A Day in the Life: Bringing Local News to the Community

The following is the fifth and final article in a weekly series about a “day in the life” of companies at the MakeOffices coworking space in Clarendon. The series is sponsored by MakeOffices.

Although coffee is readily available at the office when Local News Now Founder Scott Brodbeck arrives, he typically brings his own. He knows that he’ll need the earlier jump start before leaping right in at the office and turning on the police scanner while sifting through readers’ news tips.

While the business aspects of Local News Now and much of the daily writing for local news website ARLnow.com are done at the MakeOffices Clarendon home base, covering news means being ready to go out on assignment at any given time.

“For us, the location is great. Being able to walk to so many things has been huge,” says Brodbeck.

Obviously, there’s far more to Arlington than just Clarendon, but being based at such a central location in the county makes for easy transportation to story locations. Staff usually walk, run or drive to stories, although Brodbeck explains that they have not yet delved into a very Arlington-esque mode of transportation while on the clock.

“We haven’t biked to any stories yet, but it’s something we’re considering,” he says with a laugh.

On one particularly busy news day last month, Brodbeck took the short walk from his office to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly opened Hyatt Place Hotel in Courthouse. He snaps photos and listens to speeches from corporate and county leaders as dozens sip champagne to celebrate the new development at the space previously occupied by Wilson Tavern, and Kitty O’Shea’s before it.

(Brodbeck refrained from imbibing the bubbly on the job, but isn’t opposed to an after-working-hours beer from one of MakeOffices’ kegerators.)

Along the way to the event, Brodbeck does what reporters do: He keeps an eye out for other potential stories. That means taking photos of progress at two nearby construction sites, investigating a “temporarily closed” sign at Five Guys (it has since reopened) and making a note to stop at the just-opened Blumen Cafe after the ribbon-cutting event.

Business does not come to a halt at Local News Now headquarters when Brodbeck and other reporters are out in the field. Back at the office, Director of Sales and Business Engagement Meghan McMahon gears up to meet with advertising clients. For her, location is also key for conducting work tasks.

“I work with a lot of local Arlington businesses. Being able to run in and out of the office to meet people… is very convenient,” she says.

McMahon’s life recently changed with the birth of her daughter and now another important aspect comes into play daily: balancing work life with being a mom.

Returning to a coworking space after maternity leave at first seemed overwhelming for McMahon, who suddenly had to factor breastfeeding into her daily routine. “When I first came in I saw that everything’s glass, everything’s open. I wondered where my privacy would be,” she says. “I was a little stressed about how to be in a working office environment and also be able to pump and do the things I have to do to be a new mom.”

But it turns out that MakeOffices Clarendon has an amenity McMahon wasn’t aware of at first. There are small, completely private, secure rooms called “wellness centers” that she now takes advantage of twice each work day.

“That was a sense of relief for me,” she says. “I can take a few minutes out of my day and go relax in the wellness rooms… It gives me 20 minutes of alone time so that I can get ‘mom stuff’ done.”

McMahon jokes about how quickly work environment priorities can change, noting that previously she had enjoyed the happy hours in the office common areas.

“I was that person who would take advantage of the opportunity to drink and socialize, but very quickly my life has changed where I now need to do both… and to have an environment that caters to both,” she says. “Here you have the gamut… people who appreciate the social environment, and then the people who just like me… have to be a working mom.”

Simply put, making the transition from a young professional to a mom/professional in the coworking environment hasn’t involved the hassles McMahon had feared, which allows her to easily continue running Local News Now’s sales.

“Everyone has been really respectful,” she says. “I very much appreciate that sense of it.”

Brodbeck has enjoyed his share of office happy hours, but today there’s too much business to finish up to consider socializing. First, he preps for a meeting and conference call with the small business’ advisory board members and for a podcast interview with Rep. Don Beyer. Then he needs to check in again with employees at Local News Now’s other two sites: RestonNow and Borderstan.

He does, however, take advantage of the mild fall weather by moving outside to work on the third floor patio.

“You don’t have to stay chained to a desk if the weather is nice,” he explains. Plus, the view allows him to keep an eye on Clarendon as rush hour approaches, just in case any action arises that needs covering.

Again, he says, location is everything. Not to mention the overall benefits of being based in a coworking space, like not having to spend time and energy setting up a standalone location. With the frenetic pace of covering Arlington’s 26 square miles for its 230,000 residents, there’s just not enough time in the day to stress over buying office furniture or deciding who’s going to clean up the kitchen.

“Here we can just focus on what we do best —  the news.”