A local blogging legend, Dan has been tirelessly chronicling community news, happenings and minutia in D.C. for more than a decade.
We asked him about how he started the site, his approach to PoPville’s coverage and about the parallels (and partnership) between PoP and ARLnow.
Photo by Hugh Clarke
A decade later, Politico is a major force in the news industry and VandeHei has moved on to found another media startup: Axios.
Launched in January and based (for now) at MakeOffices in Clarendon, Axios has made some big hires, broken some big stories and is growing rapidly, thanks in part to investment from major media companies.
In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Jim about his vision for Axios, the current state of the media industry and his take on what’s happening inside the Trump White House.
Some of the initial headlines about Axios, before it launched, revolved around a number VandeHei threw out as a potential price for a subscription: $10,000 per year.
“It could be that number, it could be higher,” VandeHei told us. Large companies and lobbying groups, he said, have that kind of money to pay for information that’s valuable to their business.
For those of us who don’t have thousands to spend on enterprise-focused news and analysis (the subscription service will be launched at a later date) the site and its email newsletters, from marquee names like co-founder Mike Allen and former Fortune columnist Dan Primack, are free. The first thing you’ll notice: the emphasis on brevity. It’s a key ethos at Axios and VandeHei says the goal is to give busy people only the facts they need — “long enough to give you what you need but not so long that it bores you and turns you off.”
In addition to the subscription business, Axios is making money by holding events and by selling advertising to blue chip advertisers like Bank of America, Walmart and BP. VandeHei said that at a time when Facebook and Google are vacuuming up many of the dollars streaming into digital advertising, a diversified revenue stream is important.
On the topic of Trump, VandeHei was candid about what he described as “an unprecedented presidency.” We asked him what might happen to Arlington and the D.C. area under Trump, given the president’s rhetoric about “draining the swamp” and reducing the size of government.
“I don’t know, and I don’t know because the president doesn’t know,” VandeHei said. “I think people assume he came with a very specific plan and a very team that would carry it out, and none of those things is true. They’re making it up on the go.”
VandeHei, who together with Allen interviewed Trump last month, said the president does not have “a strong ideology” outside of immigration and trade. Other issues, he said, are “fully negotiable.”
Lest an optimist think that Trump will get his administration to stabilize and function more like those before it, after a rocky first few weeks in office, it probably isn’t going to happen, according to VandeHei.
“People need to pinch themselves,” he said. “This is not normal.”
“Having had pretty good visibility into this White House, it’s a mess and I’d say it’s arguably worse than you think it is,” VandeHei said. “It’s just competing factions, no trust… it’s a tough way to run a White House. We’re three weeks in, half the people at the senior level think they’re on thin ice and going to lose their job, the other half are angling for a better job that they can have, and none of them are focused on carrying out an agenda that’s going to be awesome for America.”
“The idea that he’s going to suddenly change and that he’s suddenly going to run a more stable White House or that he’s going have a very clear vision of where he wants things to go… there’s a very low percentage chance that that happens. I would just anticipate this level of volatility and this level of insanity until further notice.”
That all said, VandeHei defended Axios’ Trump Tower interview and Mar-a-Lago visit from others in the journalism world who criticized it for appearing too cozy with the incoming administration.
“I find a lot of these arguments silly,” VandeHei said when asked about that and about the turmoil over the news organizations pulling out of the White House Correspondents Dinner now that Trump is president.
“Most reporters are liberal, no doubt about it. Most of them are being egged on to take a very hostile stand against Trump and Republicans,” he said. “But guess what, Republicans run town, they have the House, they have the Senate, they have the White House, they’re about to have the judiciary, they have almost every state government. This is a Republican-run country and you darn well better figure out what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.”
VandeHei had the following advice for journalists in the Trump era: focus on facts, hold people accountable, avoid media “self-flogging” and “maybe stay off Twitter.”
Photo courtesy Axios
Average Paycheck Decreases — The average weekly paycheck in Arlington was $1,734 in the first quarter of 2016, down 0.2 percent compared to one year prior. Nationally, however, the average paycheck was down 0.5 percent. Arlington ranked in the top 10 of U.S. counties with the highest pay. [InsideNova]
New Media Venture Based in Clarendon — Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei’s next media venture is headquartered in Arlington. VandeHei, along with Politico’s Mike Allen and the publication’s former Chief Revenue Officer, are among those helping to found the venture, which has reportedly secured $10 million in financing and is said to be “a media outlet targeting corporate executives and other professionals with a mix of business and political news.” While Politico remains in Rosslyn, VandeHei’s new venture is based in MakeOffices in Clarendon. [Wall Street Journal]
Porn Discussion at DJO — Last night Bishop O’Connell High School hosted a public discussion, aimed at parents and teens, about “the effects of pornography on teenagers.” Today the founder of the website The Porn Effect will address DJO students and “present the reality behind pornography to the entire student body.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
First Responders Cup This Weekend — The annual First Responders Cup fastpitch softball tournament will take place in Arlington this weekend. Among the participants, one team from Salem, Va. is paying tribute by wearing the name of fallen firefighters on the back of their jerseys. The players, who also wrote letters to the families of the firefighters, will be visiting Arlington’s Fire Station No. 5 near Pentagon City today. [WDBJ]
New Website for Chamber — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has launched a redesigned website. [Arlington Chamber]
AHC Seeking Volunteer Mentors — Updated at 2:15 p.m. — Affordable housing organization AHC Inc. is seeking volunteers to serve as mentors and tutors for middle- and high school students. Before the start of the school year, AHC provided backpacks filled with school supplies to more than 900 low-income, school-aged children living in its apartment communities. “Along with scores of generous individuals, several local organizations donated funds or supplies, including Arlington County Community Outreach, BM Smith, Boeing, The Reading Connection, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington,” AHC noted in a press release. [AHC Inc.]
In Rosslyn: WJLA Stays, Politico Implodes — In Rosslyn yesterday, there were two big pieces of local media news in the same building, on the same day. First, it was announced that Sinclair Broadcast Group signed a five-year, 100,000 square foot lease that will keep WJLA and NewsChannel 8 in the 1000/1100 Wilson Blvd twin towers. Later, it was revealed that Politico — which renewed its lease in the same complex in 2014 — would soon be losing CEO Jim VandeHei, chief political reporter Mike Allen and three senior executives. [Washington Business Journal, Huffington Post]
Arlington OKs Gondola Study Contribution — Arlington County will kick in $35,000 to study the feasibility of a gondola running from Rosslyn to Georgetown. Some County Board members expressed skepticism of the plan, though the county’s economic development director said it would at minimum give local hotels and tourism a boost. [Washington Post]
Apartment Complex Deemed Historic District — The Arlington County Board yesterday voted to designate Cambridge Courts — “a garden apartment complex built from rationed materials to house defense workers during World War II” — a local historic district. The apartment complex along Route 50 will now be protected from redevelopment. [Arlington County]
New Rules for Bus-Only Lanes — New rules have been approved for the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway. After it opens this spring, the transitway’s lanes in Crystal City will be designated bus-only during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Police will issue warning to drivers who violate the rules during the first 30 days, then will issue $200 fines to lane violators after that. [WTOP, Arlington County]
County Board Approves ‘Complete Streets’ Guidelines — The Arlington County Board has approved a set of guidelines intended to “help transform busy neighborhood streets into ‘Complete Streets’ – ones that will be safe for users of all ages and abilities whether they are walking, driving, cycling or using transit.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by J.D. Moore
Henninger Media Services, a production company with ties to Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Oscar-winning documentaries, has found a new home in Courthouse.
The production company is responsible for “finishing” videos, whether it be a show on National Geographic or a documentary that wins an Academy Award. In finishing, or post production, specialists at the company edit the film, color and audio in order to make a show look cleaner. It’s very much a behind the scenes job — if it’s done correctly, a viewer wouldn’t realize that anything had been done.
In addition to editing, the company also does design work, such as creating the main menu on a DVD, and archive work, including helping the National Archives.
The company’s new space is tucked away at 1320 N. Courthouse Road, near the Arlington County Police Department and county government offices. It was previously located on Wilson Blvd, next to Earl’s Sandwiches. Although slightly hidden, the company’s new office on the first floor of the building is anything but small.
The company has 13 editing suites, six audio studios, three color correction suites, two quality control rooms, a voice recording studio, various administrative and design spaces and the “core,” where it hosts all the servers and technology needed to run a production company. Henninger bills itself as “the largest production/post-production company in the Mid-Atlantic.”
“It is relatively rare that one company houses all the expertise,” said Mike Weiss, vice president of Business Development.
The new move allowed Henninger Media Services to have a fresh start when it came to the technology in the office, said CEO Robert Henninger. The space now uses fiber glass cables with the capability to run videos in ultra high definition, one of the newest trends in video.
“It gave us a lot of flexibility in terms of technical capability,” Weiss said. “It modernized us.”
Innovation and embracing new technology is one of the five core values of the company, Henninger said, with the other four being quality, service, teamwork and creativity.
These five values have helped Henninger Media Services, which was founded in 1983, become the company it is today, he said.
Today, the company works with big names like Discovery Channel, National Geographic and PBS, where they put finishing touches on shows and documentaries run on the networks. It also works with corporations, such as Capital One, small businesses, colleges, such as American University, and political campaigns.
The company declined to list some of the well-known television programs it works on, citing confidentiality agreements, but one such program — verified independently by ARLnow.com — is “Gold Rush: Alaska,” one of the Discovery Channel’s top-rated series.
Henninger Media Services worked with President Barack Obama’s first campaign to help edit a 30-minute paid ad. They also worked with Sen. John McCain when he ran against George W. Bush in a presidential primary.
Political campaigns are a specialty because they have an intense workload and very quick deadline.
“You have to really be prepared to do what it takes,” Henninger said.
The company has also worked with Oscar-winner documentary “Innocente.” The company has done multiple projects with directors Sean and Andrea Fine, as well as Sean’s father, who was also a director.
“We were part of the team that won an Oscar,” Henninger said.
In addition to the many non-fiction films that company works with, Henninger said he would like to get involved with feature films.
“Doing some fiction work would be fun,” he said.
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news website, is moving its headquarters from D.C. to Rosslyn.
The company, founded in February 2012, has signed a lease at 1000 Wilson Blvd, one of Rosslyn’s silver “twin towers.” About 25 employees are expected to move into the new office this spring, according to Free Beacon president Aaron Harison.
“I thought we were getting a lot more bang for our buck in Rosslyn,” Harison told ARLnow.com. The publication, described by its soon-to-be Rosslyn neighbor Politico as a “pot-stirring, hyper-conservative news and opinion site,” previously had offices on K Street NW in the District.
“We’re getting this great panoramic view of the whole city,” Harison said. “That’s something you don’t get in D.C.”
The Free Beacon recently transitioned from being a nonprofit organization, founded as a project of another conservative nonprofit, to being a for-profit entity. Harison said the new office will allow the publication to continue to grow.
“We really want to increase our footprint,” he said.
Harison, a Ballston resident, said the expanding Rosslyn restaurant and bar scene should help to ease the transition from D.C.
“We’re certainly going to be looking for a couple of new bars and restaurants to make our local haunts,” he said.
Rosslyn has become something of a minor media hub. Among the media organizations calling Rosslyn home are WJLA-TV, Politico, Washington Business Journal, ARLnow.com and Graham Holdings (owner of Slate, theRoot and Foreign Policy).
In addition to the Free Beacon, twin towers owner Monday Properties on Wednesday announced two other new leases at 1000 Wilson Blvd: Cobro Ventures, an investment and management company, and Riveron Consulting, a financial firm.
Monday will go before the Arlington County Board this weekend to seek permission to build a new roof deck on 1000 Wilson Blvd. That roof deck will be used by Sands Capital, an existing tenant, according to a spokeswoman.
Disclosure: Monday Properties is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Crumbs Could Reopen — The shuttered Crumbs Bakeshop in Clarendon could reopen, after the bankrupt cupcake company was purchased by a new owner. Fischer Enterprises has yet to reveal which of Crumbs’ 48 stores will reopen. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington’s Naturalist Blogs on the Side — Frustrated with “days filled with meetings and paperwork” after he started working as the natural resources manager for Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Alonso Abugattas founded an educational blog and Facebook group called Capital Naturalist. The blog has a loyal following among readers and respect from fellow naturalists. [Washington Post]
Transportation Among Reasons Politico Stayed — The president of Monday Properties, the major Rosslyn property owner, says political publication Politico decided to renew its office lease in Rosslyn largely because of “superior transit options and greater concentration of housing and retail.” [Washington City Paper]
Changes Coming to ARLnow — ARLnow.com is expected to roll out a website redesign this afternoon. The site may experience brief downtime during the transition. Readers should also expect various menu and visual changes immediately after the transition.
Photo courtesy Donna Gouse
Spencer, who started at Clarendon Patch in May 2011 before taking over Arlington and McLean as Patch began losing staff, is a casualty of Patch’s mass layoffs, which were announced today. The 900-site hyperlocal news network is restructuring under new owners Hale Global, which is in the process of acquiring majority control of the business from Aol.
The Patch sites Spencer had helmed will still be operational, but its unclear at this point who will be running the site and how the site will cover local news, if at all.
“Today will be my last day at Patch,” Spencer wrote on Arlington Patch’s Facebook page. “For those of you I’ve worked with over the past (almost) three years, it’s been a pleasure. Arlington has been a great place to get to know and to cover — it certainly was a social and political 180 from the community I had previously covered in South Carolina! And thanks to the readers who have kept us going.”
The editor of the Alexandria and Del Ray Patch sites, Drew Hansen, was also let go today. Media watchdog Jim Romenesko reports that somewhere between two-thirds and 90 percent of Patch editors across the country were let go today.
Photo via Twitter
The speaker will be former New York Times correspondent, political analyst and best-selling author Steven V. Roberts, husband of ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts.
His lecture, which is free and open to the public, is entitled “From The Times to Twitter: The Role of Media in the 2012 Campaign.” The event is being held on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Reinsch Library Auditorium on Marymount’s main campus (2807 N. Glebe Road).
Interested attendees are asked to RSVP by calling 703-526-6872.
Doors at the Ballroom open at 5:00 p.m. and the event, which is free and open to the public, kicks off at 7:00 p.m. Ladies are encouraged to “get dressed in summer’s finest” and enter for chances to win prizes like gift cards to Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom’s, Coach, and MAC cosmetics.
In addition to the Junkies themselves — Cakes, E.B., Lurch and J.P. — a number of local media personalities are expected to attend, including Angie Goff and Eun Yang from NBC 4; Bri Carter, Britt McHenry (pictured, with E.B.) and Jummy Olabanji from ABC 7; and Tommy McFly and Kelli Collis from Fresh 94.7 FM.
There will be a cover to enter the Ballroom after 10:00 p.m. Last year the Sundress Party was held at the Georgetown Waterfront.
The Junkies are on the air weekdays from 5:00 to 10:00 a.m. on WJFK 106.7 FM “The Fan.”
Photo courtesy CBS Radio
Cooper joined TBD last July, a month before the site launched. She was formerly a contributor to DCist.com and a reporter for a Long Island newspaper. No word yet on her future plans.
TBD is in the midst of layoffs and will likely not replace Cooper or her Arlington coverage.
The layoffs are part of a reorganization that will shift TBD’s mission from being a primarily news-oriented site to exclusively arts and entertainment-oriented site.
TBD’s corporate sister, television station WJLA (ABC 7), will eventually relaunch WJLA.com as a separate, news-oriented web site. (WJLA.com was replaced by TBD after its launch.)
On a personal note, it was a pleasure working alongside Rebecca, who was a total pro and brought an unrivaled depth to her Arlington reporting. Whatever she does next, we hope she stays here in Imperfect Arlington.
Arlington Independent Media has unveiled the schedule of spring classes for its Master of Independent Media program. The classes offer in-depth instruction for advanced media creators at a relatively low cost — between $150 and $300.
Here’s a list of the classes offered.
- Introduction to Drupal-Based Web Sites (Feb. 16 – March 30)
- Photoshop Digital Darkroom (Feb. 24 – March 10)
- Marketing Media Projects (March 1 – April 5)
- Digital Still Photography (April 28 – June 2)
- Location Lighting for Film and Video (March 28 – May 2)
- Producing and Directing Narrative Works (March 31 – May 5)
Maybe they were looking at a map of Virginia’s convoluted 8th Congressional District?
The full-time Arlington press corps is growing by 50 percent. Rebecca A. Cooper has just been named the Arlington neighborhood reporter for the forthcoming TBD.com.
“I’m thrilled!” Cooper told ARLnow.com. “Arlington has been my home for almost four years, and I’m always discovering new niches and quirks about the place. The area certainly has been crying out for some more coverage, and I’m excited to start adding to what’s already out there.”
Cooper will begin reporting on Arlington when TBD launches. The launch date is, well, TBD, but we’re thinking “by the end of summer” seems like a decent guess.
TBD, owned by Allbritton Communications and helmed by former washingtonpost.com executive editor Jim Brady, will be both a web site, which will replace the current web sites of ABC7 and NewsChannel8, and a TV channel, which will replace the current format of NewsChannel8.
Cooper joins Scott McCaffrey and this guy on the full-time Arlington beat. Other reporters who regularly cover Arlington as part of a wider beat include the Washington Post’s Christy Goodman, WAMU’s David Schultz, the Washington Examiner’s Markham Heid and Connection Newspapers’ Delia Sava and Michael Lee Pope.
Prior to joining TBD, Cooper worked as a staff writer for DCist.com, covering mostly food, drink and culture. Her resume also includes three years as a community reporter on Long Island.
It’s worth noting that Cooper is the second DCist staffer to defect for TBD. Former DCist editor Sommer Mathis joined TBD in June.
A public memorial service for West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving U.S. senator in history, is being held at 11:00 this morning at the Memorial Baptist Church in North Arlington.
Limited public seating will be available at the funeral, which is also expected to draw a large media contingent to the church at 3455 North Glebe Road.
After the service, a private internment ceremony will be held at the Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Ashton Heights.
The Arlington Police Department is warning of parking and other restrictions near the funeral. There will also be rolling road closures during the procession to the cemetery.
Among the the rolling closures will be the southbound lanes of Glebe Road, stretching from the church, through Ballston to Route 50. Parts of North Pershing Drive, North Irving Street and the westbound lanes of Route 50 will also be closed for a time.