In the middle of the Great Library Debates raging on the Atlantic site and elsewhere, I had to neglect something.
But now here’s my take on the departure of Jim Brady as general manager of the TBD hyperlocal news site. Brady wanted a mix of linking and original reporting, but as I see it, TBD was not giving readers enough of the latter—an opinion shared by others. Also, under him, TBD writers and editors often seemed caught up in items of interest to hip urbanites but not always to readers in the suburbs. As an Alexandria resident, oh how I was rooting for TBD to give us detailed first-hand coverage of grubby issues like BRAC 133, aka the Quarter Pentagon in my backyard.
There’s no right or wrong here. As a novelist curious about human quirks, I myself enjoy Amanda Hess’s TBD blog on sex and gender, but could it be that in-depth coverage of local public schools matters more to D.C.-area people as a whole? The real money is probably in the suburbs and first-rate coverage of them—rather than relying so heavily on collections of somewhat out-of-context links. The news radio or blog approach will get you only so far. I believe Jim Brady when he says the readership was ok for TBD at this stage. But would better suburban coverage have yielded still-higher numbers?
In comments to Poynter Online, Erik Wemple, editor of TBD, said he didn’t regard the resignation as “a big mandate to do something massively different.” Perhaps he’s right. But I myself am not so certain of that. I wish I could mind-read Robert Albritton, the ultimate boss over TBD as the CEO of Allbritton Communications, who has said that TBD will be expanding its news side—one more sign that perhaps we’ll see more original-reporting and suburban coverage.
Both Brady and Allbritton acted in a classy matter in making the Brady departure a friendly one. From a distance—I’ve met Jim only once—I wish him all kinds of luck at a news organization sharing his approach to life and journalism. Wherever he goes, if he is truly in charge, I haven’t any doubt that the journalistic results will be readable, listenable or viewable; in fact, probably all three, given the rise of multimedia. Long term, Allbritton Communications just wasn’t the right fit for him.