Reports: Major Layoffs at TBD.com

by Scott Brodbeck February 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm 2,651 30 Comments

(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.

While our working relationship never faltered, TBD and ARLnow.com had some disagreements near the end about the site’s waning relationship with its community network.

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

  • JB

    Today, the city… tomorrow THE WORLD

    ARLnow taking it over

    • TGEoA

      Arlnow has far better coverage.

      • ClarendonKing


      • GMo

        Couldn’t agree more.

  • ClarendonKing

    Good, maybe now the housings prices will finally drop a bit in our county.

    • CW

      In soviet russia, housings prices you!

      • ClarendonKing


  • Overgrown Bush

    Maybe WJLA.COM will offer these folks positions. They hardly can afford to live in Arlington (or almost anywhere in Northern VA) if they are not working.

  • FrankIsAnIdiot

    I guess this means WJLA is going to bag the news and just do entertainment stories.

  • Becky

    How does this affect the TV news station channel 8 (TBD news)?

    • The channel is already set to go back to its original “NewsChannel 8” branding. I haven’t heard of any layoffs there.

  • winner

    I’d imagine the competition for the eyeballs of quasi intellectual hipsters such as the Onion or the Daily Show are really popping corks right about now!

  • MB

    I couldn’t be paid enough to care about the next cupcake opening, but TBD certainly did improve the transportation reporting beat. It’ll be a real loss to everyone (even those that don’t read them) if those folks don’t land at another news org.

    The internet is made – as ARLnow illustrates – for hyperlocal news. We need more of it.

  • 1234

    Maybe they will finally bring back Ron Riley and Dave Willingham. My mornings aren’t the same without the dynamic duo!

    • Truthi

      Too bad I kinda liked that hot blonde.

  • Take it down a notch

    I always thought the name was terrible. “To be determined” is the opposite of knowing and reporting the news.

  • ArlingtonAaron

    Who would have thought that AOL’s Patch thing would outlast TBD? Perhaps not by much, but they are still rolling along for now.

  • good. It stunk from the very beginning. I missed the old wjla and the tbd was “fluff” news for me. Hardly went back to it. Then Amanda Hess was a constant headache of mine – girl has serious issues to deal with. I wish everyone well. All seem very young so they will move along just fine. We often learn and grow the most from situations that appear negative.

    • Arlingtonian

      Amanda Hess was previously with Washington City Paper. Wonder if they will put her column back now?

  • G

    Any openings at ARLnow for Rebecca?

    • GMo

      Or at least some freelance work?

  • ballston

    Never fun to read of layoffs. Hopefully those let go find something quickly.

  • Lou

    Back in December they were talking about adding office space and hiring new people. Now this.

    • GMo

      They did expand their offices just recently. I recall reading it here somewhere.

  • TuesdaysChild

    That was a quick flameout, considering how long they spent developing the concept and all the costs that went into launch and rebranding the TV station.

  • LIAM

    It seems they spent all their time and money advertising that News Channel 8 is now TBD. I never understood what that meant and why they promoted it so much. I never knew that TBD was anything else besides News Channel 8. I love News Channel 8 because it is the only way to get local news on TV anytime of day. You don’t have to wait until 11 pm at night to see a weather report. I hope News Channel 8 stays in business. They have plenty of advertising so I would be surprised if they are not profitable.

  • TuesdaysChild

    Maybe they should change the name to Q.E.D.

  • southside

    Yes 1234! Let’s start a bring back Ron Riley/Dave Willingham in 2011 campaign! I miss those krazy kooks too.

  • Thirsty

    The announcement of TBD’s demise was the biggest promotion it ever received. I hadn’t heard of it before.

  • I used to love the TBD iPhone app because in some ways it was cleaner and easier to use than the site. My phone still has their rubber case. RIP TBD.


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