Concern Over License Plate Readers — Automated License Plate Readers, or LPRs, are mounted on Arlington County Police cruisers, allowing cops to see instantly if a car driving by is stolen or if its owner is wanted. The police department also stores the data collected by the LPRs for six months, to aid in investigations. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, is concerned about the data storage, saying police departments are “storing everybody’s time, place, and location.” [Voice of America]
Meat Returns to Galaxy Hut — Nine months after switching to an all-vegetarian menu, Galaxy Hut in Clarendon is again offering bacon, pulled pork, beef chili and other meat dishes. While veggie dishes will still be offered, owner Lary Hoffman blames lack of sales for his decision to ditch the vegetarian-only menu. [Washington Post]
No More Playboy at the Pentagon — Army and Air Force Exchange stores, which operate at the Pentagon and Fort Myer, among other military installations, have stopped carrying a third of its magazine collection. Among the magazines no longer available, due to declining interest, are Playboy, Penthouse and American Curves. [Sun Gazette]
NewsChannel 8 to Be National Model — Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is buying WJLA, plans to use NewsChannel 8, the station’s 24-hour local cable news channel, as a model for markets across the country. Sinclair will create a “hybrid” channel that airs local news produced by local stations and national news produced by WJLA. [Baltimore Sun]
Mobility Lab Wins Award — Arlington County’s “start-up think-tank,” Mobility Lab, has won a top award from the Association for Commuter Transportation. Mobility Lab “researches and creates solutions for transportation options that are cool, healthy, fun, and efficient.” [Arlington County]
WJLA parent company Allbritton Communications announced today that it had struck a deal to sell WJLA, local cable channel NewsChannel 8, and 6 other local TV stations to Sinclair, which is based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. The deal, worth $985 million, will add to Sinclair’s portfolio of nearly 150 television stations across the country.
The deal is not expected to close until the end of the year, while the companies wait for federal regulatory approval. No changes to the station are planned in the meantime, but newsroom employees worry that Sinclair — which is conservative in its politics and in its fiscal management — may cut jobs and make other changes once the deal is approved.
“Everybody [is] shitting bricks,” one newsroom source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ARLnow.com. “[The] mood is very tense. Everyone thinks there’ll be massive cutbacks and reductions in the next year. Not a single person is happy about the new owners.”
WJLA currently employs about 240 part-time and full-time newsroom employees, according to station General Manager Bill Lord. That doesn’t include station advertising and business staff.
One thing not likely to change in the near future, says Jerry Fritz, Senior Vice President for Legal and Strategic Affairs at Allbritton Communications, is the station’s location in Rosslyn.
“We have a long-term lease here and we believe we’ll be staying here,” Fritz told ARLnow.com.
It was announced in May that the Allbritton family was seeking a buyer for its television holdings. The announcement came five months after Joe L. Allbritton, whose initials were used as the call letters for WJLA, passed away at 87. His son, Robert Allbritton, said he would use proceeds from the sale of the stations to concentrate on another asset, Politico, and invest in internet ventures.
In a statement, Allbritton said he hopes the stations he’s selling will “reach new heights” under the new ownership.
“Sinclair is the ideal buyer of our superb television stations,” he said. “Its existing reach and history of innovation matches exceptionally well with our long tradition of viewer service and news gathering excellence. David Smith and his team have been a pleasure to work with. I am confident that their leadership and resources will enable our stations to reach new heights of service to our communities.”
WJLA and NewsChannel 8 for Sale — Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7) has been offered for sale by Allbritton Communications. The company is seeking to sell WJLA and its companion cable channel NewsChannel 8 in order to continue investing in new media, like its Politico website and newspaper. Disney, owner of the ABC television network, is thought to be a likely buyer. [WBJ, Washington Post, Politico]
Brink, Lopez Announce Reelection Bids — Dels. Bob Brink and Alfonso Lopez announced their bids for reelection to the Virginia House of Delegates at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. As part of his speech, Lopez made fun of a Republican effort in the state legislature to study the creation of a Virginia-based currency. Lopez joked that he wanted his face on the Virginia $5 bill and Brink’s on the $10 bill, so that “in Virginia it would cost a Brink and a Lopez to buy a pizza.” [Blue Virginia]
‘Over the Edge’ Fundraiser in Crystal City — Today, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., people will be rappelling 15 stories down the Hilton Crystal City at 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway as part of a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Among those scheduled to go “over the edge” today is Washington Nationals mascot Screech. The fundraiser will also run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. tomorrow (Friday). [Event Calendar, Special Olympics Virginia]
County Sells $206 Million in Bonds — Arlington County sold $206 million in bonds on Tuesday. The bonds were sold at a low 2.5 percent interest rate. The refunding of older bonds under the low rate will save the county about $5 million. [Arlington County]
Police Looking for Wallet Thief — Arlington police are looking for a man who allegedly stole a victim’s wallet in the Clarendon area last month. [ACPD]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington to Hold Online Snow Chat — Dave Hundelt, Arlington County’s Streets Manager, will be answering questions about snow removal online today (Thursday). The discussion is scheduled from noon to 1:00 p.m. [Facebook]
Metrobus Driver Arrested at Pentagon – A Metrobus driver was arrested by U.S. Marshals at the Pentagon Wednesday morning. The driver, of the 9E Pentagon-Huntington line bus, was wanted in connection with a 2010 murder. [Washington Examiner]
Joe Allbritton Dies — Joe L. Allbritton, owner of Arlington-based WJLA (ABC 7), NewsChannel 8 and Politico, has died. Allbrittion, whose initials are the call letters of WJLA, was 87. [Politico]
Arlington Ranks Sixth in Household Income — Arlington County had a median household income of $98,060 in 2011, which was 5.1 percent higher than a year prior, according to new census figures. Arlington’s 2011 median income is the sixth-highest of all counties in the United States. [Sun Gazette]
While the Board approved a request to replace the screen at 1100 Wilson Boulevard with a more modern, high definition video display, it also voted against a request that 8 percent of the screen space be used for a static commercial sponsorship message.
WJLA and landlord Monday Properties requested a sponsorship logo be allowed in order to help fund the new pricey new screen. The logo would have taken up 8 percent of the screen, while another 15 percent of the screen would have been used for community and cultural messages. As we reported last week, county staff recommended against the sponsorship request, saying it could set a bad precedent.
The county zoning ordinance states advertising for goods or services not available on site is forbidden, largely to avoid the proliferation of billboards. Jonathan Puvak, an attorney representing Monday Properties, argued at Saturday’s County Board meeting that thanks to specific restrictions proposed by the applicant, making an exception for the Jumbotron would not create a new precedent and wouldn’t spur billboards. The Board, however, still voted unanimously in favor of the county staff recommendation.
Monday Properties was seeking to replace the eight-year-old screen because it’s no longer capable of displaying the WJLA’s high definition broadcasts. At the moment, it can only display a weather map. Before the vote, Puvak said the Jumbotron may simply be taken down unless the sponsorship aspect was approved.
“Without the sponsorship element, it’s likely that the new screen will not be installed, and both the ticker and the Jumbotron will eventually come down, as they’re no longer maintainable,” Puvak said.
The 8-year-old “Jumbotron” screen outside the WJLA building in Rosslyn has “fallen into disrepair” and needs to be replaced, according to a staff report filed in advance of this Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting.
WJLA is asking the County Board to approve a site plan amendment that would allow the station to install a new high definition screen in place of the existing standard definition Jumbotron. The new screen would be smaller: 164 square feet compared to the current screen’s 172 square feet. It would also have a rectangular 16:9 aspect ratio, as opposed to the more square 4:3 aspect ratio of the current screen.
County staff is recommending the Board approve the new screen, but deny a separate request from WJLA to dedicate a portion of the screen to “commercial sponsor messages” unrelated to the normal WJLA programming.
According to the staff report:
The applicant is proposing that the Jumbotron screen be redesigned to display the WJLA broadcast on the main portion of the screen, with static community/cultural messages occupying 15% of the screen and static commercial sponsor messages occupying 8% of the screen. Currently, the screen displays the WJLA broadcast and interrupts service periodically to display community/cultural messaging.
“Such a use is prohibited by the Zoning Ordinance and a modification to allow it would be unprecedented in the County,” county staff writes.
The applicant agreed to a condition prohibiting deliberate commercial messages on the screen when the Jumbotron was approved in 2003… The Sign Ordinance prohibits the advertising of goods and services not available on the lot in which it is advertized [sic] due to the potential deleterious impacts that would result from such signs, including the proliferation of “billboards,” and the potential for increased sign clutter. There is no precedent for the County Board to approve a modification to this regulation as staff is not aware of such signs having been approved under the current Sign Ordinance.
It’s unclear if WJLA will proceed with the screen replacement if the County Board does not approve the commercial message portion of their request. It’s also unclear what exactly is broken in the current screen. A representative of Allbritton Communications, the parent company of WJLA, did not reply to a request for comment.
No changes to the wrap-around news ticker on either side of the screen are included in the request.
(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) Police investigated a bomb threat at the WJLA (ABC 7) building (1100 Wilson Blvd) in Rosslyn this afternoon.
Initial reports suggest the threat was non-specific. Pedestrian traffic was still allowed in and out of the building as normal as police and building employees searched in and around the building. A police dog could be seen sniffing around news vans at the station’s parking lot.
Police are in the process of clearing the scene. No threats were found, according to Arlington police spokeswoman Det. Crystal Nosal.
(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.
The management of TBD will be taken over by its corporate sibling, television station WJLA (ABC 7), the Washington Post reported today. Station Manager Bill Lord will now oversee TBD’s operations, according to the Post. WJLA.com, which has merely redirected to TBD.com for the past six months, will be run as a separate web site. No staffing changes are planned at TBD.
WJLA and TBD are both owned by Allbritton Communications and operated out of the Allbritton offices at 1100 Wilson Boulevard.
The change comes three months after TBD founder Jim Brady left the site, citing differences with company CEO Robert Allbritton and culture clashes with personnel at WJLA. TBD Managing Editor Paul Volpe left the site two weeks ago for the New York Times.
Keen observers of local media may have noticed that TBD’s Rebecca Cooper, who represents one-third of Arlington’s full-time reporting corps along with ARLnow.com and the Sun Gazette, has been posting fewer Arlington articles as of late — including only one so far this week. But TBD Editor-in-Chief Erik Wemple says that’s because she’s on vacation.
“No conspiracy here,” Wemple wrote via email. He also said that TBD’s Arlington coverage will continue.
An internal source tells ARLnow.com that TBD staff have attended a number of meetings over the past week or two about the direction of the site, and that some new features may be in the works.
At the same time, however, there has been a noticeable drop in the number of stories aggregated on TBD’s home page in the past month. The site has a feature that allows you to plug in a zip code and get headlines from other local web sites. At least for Arlington zip codes, that list is now only sporadically updated.
Disclosure: ARLnow.com was the first web site to join as a member of TBD’s “Community Network” of local web sites. We still maintain that relationship.
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) It’s rare to find a news organization that’s actively hiring these days, let alone one that’s expanding physically. But that’s exactly what Allbritton Communications is seeking to do in Rosslyn.
Allbritton’s landlord has applied for a site plan amendment to convert space that was originally intended to be a television studio into work space for the web divisions of its WJLA-TV and Politico properties. The nearly 6,000 square foot space is a former retail bay in the interior mall of the 1000/1100 Wilson Boulevard office complex.
Citing the “evolution of the broadcast television industry into a web-based online media,” Allbritton will take what the board initially approved in July 2008 to be a new TV studio for WJLA and convert it into cubicles and offices for web employees. County staff is recommending the board approve the change at its Saturday, Dec. 11 meeting.
The renovations will help facilitate the on-going addition of nearly 100 employees for TBD, the web and cable division of WJLA, and Politico Pro, a new subscription service that’s being launched early next year, according Saul Carlin, Allbritton’s Director of Special Projects.
TBD currently has 24 web employees and approximately 12 cable employees. Politico Pro is expected to launch with a staff of 40. According to TBD Editor Erik Wemple, the web site is in the process of hiring three new employees — a news writer, a D.C. neighborhoods reporter, and a transit/transportation reporter.
That accounts for not quite 80 of the 100 stated new hires. Additional hirings at TBD are “possible,” Wemple said.
In the site plan filing, Allbritton said the new hires should boost the company’s Rosslyn workforce by about 25 percent, from 400 employees to 500 employees.
“If approved, the change would help us to keep our growing Arlington operations under one roof,” said Carlin. “In this difficult economy, we’re pleased that we can be an engine of job creation in Arlington County.”
“The proximity to the federal government creates opportunities for news organizations in the Washington, D.C. media market that might not be available to them elsewhere,” Carlin added.
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
It started when farmers market vendors started complaining about C&T Fruits and Vegetables, which was selling produce at prices that other growers could not match.
The Clarendon Alliance, which runs the market, tried to convince C&T owner Tracy Debernard to raise her prices so that long-time vendors would not be squeezed out. When Debernard refused, she was told that this would be her last week at the market.
Meanwhile, someone apparently pitched the story to WJLA (ABC 7). Reporter Stephen Tschida showed up yesterday afternoon and reported live from the market. His story included soundbites from plenty of people who like the low prices, but did not include comments from any of the other market vendors.
For her part, Debernard told Tschida that she is considering legal action to force her way back into the market.
Confirming rumors that have been swirling for months on DCRTV, long-time WRC (NBC 4) meteorologist Bob Ryan is officially joining his friend Doug Hill at Rosslyn-based WJLA (ABC 7).
Ryan left WRC two months ago after failing to agree to a new contract. If the experience of other on-air talent at the station is any guide, the contract proposed by WRC management may have included a pay cut.
Starting today, Ryan will appear on WJLA’s 11:00 p.m. newscasts, while Hill will remain on air at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. They will appear together during severe weather events, according to the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi.
Ryan will also actively contribute to the weather section of TBD.com, the local news venture being launched by WJLA parent company Allbritton Communications. ARLnow.com has announced a partnership with TBD.
It will be exciting to see what kind of weather content Ryan will be able to create online. Bob’s mind is a treasure trove of meteorological facts and insights, a fraction of which makes it on air (even during his eternity-in-television 5- or 6-minute weather hits).
Ryan did not have the creative freedom he wanted to create and maintain a weather-focused website at WRC. Now, he has a blank slate with which to work at TBD. Expect great things.
I think this is a smart move and I wish my former WRC colleague well. It will be some fun viewing when Hill and Ryan team up to cover the next severe thunderstorm outbreak.