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When Jay Westcott joined ARLnow in September 2019, he said one of his main focuses was covering the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 and its impact on the local community.

He could not have foreseen that within just seven months, he would be documenting some of the most consequential years not only for Arlington but for the entire world.

“The global pandemic changed the way we do business, shop for groceries, dine out, and live our lives here in Arlington,” he told ARLnow.

After nearly two decades in the field, Westcott is stepping away from news to focus on his other interests, including portraiture, storytelling and music. He leaves behind a vast archive of photos that captured scenes from the pandemic, major storms, Black Lives Matter protests and Arlington’s changing landscape.

The gallery above features 145 of Westcott’s favorite photos, chosen from thousands to represent his four-plus years of capturing life in Arlington.

“I have tried my best to show Arlington in all its forms and show how much I love living here,” he said.

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Jay Westcott (courtesy of Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) ARLnow’s staff photographer, Jay Westcott, is stepping away from the news industry — but he isn’t putting his camera aside just yet.

At 51, Westcott is shifting his focus from the fast-paced world of daily news photography to focus on the sides of photography that align with his other passions, including portraiture, storytelling and music.

“I’m looking forward to just concentrating on the things that I’m really good at,” he told ARLnow.

Growing up in Battle Creek, Michigan, roughly two hours west of Detroit, Westcott displayed a passion for photography from a young age, often using his dad’s camera to shoot yearbook pictures in high school. It wasn’t until after high school when he joined the U.S. Navy that Westcott’s passion for the visual medium began to flourish.

Four years after he joined the service when Westcott was aboard the USS Roosevelt, a Navy photographer reignited his interest in camera work.

“He had this really cool camera… and I just loved what he was able to do with that, the pictures he could get from that, and he convinced me to buy a camera,” Westcott said.

He wrote to his mother, asking her to mail his dad’s camera and bought a 35mm Canon autofocus SLR. In the years that followed, he documented life aboard the ship and the countries he visited around the Mediterranean, including Rhodes, Greece, and Venice, Italy.

Westcott, who is also a guitarist, remembers the day he decided he would leave the Navy and pursue photography. While browsing Guitar World magazine in his bunk one day, he came across a photograph by the renowned Seattle-based American photographer Charles Peterson, who was promoting his new book “Touch Me I’m Sick.”

“Instead of being one of the guys in the photos in the magazine, I wanted to be the guy taking the picture,” Westcott said.

King Baby Man Child (by Jay Westcott)

In 1996, Westcott was honorably discharged from the Navy and headed to Virginia Beach, where he met his now ex-wife and sold cars for several years before moving to Northern Virginia.

In the summer of 2000, at age 28, Westcott enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College and then transferred a year later to George Mason University to study photography. About a year into his tenure at George Mason, and disillusioned with the program, Westcott applied and was accepted on a scholarship to The Corcoran College of Art and Design (now a part of George Washington University) in D.C.

“I went there for three years and loved every second of it,” he said.

Westcott’s first big break was a paid internship at the Scripps-Howard news service in D.C., which operated for 96 years from 1917 to 2013. What launched his career, however, was a chance sighting of of an armored truck robbery near McPherson Square Park, where he saw a man wielding a shotgun.

“So, I go out, and I take a couple of pictures and then go down to the street and take a few more pictures,” he said. “The guy gets hauled away in an ambulance while he was handcuffed.”

The pictures Westcott took that day got picked up by the Washington Post, which offered Westcott a full-time staff job shortly after.

“I felt I started at the top,” he said.

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The ThoughtExchange platform Arlington Public Schools has debuted (via APS)

Arlington Public Schools has a new internal social media platform for families but its anonymous commenting policy prompted a tense discussion among some School Board members.

This year, the school system launched ThoughtExchange, which allows people to comment on topics or proposals administrators bring to the community for public comment. Users can also rank the comments others make 1-5 stars.

ThoughtExchange is intended to be a simpler and faster alternative to answering surveys and writing emails. APS has used it to gauge reception of its proposed school calendar and its plans to turn Nottingham Elementary School into a “swing space” and relocate the Spanish immersion program from Gunston to Kenmore Middle School.

“The goal of ThoughtExchange was for us to get more comprehensive feedback from our community,” APS Director of Strategic Outreach Daryl Johnson said in a work session last week. “One of the biggest requests that we continually receive from the community is transparency, and so people are actually able to see the thoughts of others in real time.”

But the platform’s anonymous commenting function raised red flags for School Board member Reid Goldstein.

“In the 10 or 15 years that social media has been around, I have yet to hear anybody, worldwide, say, ‘Boy, this social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread,'” Goldstein said. “I’m curious as to what thought we were going to achieve by creating another social media conduit and allowing commenters to sign up anonymously.”

Johnson said APS allows anonymous feedback so people speak up without worrying their opinions will blow back in their face at, for instance, the next Parent-Teacher Association meeting.

“So yes, sometimes it may go to the other end of the spectrum where it allows someone to say something that may not be the most favorable or the most constructive feedback, but however, it allows people to actually give that honest feedback without the retaliation,” he said.

Goldstein asked Johnson if staff expect “unfavorable” comments to increase, how much time they devote to content moderation and whether the communications team will request a future full-time moderator position.

Johnson noted that staff spend significant time moderating comments and responding to those “spreading misinformation.” He said a full-time moderator is unnecessary because ThoughtExchange uses AI to flag words and notify staff and participants can also report comments.

“We also are able to comment and respond to what people are saying,” he said.

Responding to Goldstein, School Board Chair Cristina Diaz-Torres said anonymous negative comments already exist on other platforms and, with ThoughtExchange, APS at least can moderate.

“These are comments that were happening already in different venues. If you’ve seen an ARLnow comment, if you’ve seen DC Urban Moms and Dads, Arlington Education Matters, these comments have been happening,” she said.

“The reality is that these comments were being made,” she continued. “A lot of these comments are incredibly disrespectful and are incredibly unkind and are incredibly inappropriate, however, here is an area where we can in fact do that moderation, using the tools that Mr. Johnson just mentioned.”

Goldstein agreed these comments have always existed but stressed with the new platform, “we are giving a platform to them and rewarding bad behavior that we have historically…”

“We’re not, though, if we’re taking them away,” Diaz-Torres interjected.

“…historically spent too much time [rewarding],” Goldstein continued, reprising his comment.

Diaz-Torres, who added that she appreciates the ability to rank comments, concluded the discussion with a message to the community “to be kind.”

“This is a new piece of software. And yes, you can be a keyboard warrior to your heart’s content, behind your keyboard, in the privacy of your own home, but remember, that there are humans on the receiving end of this,” she said.


A poster poking fun at the ARLnow commentariat won an award at the Arlington County Fair last week.

In white, upper case letters on a purple background, it reads, “You’ll see me in hell before you’ll see me in the ARLnow comments.”

ARLnow caught up with the creator ribbing the denizens of the comment section — who can be helpful, amusing and pugnacious, all in the course of a Monday morning — and he said the poster is a friendly jab.

“It’s true I don’t play pickleball but I do read ARLnow (subscribe actually) and I got nothing but love for the commenters,” he said.

The creator is also behind the volley of pro-pickleball posters in Penrose earlier this year: @ARLINGTONAF, who can be found on the platform X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, as well as Threads. His posters likening pickleball to the Cold War popped up all around Columbia Pike earlier this year.

The account owner, who goes by Mac, says fair attendees who stopped by his art display got a kick out of the poster.

“Lots of people stopped and laughed and took their phones out for that one,” he told ARLnow, adding that he liked seeing it resonate with people.

The poster also made the rounds on social media.

For @ARLINGTONAF, the joke comes from a good place. It inhabits the simultaneously sarcastic and genuine Arlington subculture — also seen in the ARLnow comment section — that can rib and lionize civic leaders and find the humor in debates over pickleball, gondolas, housing and bicycle trails.

“It’s like the Jay Fisette trail: if you have to have the joke explained, then obviously you didn’t get it,” he said. “But I’m pretty sure everybody in the ARLnow comments gets ‘their’ joke.”

For the uninitiated, the words “Jay Fisette Memorial Trail” were found spray-painted onto a dirt “desire path” on the east side of N. Carlin Springs Road, north of 1st Street N. In 2015, the majority of Arlington County Board members, including avid cyclist Fisette, voted against a proposal to pave what which Fisette then called a “cow path.”

Mac, who documents his bicycle rides through Arlington on social media, says he submitted several “random” posters he made but never hung. This includes a stylized portrait of former Board member Katie Cristol, with the caption, “Here for the housing, not the convention,” a nod to her focus on increasing housing, including Missing Middle-type dwellings.

A few months ago, he was asked to frame the ARLnow poster for an interested buyer. He did — using garbage he found on the Pike — but the buyer never came through. This ended up being a stroke of luck for the poster pundit.

“I got hit by a car a few weeks ago and didn’t actually get to make any art this year, but wanted to enter something,” he said, noting he is feeling better after the crash.

While the poster received a ribbon, Mac demurred from too much recognition, saying most of his submitted work has been recognized one way or another.

“This year, I just went with my own Arlington theme,” he said.

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Sunset in Ballston, near ARLnow’s office (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

ARLnow and its sister sites celebrated another year of hard work, journalistic achievements and client service at our holiday party Monday night.

One change: the venue. Rather than eating and drinking at a local restaurant, as usual, we had beer, wine, soda and pizza in the common area of our coworking space in Ballston. It’s one example of the belt tightening underway over the past couple of months, amid a downturn in the economy and among media companies in particular.

Round after round of layoffs have been announced at U.S. media companies this fall, including at CNN, Buzzfeed, Tysons-based newspaper chain Gannett, and email newsletter company Morning Brew. The Washington Post is set to undergo more layoffs early next year, its publisher announced today, while Rosslyn-based tech publication Protocol shuttered last month.

ARLnow and our sister sites are no exception to the pain felt among advertising-supported news outlets. After a torrid start to the year, which brought about plans for additional hiring, our company’s revenue is down in the quarter to date.

Chart showing quarterly revenue change at ARLnow’s parent company from 2021 to 2022 (as of Dec. 14, 2022)

We started to see the slowdown, as did other media companies, in July. October and November were particularly bad months. The good news is that we’ve seen a pronounced recovery in December.

That does not mean we’re out of the woods by any means, however. Many are predicting a recession in 2023, though projections for how deep and prolonged it will be vary to a significant degree.

Despite the economic challenges, we have committed to our nine full-time employees that no layoffs are planned and we will do whatever is needed to avoid them. Instead, we have cut back on some technology expenses, non-essential spending and our freelance budget.

You can also expect to see ALXnow editor Vernon Miles helping out with ARLnow, to offset some of the freelance cuts.

We are fortunate to be operating in a market that is bolstered economically by federal spending and to have a loyal adverter base and a growing roster of paid members. Other local news outlets are not as lucky.

Still, we can use your support. If we can add 200 new ARLnow Press Club members (less than 0.1% of our monthly readership) between now and the end of the year we should be able to keep ARLnow’s freelance budget at current levels. If you’d like to support our reporting while getting an early look at the next day’s news, please consider subscribing.

The media business is always evolving, but now seems like a particularly volatile time. In the interest of transparency, we wanted to discuss some other factors that are affecting our business now and into the future.

Artificial intelligence and automation

We have spent much of the past year working on no-code automations that allow our editorial and business teams to operate more efficiently. For instance, most social media posts are now automated and we can publish events, announcements and other user-submitted content with a single click.

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ARLnow’s parent company, Local News Now, is proud to announce three new full-time hires.

These hires, two of which are for newly-created positions, are made possible by a strong recovery in LNN’s advertising business since the depths of the pandemic-induced recession. We were further emboldened to add to our team, despite uncertainty about the economy and the pandemic, by our ARLnow Patreon community and the support provided by readers.

LNN publishes ARLnow, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in January, as well as ALXnow, Tysons Reporter and Reston Now. We also provide sales and technical services to PoPville.

The new hires will allow us to improve the breadth and depth of our local journalism, while also strengthening our increasingly-popular sponsored content offerings.

Angela Woolsey is joining us as the new Tysons Reporter editor, replacing Catherine Douglas Moran, who is now an Associate Editor at Industry Dive. Angela was formerly a general assignment reporter for the Fairfax County Times.

Jo DeVoe is joining us as a reporter and copy editor for ARLnow and Tysons Reporter. She joins us from Hearst newspapers in Connecticut, including the Greenwich Time, where she primarily reported on education.

Carson Kohler will be joining the team on Nov. 2 as our new Content Marketing Manager, helping advertising clients maximize their sponsored content investment with us and better engage our readers. She is currently a writer with The Penny Hoarder.

Additionally, Scott Fields will be joining us as a part-time contributor, providing coverage for both our Arlington and our Fairfax County sites.

Thank you to our Northern Virginia and D.C. communities for your support and readership. We look forward to continuing to find ways to better serve you.


At least for now, ARLnow has weathered the storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and we’ve done it with your help.

Back in March and April, things were looking bleak. For a time, advertising sales were down over 40% and new sales had nearly stopped. We were staring into a void of financial losses and a worsening economic picture. But then things started going right.

Several hundred people joined our Patreon page. Others sent one-time donations via Paypal. Almost all of our ongoing advertisers stuck with us. And eventually, the financial outlook improved to the point where today we can say: we’re out of imminent danger.

Thanks to the support of our readers and advertisers, we have been able to retain our full-time staff and keep reporting, uninterrupted. We’re running pretty lean at the moment, and tired from months of a very busy news cycle, but we’re here.

The Patreon campaign was intended to be a temporary measure, and given that we’re in decent shape we are pausing billing for our members through at least September. As there is a very real risk of a second wave of infection hitting the region in the fall, we’d appreciate if those who joined can stay on until we know the coast is clear. We’ll continue to defer billing until a need returns, at which point we would let you know that the Patreon is being turned back on.

In the meantime, we’d encourage those seeking to donate to worthy local causes to consider AFACA-SPANArlington Thrive, the Arlington Community Foundation and other local nonprofits.

The pandemic has hit the media business, particularly local news, very hard, and we’re incredibly grateful to the Arlington community for your readership and support. It didn’t seem like the right time to brag about it, but at the height of the crisis we reached 2.5 million monthly pageviews, a new record and more than 1 million views over the record we set in February.

So thank you, Arlington. We look forward to continuing to serve the community for years to come.

– The ARLnow Team


Local News Now is the company behind the site you’re reading. We aren’t usually very visible or vocal, preferring to let the reporting of our Northern Virginia local news brands — ARLnow, ALXnow, Tysons Reporter, Reston Now — speak for itself.

LNN does not endorse candidates nor publish editorials. But today we would like to make the following statement, the first of its kind in our company’s 10 year history.

Black lives matter.

We are far from the first company to state this incontrovertible fact, but it bears repeating. Black lives matter and the threat from systemic racism and racial injustice needs to be addressed by urgent policy reforms and an honest ongoing discussion.

To that end, our sites will continue our local reporting on matters related to inequitable policies, misconduct by those in authority, and the concerns of marginalized communities. We will keep reporting without fear or favor, with a facts-first approach that illuminates and informs.

We believe that impartiality can coexist in journalism with deeply held principles. For instance, belief in free speech, our democratic system, and the importance of small business is widely held among U.S.-based local news publications, including ours. We do not try to “balance” election stories by saying that some do not believe in democracy and fair elections. It’s just a given that elections are a positive part of our society.

Likewise, we also believe that Black lives matter and believe in LGBTQ equality, and do not feel the need to provide a counterpoint to either in our reporting. The worth of a human life and equal treatment under a law are objectively positive things. There’s no debate, no second side that needs to be heard in order to be impartial.

We recognize that there has been room to evolve our approach to local news over the years. More about some of the changes we have implemented can be found here. We will continue to evaluate our reporting and approach to covering the community as we move forward.

Today is Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of remaining enslaved persons at the end of the Civil War. We are giving our employees — who have tirelessly covered the pandemic and protests over the past few months — the afternoon off as a time of reflection. We hope that our readers also use this opportunity to reflect on the challenge of achieving racial justice in this country, including here at home.

Morning Notes

Special County Board Meeting Planned — On Thursday at 6 p.m., the Arlington County Board “will hold a special meeting for a listening session on racial justice, systemic racism and policing. The County Board special meeting will be conducted using electronic means.” [Arlington County]

County Commissions Still Mostly Inactive — “Faced with a growing rebellion over the lack of meetings by Arlington government advisory panels, County Board members and top staff on June 13 offered (slightly defensive) apologies – but not much of a roadmap forward. Board members were responding to a June 9 letter sent to them by 25 chairs of advisory groups, complaining that the local government has been lagging in re-starting meetings that largely have been on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March.” [InsideNova]

Pandemic Affects College Plans — From a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday: “The struggle extends to those already in college who are laboring to pay tuition and are weighed down by debt like 20-year-old Katherine Trejo of Arlington, Virginia. The daughter of a single mom from Bolivia, Katherine was supposed to graduate from George Mason next year. She is the first person in her family to attend college.” [CBS News]

Summer School Registration Underway — “Registration for distance learning secondary summer school is underway. Elementary students who qualify to participate in the Elementary Summer Learning Program will automatically be registered by APS.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Guilty Plea in Case Involving Arlington Company — “A former Arlington business executive pleaded guilty today to embezzling nearly $8 million that was intended to settle claims by children who alleged they were victims of medical malpractice. According to court documents, Joseph E. Gargan, 59, of Round Hill, was the Chief Executive Office of the Pension Company, Inc., an Arlington business that would execute settlement agreements entered into between civil litigants.” [Dept. of Justice]

ARLnow Operating Remotely — Since the first confirmed local coronavirus case in March, ARLnow’s employees have been working from home. We plan to continue working remotely until 2021, and may continue to have most employees work remotely most of the time after that. [Washingtonian]


Months of wall-to-wall coverage of Amazon’s plans to come to Crystal City and Pentagon City were recognized last night by the D.C. Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Airey, Vernon Miles, Kalina Newman, Alex Koma were all named winners of the 2019 Dateline Award for online business reporting, citing ARLnow’s “hyperlocal coverage of Amazon.”

Airey, who left ARLnow in November and currently works as a freelance journalist, was also a finalist in two other categories; online non-breaking news and best reporting:

“These awards recognize some of the best journalism being done in the Washington, D.C., region by some of the best reporters around,” SPJ DC President Randy Showstack said on the organization’s website. “SPJ DC applauds these journalists for their outstanding efforts to shine a light on issues that the public needs to be aware of.”

File photo


On March 25, the owner of ARLnow’s parent company — which also owns ALXnow, Tysons Reporter and Reston Now — sent an email to the manager of our local bank branch.

“My understanding is that banks will be offering some form of SBA loan for payroll support, with a provision for the payroll costs to be forgiven after a few months,” said the email, sent two days before the CARES Act was signed into law. “That is something we both very much need and want. Can you put me in line to apply for it when the bill passes and we know what the terms are?”

Four weeks later, all $349 billion of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program is spoken for and ARLnow’s application is still listed opaquely as “under review” by our bank, PNC.

We’re not alone, millions of small business — including Ben’s Chili Bowl — are facing the same reality. And while the program is likely to be replenished by Congress soon, those left behind still have the uncertainty of not knowing whether we’ll get the loans this time around, and whether it will be too late to save the business as it exists now, even if we eventually do qualify.

Thanks to the loyalty of our long-time advertisers and the generous contributions of our readers, ARLnow will weather this storm in one form or another. But a PPP loan would make a big difference in our ability to retain our workforce and our level of original reporting going forward.

For those interested in the nitty gritty, the following is an account of our experience with PPP. Hopefully it can be instructive for those trying to understand how it worked (and did not work), or cathartic for small business owners in the same boat.

But first, three caveats:

  1. It’s not unique. Lots of small businesses also were left high and dry.
  2. It’s just a snapshot. We only applied through one bank, so those who applied through other banks would have different experiences.
  3. Plenty of businesses did get PPP loans. Clarendon-based media company Axios announced today that it qualified for a $5 million PPP loan. Shake Shack got $10 million, but is giving it back amid a backlash. Tens of thousands of businesses in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. collectively received $16.5 billion. And those that bank at smaller community banks seem to have fared better than those who use big banks.

Friday, April 3

We emailed the person we were told was our main point of contact at PNC’s main Arlington office, on the day that the Small Business Administration was slated to open up its PPP loan processing window.

“It sounds like banks can start lending under the Payroll Protection Program in the CARES Act.” we asked. “How can we move forward with that?”

Our PNC contact responded promptly, letting us know that “like other financial institutions, we are reviewing the additional guidance from the U.S. Treasury and waiting for the final guidelines and details from the Small Business Administration.” This would be the last time we would hear from a human at PNC until a check-in email on April 16, the day the program ran out of money.

Applying with PNC made the most sense for us. We’ve banked there for the past decade as a business, and our owner has banked there personally since he was a teenager in the 1990s. Plus myriad articles on the subject of PPP said that business owners would have the most luck applying with their existing bank, which is more familiar with their financial history.

The fact that we also have a lending relationship with PNC, in the form of a long-standing line of credit, would also help, theoretically.

PNC opened applications on its website Friday night, but did not announce it to customers (at least not to us) via email.

Monday, April 6 

Not wanting to wait to hear back, we checked the PNC website, and after clicking around a bit found out that the bank was accepting applications online. Do not try to apply with a branch, the website is the only way to submit an application, it said.

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