Lydia DePillis and John Hendel will leave big holes behind
The City Paper's managing editor Michael Schaffer and Housing Complex blogger Lydia DePillis are leaving to go work for The New Republic, former City Paper managing editor Andrew Beaujon reported today. This is the second urbanism reporter to leave this week; TBD's John Hendel is moving on as well. Both will leave big gaps in press coverage of the important issues around planning and transportation.
TBD is likely to discontinue TBD On Foot. New City Paper managing editor Mike Madden plans to hire someone new for Housing Complex, but it'll be hard to replace DePillis, who just won an award for having the best blog among all the nation's alt-weeklies.
It's common in journalism for people to move on to other beats, and the City Paper, in particular, has always played a role of hiring relatively young reporters at relatively low wages who ultimately move on to bigger and more lucrative things.
However, when reporters leave, a lot of knowledge they've built up about issues leaves with them.
There's a learning curve for someone new. When also excellent TBD On Foot reporter Dave Jamieson left for the Huffington Post, it took a little while for John Hendel to learn the ropes. He ended up doing great and finding a real valuable niche in reporting on taxi policy, among many other issues, but he didn't join with all this knowledge fully realized.
Reporters new to these beats have to get to know fairly complex policy issues. The bread and butter transportation reporting, such as where there's construction or traffic or crashes, changes hands quite frequently. It's the green reporters who are most likely to just reprint the random AAA press release attacking some policy that makes a neighborhood safer for pedestrians, or run a story like WAMU's recent Metro Connection piece on the Outer Beltway (from a reporter new to transportation, natch).
There are still many great reporters who aren't leaving, and many great blogs (besides Greater Greater Washington, of course). If I named some I'd surely miss many and insult someone, but they show up from time to time on our Breakfast Links.
Meanwhile, DePillis apparently will write about technology at TNR, while Hendel will write about telecommunications policy. As someone who previously blogged about those issues, I can appreciate the fascination, and hope they join the excellent Post alum Rob Pegoraro in shining light on the many ways tech companies and the law affect our lives every day.
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