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TBD, one year later

At its inception, TBD was touted as the future of hyperlocal media coverage that was going to bring local journalism and community engagement to a whole new level. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., it launched as the sole online component of the local ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV, with original reporting and an extensive network of social media in addition to the stories brought over from the television station. However, one year after the site’s launch, TBD now exists as a skeleton of its former self with a fraction of the staff, looking for a new direction and an editor to lead it there.

TBD started out as an experiment in local journalism with many different facets to it, according Andrew Beaujon, the arts and entertainment editor who has been with the site since its launch last summer. At the TBD’s beginning, it boasted original reporting on such subjects as local arts, sports, neighborhoods, food and politics, as well as strong social media and aggregation components.

Beaujon said at first there were six community hosts who worked to connect with readers via several different platforms. In addition to this engagement, the site often brought stories over from WJLA to the Web, acting as the online component of the station and bridging the gap between television and online reporting.

But in the span of a year, TBD has gone from the next big thing in hyperlocal journalism to what Erik Wemple referred to as a “niche site on arts and entertainment” in a Washington City Paper article.

The site still continues to work closely with the television station and engage readers through a community of social media, but with the significant loss of staff that occurred over TBD’s first year, it hasn’t quite followed its original vision.

“I don’t want to say it was a failure,” Beaujon told inVocus, laughing good-heartedly. “It was basically a big experiment and it didn’t go very well.”

After only six months, TBD eliminated its community, news and sports teams, which made up the majority of its staff. According to the Washington Post, this occurred because of a significant discrepancy between expenses and revenue, taking away its initial cushion of three to five years to turn a profit.

Now, the site is merely a shadow of what it was projected to be in the ordeal that accompanied its launch a year ago. It is no longer the sole Web component of WJLA, and there are eight people on staff, plus Beaujon, who says that TBD is stuck in its original form with not nearly enough resources. At its peak, TBD had 35 employees.

But the site is currently in search of a new editor who will hopefully lead TBD in a different direction. “We want someone to turn it [the site] into something other than what it is now,” Beaujon said.

He added that the idea is to make TBD a site focused on local arts, entertainment and lifestyle, “all with a bias toward reporting and finding stories that are unusual.”

For now, Beaujon and the remaining staff members are focused on keeping content flowing and making sure readers continue to be engaged with the site. Still, he said they are all looking forward to the changes that will hopefully come with a new editor.

“There will definitely be a period in which we start working towards someone’s vision,” he said. TBD is hopeful that the site will have a new editor by the end of the month.

–Julia Russell

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