Arlington County Board Communications Manager Mary Curtius was a journalist when the reporters wrote drunk and sometimes edited sober, and when the editors ashed their cigarettes on reporters’ desks if they were lucky.
She started writing when “cut-and-paste” literally meant cutting sections of type out and sticking paragraphs together with rubber cement glue.
“We probably went home high every day, we were inhaling so much rubber cement,” she said. (On that note, the photographers, stuck in dark rooms all day, were probably loopy from the developer and fixer chemicals.)
Curtius reported from Los Angeles, Jerusalem and Capitol Hill. She was the Middle East bureau chief for the Boston Globe and Christian Science Monitor. She covered Congress for the LA Times and before that was the paper’s National Security Editor. To have more time with her kids, she switched tracks 11 years ago and started handling communications for Arlington County.
Today is Curtius’ last day as Communications Manager for the County Board before she retires. After five decades of working — she started cleaning homes at 13 — she says she looks forward to visiting friends and family now that she is fully vaccinated, traveling and volunteering. And rest. She looks forward to rest.
“I don’t think there are a lot of people who can say they never had a bad job and never got to do anything fun,” she said. “I’m lucky. I’m really lucky. It’s been a great ride.”
And sometimes, the ride was dangerous. She remembers taking a road trip out of Jerusalem with two male reporters, and when she got into the car, she saw they were working through a bottle of whisky. The two polished it off over the five-hour drive.
“It was completely terrifying,” she said. “That was how they lived… I was always ‘the good girl.'”
She had to be, to get ahead in a male-dominated field.
But her distinguished journalism career took a toll on her family life. So Curtius joined the county 11 years ago to be home more with her kids. During her tenure, Curtius said the changing media landscape and the dawn of social media caused her job to morph too. She has been part of a few major crises — Snowmageddon and the Derecho storm and now the coronavirus — and has helped Arlington prepare for Amazon’s arrival.
“It was a great job,” she said. “It’s a great county — God’s truth — it’s a great county. It was an amazing experience to be doing something that directly related to my community.”
Curtius remembers spending 18 months documenting how Arlington transformed from a sleepy town to a bedroom community for Pentagon workers to a bustling metropolitan area. She found all the Board members and county managers who were still alive and put together plans in the 60s and 70s to accommodate the Metro and concentrate development around stations.
“That video captured the ‘Greatest Generation’ — people who had these ideas and laid the foundation of modern Arlington,” she said. “I really enjoyed meeting those people. Almost all of them are dead now.”
Over the last decade, she said local media coverage has waned. Before joining the County Board in 2006, she said TV stations would set up cameras to get clips from County Board meetings. No longer, except for major news like Amazon’s arrival.
“It seems incredible to think about that,” she said.
Since then, the Washington Post has pulled back on local coverage, and there are not as many news outlets focused on county government — the Sun Gazette and present company excluded, she added.
“Of course, it is happening across the country,” she said. “It’s really distressing, just as a reporter, that there’s not a lot of local coverage.”
Board Balks at Preservation Request — “Efforts to place the 9-acre Rouse estate at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North McKinley Road into a local historic district appear to have pushed the property owner to move forward with the ‘nuclear option‘… And, county officials say, there is not much they can do to prevent it. ‘Our hands are pretty much tied,’ County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said Dec. 12, effectively rebuffing a request that the county government take stronger actions.” [InsideNova]
Board Responds to Reopening Request — “A request that Arlington County Board members use their influence – whether through sweet-talking or something more forceful – to get county schools back up and running fell largely on deaf ears Dec. 12. Board members said they were working with their School Board counterparts, but had no power to force a reopening of schools that have been shuttered since last March.” [InsideNova]
Local Nonprofit Expands Aid — “Since April of this year [Arlington] Thrive has provided more than $5 million is assistance to 1,300 families and individuals, a dramatic increase from the $805,000 Thrive provided to families and individuals during the same period last year. Typical requests to Arlington Thrive used to be for one or two months rent but since the pandemic now extend to six or seven months.” [Press Release]
Church Continues Drive-Thru Donations — “Clarendon Presbyterian Church recently announced that it will continue holding monthly Drive-thru Food and Toiletry Collections to support our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. Since the first Collection in June through the most recent one in December, the community donated the equivalent of 756 brown paper bags of groceries – an estimated value of $30,000.” [Press Release]
Northam Proposes State Budget — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Wednesday proposed a state budget that would restore some spending frozen earlier this year amid uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, updating a spending document that the General Assembly just finished tinkering with last month.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Death of WeLive? — “WeWork is exploring ending its push into communal living, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The New York-based office-sharing company is working with an adviser and holding talks about handing over operations of its WeLive location in Crystal City, near Washington D.C.” [Bloomberg]
No Fair This Summer? — “Whether the Arlington County Fair will be held as scheduled in August, and how it might change due to the impacts of COVID-19, remain an open question. ‘We continue to closely monitor the evolving situation and are committed to following the facts and recommendations provided by public-health officials,’ organizers of the fair said.” [InsideNova]
School Decision Expected by July 4 — “Arlington students, parents and teachers should know by the 4th of July what the county school system’s plan is for re-starting classes in the fall. In-person classroom instruction ‘is the goal we want to get to,’ new Superintendent Francisco Durán told School Board members on June 4, but he was not ready to commit to having students back in class when the school year begins Aug. 31.” [InsideNova]
Gyms CrossFit Weigh in on Founder’s Comments — Since the founder of CrossFit posted a controversial tweet, CrossFit gyms across the country — including in Arlington — have been posting statements to distance themselves from him. Greg Glassman has since resigned as the CEO of CrossFit. [Instagram, Instagram]
Local Nordstrom Stores Reopening Tomorrow — “Arlington residents hoping for a little retail therapy will soon have their desires granted, at least as far as one local clothing chain is concerned. The Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack stores in Pentagon City will reopen for customers on Thursday, according to a company release.” [Patch]
Axios Covering Fees for Protesting Employees — “Arlington County-based digital media company Axios distributed a companywide email stating that it would cover bail or medical bills for employees who have participated in recent protests associated with the police killing of George Floyd, The New York Times first reported Tuesday.” [Virginia Business]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Amazon Not Giving Up on HQ2 Helipad — “The list of nongovernmental aircraft the Transportation Security Administration permits to fly inside the [Flight Restricted Zone], besides commercial fights to and from Reagan National, is basically nonexistent… In a statement, Amazon suggested it hasn’t given up. ‘We recognize there are several layers of approval for such a feature, and will continue to work with Arlington County and other relevant stakeholders as we determine its feasibility for our Arlington HQ,” the statement read.” [Washington Business Journal]
Pentagon Helipad to Get New Tower — “The Department of Defense has designs on building a permanent air traffic control tower to help guide aircraft landing at the Pentagon and is seeking a contractor to carry them out.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Concerned About Peak Trail Usage — “We’ve noticed the trails are pretty crowded between 3pm-6pm. To help stop the spread of COVID-19, we suggest finding a less busy time to walk, bike, or run on the trails or to find an alternate route.” [Twitter]
Mexicali Blues Closed, For Now — Clarendon mainstay Mexicali Blues has shut down its carryout business and is closing temporarily. [Twitter]
Candidate Blasts County’s Coronavirus Response — “Audrey Clement, who has been running campaigns for elected office for more than a decade, said last week that the County Board failed to use its powers to force restaurants to close in the earliest days of the crisis.” [InsideNova]
Va. Senators Seek Local News Funding — “U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined their Senate colleagues in a letter calling for funding to support local journalism and media to be included in any future COVID-19 relief package.” [Press Release]
Video: YHS Orchestra Plays Remotely — “Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings in D Major, RV 121 (1st movement) by the members of the Yorktown High School Chamber Orchestra during the COVID-19 pandemic.” [YouTube]
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A two-alarm fire scorched the top floor of a small office building in Virginia Square tonight (Tuesday).
A passerby called 911 just after 7:45 p.m. to report flames and smoke coming from the building at 933 N. Kenmore Street. The blaze was extinguished thanks to an “aggressive attack” by firefighters, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Ben O’Bryant, but not before causing “heavy fire damage on the fourth floor.”
Smoke and water damage was also reported on the third and second floors. No injuries were reported. The Fire Marshal’s Office is now investigating the cause.
The office, across from the George Mason University Arlington campus, houses a number of small businesses, including an insurance agent and a massage therapy center. A web search found two businesses on the fourth floor of the building: an immigration law office and long-time conservative political magazine The American Spectator.
More photos and video via social media below, after the jump.
Map via Google Maps. Video courtesy Arash Tafakor.
The announcement will come as a surprise to some, since 67 percent of Americans receive their news via Facebook. Pages like ours will stay in the News Feed but the you’ll likely see less of our content.
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More on Axios Staying in Arlington — Media startup Axios, which just inked a 10 year lease in Clarendon, is getting a $60,000 performance-based “Gazelle Grant” from Arlington County. It is the fourth company to receive the economic development grant, joining Stardog, VideoBlocks and Phone2Action. “Axios is an excellent example of a Gazelle tech company here in Arlington — fast-growing and a leader in Arlington’s robust media industry,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “Axios’ decision to remain here in Arlington as it grows and expands is the true purpose behind the Gazelle incentive program and demonstrates how Arlington’s assets are truly paying off. We are thrilled to continue to work with Axios as a partner in our business community.”
County Giving Away Free Snow Shovel — Updated at 11 a.m. — As part of a social media promotion, the Arlington County Dept. of Environment Services is giving away a free snow shovel, courtesy of Twins Ace Hardware in Courthouse, to one lucky winner who “describe[s] to us [on Twitter] or on DES Facebook your favorite phase of Arlington snow treatment and why.” [Twitter]
Public Invited to Gutshall Swearing-In — “The public is invited to join the Arlington County Board on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 for the swearing-in of Board Member-elect Erik Gutshall… The ceremony will begin at 5 p.m., and will be followed by a reception outside the Board Room, Room 307 in the County Office Building, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA, 22201.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly feature that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) It’s less than a year old, but media startup Axios is growing fast and ready to put down roots in Clarendon.
Axios will soon start the build-out process for its new space on the 13th floor of the office building at 3100 Clarendon Blvd. It expects to move out of MakeOffices and into the new space by mid-2018.
Roy Schwartz, who co-founded Axios with fellow Politico veterans Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, says the new space will provide room for Axios’ growing team while also offering “monumental views” of D.C. and Northern Virginia.
The new office is expected to have all of the accoutrement of a startup company that bridges the media and technology worlds: bigger versions of its employee lounge, dubbed “Relaxios,” and its free snack bar, “Snaxios,” in addition to features like a video studio and a “live shot” camera for television interviews of its journalists.
Schwartz says Axios currently has 90 employees but will likely have 120 by the time of the move and 150 by the end of 2018. Last month the company announced that it had raised another $20 million from venture capital firms, NBC Universal, Laurene Powell Jobs and others.
Axios received an economic development grant from Arlington County to incentivize it to stay here, Schwartz told ARLnow.com. The amount of that grant was not immediately available.
There were other factors that led the company to launch and now stay in Arlington, according to Schwartz. For one, he and Allen live in the neighborhoods around Clarendon, while VandeHei lives in Alexandria, making for an easy commute. Beyond that, however, Schwartz praised Arlington and Clarendon for its proximity to bars and restaurants, ease of access to D.C., and comparatively lower rent and lower taxes than the District.
“We’re very excited to be in Arlington,” he said. The company also has satellite offices in New York City and San Francisco.
Axios covers a number of news verticals, including politics and policy, business, technology, media, healthcare, science, energy and the “future of work.” While plenty of other national news outlets cover the same topics, Schwartz said the secret to Axios’ success is its focus on “smart brevity.”
In a world where there is “too much noise” in people’s lives, Schwartz said, Axios stands out by publishing radically concise articles that include only the most important facts and no filler.
“We’re going to cut straight to the chase,” he said. “Here is the information and, even more importantly, here is why it matters.”
Smart brevity extends to the business side of Axios. The company eschews programmatic banner ads, which Schwartz says are ineffective, and instead publishes very brief pieces of sponsored content on its site and in its popular email newsletters. Some recent clients include Morgan Stanley, Koch Industries, Fusion Media Group and Boeing.
Axios also holds sponsored events, which take advantage of smart brevity by featuring brief one-on-one interviews with newsmakers and subject matter experts, as opposed to long panel discussions.
Schwartz says its advertising has been working, producing audience engagement that is “off the charts.” Readers, he said, appreciate that in its coverage and its advertising, Axios is respectful of their time.
While BuzzFeed, Mashable and other venture capital-funded, online-only media companies have stumbled this year in their quest for growth, Axios is exceeding growth expectations. Schwartz credits smart brevity for that, in part, but also attributes Axios’ success to having the three pillars of its operation — the editorial, business and technology sides — working in concert.
Despite the challenges faced by others in the digital media industry, Schwartz he is “very confident” that Axios’ model is scalable and that its growth will continue.
Lost Hikers Found Near Chain Bridge — Two men who had apparently been hiking along the Potomac River got lost and had to call emergency dispatchers after one of them fell and hurt himself. The call came in around 2:30 a.m. this morning. Arlington, Fairfax County, D.C. and U.S. Park Police units helped to search for the men — Fairfax used its police helicopter — and eventually they were found and transported to the hospital. [WUSA 9]
Video: ACFD Responds to FC Vehicle Fire — A minivan caught on fire in Falls Church over the weekend and a camera was rolling as Arlington County firefighters arrived to extinguish the blaze. [Twitter]
Holiday Decorations Going Up — Around Clarendon yesterday — and perhaps in other parts of the county as well — lights, window paintings and other festive decorations were being put up in anticipation of the holiday season. [Instagram]
Arlington Mill Gym Floor Installed — The new gym floor has been installed and is ready to use at the Arlington Mill Community Center. The gym’s previous floor had to be removed due to water damage stemming from a March snow storm. [Twitter]
County Announces Human Rights Award Winners — Among the recipients of Arlington County’s 2017 James B. Hunter Award winners are: Signature Theatre’s Eric Schaeffer; the Building Bridges community initiative; Saint George’s Episcopal Church and its refugee advocacy; Café Sazón and its support of immigrant rights; and Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City, which is considered the only gay bar in Northern Virginia. [Arlington County]
Reporter Accused of Unwanted Advances in Local Bar — New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush has been suspended following accusations that during his time at Arlington-based Politico, he made unwanted sexual advances at young, female colleagues while drinking at a Rosslyn bar. [Vox]
For hundreds of thousands of monthly readers, DCist was a one-stop shop for news about the District. It also featured the work of talented local writers who covered arts and culture in the city.
While there are other outlets that cover news and happenings in the District, there is nothing that will fully replace DCist. However, we are going to try to fill at least some of the void left by its closure.
Starting tomorrow morning, former DCist editor-in-chief Rachel Sadon will be publishing a daily D.C. news link roundup here on ARLnow.
We’re calling it “Meanwhile in DC,” and it will feature links to just about everything you need to know about the day’s local news in the District. Plus, whenever possible, it will include links to the work of former DCist writers who are now covering their food, arts and culture beats elsewhere.
We think this will be a great resource for ARLnow and former DCist readers alike, and can give the DCist community a new place to congregate. However, for now it’s envisioned as a temporary resource — a sort of “popup” feature on the site, while the local news ecosystem adjusts to the big void left by DCist. There is no timeframe for how long it will run, but we hope you enjoy it.