in the area would show up for such a hearing. After that, the change of occupancy request could be approved, though the church would have to find some way to accommodate more parking as required by the township code, or it could be denied again. Barnaby’s and the church could then appeal to the county level, according to the township manager.

How did social media play a role in helping you understand the community’s division on this issue? What platforms provided the most useful information?

Social media played a huge role in the development of this story. In fact, I may have never known about the issue had it not been for all those posts on the Ridley Facebook group. We don’t always cover the sale or possible sale of businesses, but the divisiveness of the conversations on social media made it clear right away that this story was unique. Facebook was by far the most useful platform. I’ve found in many communities it’s still the place where residents of all ages engage in the most dialogue about issues affecting them.

You can reach Erin at or follow her on Twitter at @erinK_mccarthy.

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Comment of the week

“I remember my parents indulging me in my obsession with New Kids On The Block, lol! Now I have an 11 year old daughter who adores BTS and now we both love them. The concert movie was great, their music is great, they’re talented and humble, not to mention handsome. It’s something we share together, which is priceless. I hang up posters while she’s at school, lol! Good for you, dad.” — Solanoghostgirl707, on Dad befuddled over teen daughter’s obsession with K-pop, BTS.

Postcards sent to Inquirer columnist Helen Ubiñas through the Postcard Underground organization are pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Postcards sent to Inquirer columnist Helen Ubiñas through the Postcard Underground organization are pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019.

A Daily Dose of | Mysterious Acts of Kindness

Columnist Helen Ubiñas has been receiving random letters of encouragement from a mysterious group called the Postcard Underground, so she dug around the Internet to find out more about them.