“TBD – sums up its chances of success,” one whit said, when TBD was first announced as the name for the new sister site for Politico’s online local news. This week, we got the answer. Just about six months after going live, TBD was “MySpaced.” Staff halved. It went from new media local news juggernaut to a limited effort focused on “entertainment and life styles.”
The reason given is that the revenue was not there. It was never allowed to function as designed, is the reply. You didn’t live up to what you promised. We were getting there in a hurry, no thanks to you… The truth… does it matter?
What is clear is that from the start there was an irreconcilable clash of culture between the WJLA news team and the newcomers that never happened when Politico was born. But that is because Politico was, and remains, such a different animal that the only conflict was over office space.
But TBD was meant to be the younger, faster, hipper local news team. If not intended as a threat, the old media team certainly wasn’t happy to share the toys. After all, TBD took over WJLA’s website. And it took over News Channel 8. And then it took even more of that already limited office space, squeezing in between Politico and WJLA. From before the formal launch, truly decent professionals on both sides expressed complete frustration with the other, both complaining of a lack of communication, lack of mutual support, and worse. Unfortunately it was no surprise. I have yet to see a newsroom where true harmony between legacy and new media is anything but a thin layer of wallpaper.
In the movie State of Play, the grizzled Washington veteran journalist and the vibrant onliner overcome initial animosity and mutual disrespect to break the big story together and forge an unbreakable professional bond. I do love fiction.