(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) Once upon a time, there was a dream of local news organization that would act less as a walled castle and more as a town square. Instead of competing, it would partner. Instead of talking at, it would talk with.
This news organization would act as a hub of a local news ecosystem, a gateway through which a regional audience could be introduced to the work of independent local journalists and community blogs.
On Feb. 23, 2011, the dream died.
Rosslyn-based TBD.com is planning to lay off most of its staff, according to the Washington Business Journal. All of the site’s sports and news reporters will be let go, according to We Love DC. Among the jobs expected to be eliminated is TBD’s Arlington community reporter position, held by Rebecca A. Cooper.
Instead of reporting news, TBD will now become a niche arts and entertainment site, according to the Washington City Paper.
Two weeks ago it was revealed that TBD, which had been in operation for about six months, was to be taken over by the management of its corporate sibling, WJLA-TV (ABC 7). WJLA.com, which currently redirects to TBD, will eventually regain its status as an independently-run news web site. Some of TBD’s staff will get jobs running WJLA.com, according to the Washington Post.
As the first site to join the network, we were enthusiastic about the prospects of TBD as a true partner for independent sites like ours. It was disappointing when TBD’s advertising network proved unsuccessful (although we never joined due to unfavorable terms). It was also disappointing that TBD never really tried to involve us in any distributed reporting efforts.
It was downright sad, however, when TBD’s links to local sites started to become ever-more sparse. People had started relying on TBD to direct them to the most interesting and relevant local news stories. It was part of the whole philosophy behind the site when it was launched, after all.
It was frustrating, then, to break a big local story and no longer be able to rely on TBD to link to it. It wasn’t a reflection on TBD staff, we believe — it was a reflection of the internal changes taking place at 1100 Wilson Blvd.
The people behind TBD were some of the best and brightest talents in the business. Our condolences to Mandy, Daniel, Lisa and anybody else who will be losing their jobs. Good luck to Maura, Erik and anybody else who’s (apparently) staying on board.
Here’s hoping everybody sticks around town and finds new employment quickly.
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA