A seismic change hit local DC media Friday when Amy Austin left as publisher of Washington City Paper, where she's worked 30 years. In a note she sent to staff Friday, Austin said shifts at SouthComm, which owns City Paper, have "led to some changes, including some leadership changes."
Reached by phone, SouthComm President Chris Ferrell says City Paper isn't alone among the company's properties: "There are a couple places where we felt like we needed to make some changes." Group publisher Eric Norwood will step into Austin's job until a new publisher is found.
City Paper has been looking for a new editor since Mike Madden announced in March that he would leave for the Washington Post. "I think we’re getting close to an announcement there, but you’re gonna have to wait a few days," Ferrell says.
The new editor will be someone "who understands DC first and foremost," he says, "someone who really understands what an alt-weekly can mean for a city and someone who can develop the talent of the staff and continuously improve what they're doing." An alt needs to be "the leading voice for the culture of a city, whether that be in music, food, or the arts," he says, adding that he also expects "real quality investigative work."
Steve Cavendish, news editor of SouthComm's Nashville Scene and the former editor of Nashville's City Paper (which was a weekly, but not an alt-weekly, and which SouthComm closed in 2013) helped out with the editing of Washington City Paper's recent best-of issue; reached by phone he said he had not been appointed City Paper's new editor.
As for the next publisher, Ferrell says, it will be someone who can help teams all across the property be successful and has "a real vision for what that paper can be on the market." Under Austin, City Paper worked hard at rebounding from the devastation wrought by a collapse in print advertising, adding money-making events like the Crafty Bastards festival.
Alt-weeklies as a sector have been particularly hard hit by the upheaval of the print media business as a whole. Circulation has fallen at many of the big-city alt-weeklies, and some big papers like the Boston Phoenix have closed. Alts in some smaller markets, though, have held on and even prospered.
"DC is a fabulous city with a lot going on, and we just want to make sure that City Paper is positioned to be a part of it," Ferrell says. "We've got some things to work on. It's a great paper with a good history and a really good staff." Ferrell wouldn't say what plans SouthComm had for increasing revenue at the paper beyond what it's doing now, including "signature events" and growing the digital ad network City Paper built under Austin.
I was City Paper's managing editor from 2006-2010, and Washingtonian Editor Mike Schaffer was City Paper's editor from 2010-2012.
Ever hear a memorable public-radio story segment that you've wanted to share on your personal website beyond a simple hypertext link? That's possible now, with NPR making more than 800,000 pieces of audio content—nearly its entire digitized archive—embeddable on other websites, from news segments on Morning Edition to interviews on Fresh Air to playlists from NPR Music.
While the development is a boon to public-radio junkies who want to beef up their Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! blogs, it also gives the radio network an opportunity to make its content as ubiquitous on the internet as, say, the John Oliver rants that plaster news sites every Monday morning.
"We have a lot of great audio," says Patrick Cooper, NPR's director of web and engagement. "Part of our public media mission is to have people sharing our storytelling."
NPR has been putting its audio content online for many years, but until now, embedding was offered only sporadically. Making almost everything available is another notch in the organization's transition from mostly broadcast to mostly digital, a trend Cooper does not dispute. Its newest programs, like Invisibilia or the TED Radio Hour, tend to be born as podcasts before they ever hit terrestrial airwaves. "For a show to be able to catch on, it first needs to be able to travel," he says. "In the past that’s always been over the airwaves."
ARLnow Editor Ethan Rothstein will leave the website May 15. He's headed to the business publication Bisnow, known for its newsletters and events, where he'll cover commercial real estate in the DC area.
Rothstein has reported prodigiously for ARLnow since July 2013. Monday was a day of not-atypical output for Rothstein, when he pounded out the following posts:
- A rundown of Arlington events for the week.
- The news that Crystal City's "Sparket" would return Wednesday.
- His weekly "Startup Monday" column, about Worden Technology Solutions in Crystal City.
- A story about possible store closures at Ballston Common.
- An article about Arlingtonian Jefferson R. Edwards IV, who died in a car crash earlier this month.
- The news that the Food Star on Columbia Pike "is being eyed for redevelopment."
Rothstein has written so much, in fact, that he had completely forgotten about my favorite Rothstein story of late, about a sinkhole that swallowed a dog.
His favorite ARLnow stories? He loved the tech coverage, meeting people in the county, and reacting to his police scanner: "Having cops ask me how I got there faster than they did—that was always fun."
His biggest story? Easily "Peeing and Pooping in Penrose Park Peeves Parents." Rothstein says his soon-to-be-ex-boss, Local News Now honcho Scott Brodbeck, wrote the headline on that one: "That was really an epic part of the magic of that story."
Rothstein plans to stay an Arlington resident for now. The 25-year-old is even taking a few days off before his new gig starts May 26—a first for him since he left college, with stops at Leesburg Today and a couple of beach weeklies along the Delmarva Peninsula. He'll use the time to catch up on Netflix and cultivate his side gig, blogging about the Houston Rockets for The Dream Shake, an SB Nation site.
"We're sorry to lose him but glad he's finding his passion in terms of a reporting beat," Brodbeck says. Brodbeck plans to replace Rothstein, though that might have to wait until after Local News Now staffs up Borderstan, the DC blog it recently purchased when it sold Bethesda Now. If that's the case, responsibility for ARLnow will rotate among other LNN staffers, including himself, the original ARLnow blogger. "I've never quite left," he says. "I still do a couple stories a day."
Rothstein says he is looking forward to the opportunity "to expand the footprint of what I'm doing and specialize a little bit. There are few places more interesting for commercial development than DC right now." And, he says: "I basically know everything there is to know about streetcars."
The staff of the Baltimore Sun has not had much rest over the past few days since riots erupted in their city over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody. If any big-city daily can empathize, it's the Boston Globe, which didn't get any sleep in April 2013 while covering the Boston Marathon bombings. So lunch today at the Sun is on the Globe, the Sun's assistant managing editor, Pete Sweigard, writes on Twitter.
For the Globe, the lunch order is a way of paying it forward to another beleaguered newsroom. During its 2013 marathon coverage, the Chicago Tribune sent pizzas to the Globe. Today's lunch at the Sun might be from by Iggie's, a Baltimore pizzeria recommended by former Sun reporter and current Globie Annie Linskey.
UPDATE: Here's the email the Sun's executive editor, Trif Alatzas, sent around when informing the paper's staff of the lunch donation:
Our friends from The Boston Globe are sending us lunch today to support the terrific work that you’re all doing. Said Editor Brian McGrory: “We're looking on from here in deep admiration and empathy for what your newsroom is doing. You're really doing extraordinary work. Our people would like to send your people some sort of gesture of support.”
UPDATE, 6:04 PM: The Globe's lunch order almost hit a snag when Iggie's, which is three blocks from the Sun's office, stayed closed with much of downtown Baltimore. But Poynter's Kristen Hare reports the Sun eventually got some pies from nearby Viccino Jay’s Italian Gourmet.
Jim Vance's departure from WRC's 11 PM news broadcast isn't just a blow for local fans of Washington's favorite newscaster. Even high-profile expats are mourning the fact that the 73-year-old is stepping away from the late local news, as evidenced by the latest promo for Foo Fighters' July 4 concert at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.
The ad, which the band posted on YouTube Thursday evening, features a yokel in a Baltimore Orioles cap watching television on his couch and talking to a "hon" at the Road Ducks reunion. The screen in the video shows a classic Vance moment from 2008, in which he closed out a 6 PM broadcast with a clip from Paris Fashion Week in which a runway model stumbles twice, prompting Vance and George Michael to burst into on-air hysterics. The clip has enjoyed a long run as a viral video and frequently turns up in the top search results for either Vance or "news anchor can't stop laughing."
The Foo Fighters ad, which is titled "Jim Vance, we're gonna miss you," ends by purportedly cutting into the klutzy model's reaction to the stumble, except in this shot, the model is replaced by former Springfield resident Dave Grohl, who appears in a blonde wig and tear-streaked makeup before the frame freezes with details for the concert.
Grohl's tears might be a bit premature. Vance isn't retiring in full. While his longtime chair at 11 PM will be filled by Jim Handly, Vance plans to stick around on News4's 6 PM broadcast until his contract runs out in 2017.
Washington is going to have to get by with a lot less of its favorite local news anchor starting next month when Jim Vance steps away from WRC's 11 PM broadcast, the station announced Wednesday. Vance, 73, has been with the station since 1969, and since 1989, he's anchored the 6 and 11 PM news with Doreen Gentzler.
Starting in late May, though, Gentzler's new partner at 11 will be current 4 and 5 PM anchor Jim Handly, with Vance continuing at 6 until his contract runs out in 2017.
News4's anchor switch, which was first reported by the Washington Post, may be jarring for viewers of the Washington area's top-rated local news outfit, but Handly should be a mostly familiar replacement. The Florida native joined WRC in 1992 to anchor weekend news broadcasts, later moving to weekday afternoons.
But unlike Vance, whose fascinating life and career has made for multiple Washingtonian cover stories and other features, including a frank assessment of the current local news landscape in the October 2014 issue, Handly's backstory is fairly unexciting. While Handly discussed his teenage years as a phenom on the US Tennis Association's junior circuit with Washingtonian in January 2008, his career results were unavailable. (Although he did recently get "crushed" in an office ping-pong tournament.)
In fact, Handly's sole experience with controversy appears to be a time early in his career, when he was part of a television news team in Miami that broke into a broadcast of Game 5 of the 1987 American League Championship Series to cover Hurricane Floyd. Handly, according to the Miami Herald, reported outside the Dade County emergency preparedness office. The Minnesota Twins won the game and with it, the series, while Floyd caused less than $500,000 worth of damage, mostly to farmland in rural Dade County.
Between taking selfies with John McCain and laughing along nervously with the President, attendees at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner- this year on April 25- settle into polite silence each year for the awarding of scholarships to young journalists. This feel-good segment is one of the ways the WHCA gets to call itself a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, as it was officially designated in 2004- that's after Ozzy Osbourne first showed at the Washington Hilton but before Stephen Colbert's roast of George W. Bush made the dinner a traffic-paralyzing national spectacle.
Pardon us for a moment, however, while we make like journalists and follow the money. As the event's profile has risen, contributions to the association have jumped- from 2009 to 2013, the take increased by 162 percent, to $532,555- but scholarship payouts have inched only 10 percent higher, according to the WHCA's tax filings. Put another way, the association spent almost 60 percent of its revenue on scholarships in 2009, but just 26 percent in 2013.
Some of the excess cash has gone to boost compensation of the group's longtime executive director, Julia Whiston- from $40,000 a year in 2004 to a still-modest $142,000- and to build up cash reserves. The association also says it has put $100,000 into an endowment for future scholarships since its last filing. The WHCA isn't in danger of violating the law- the rules governing 501(c)(3)s are so broad that a band of ghost hunters in Memphis qualifies. Nobody is accusing anyone of tapping corporate slush funds: The organization's major donors are media homers like Fox's Bill O'Reilly and Politico.
But its donations-to-payouts ration causes Ken Berger, until recently CEO of the watchdog group Charity Navigator, to frown. "It appears," he says, "as if the organization is more concerned with its own self-perpetuation than a selfless assisting of others in need."
Christi Parsons, a Tribune Publishing correspondent and outgoing WHCA president, submitted responses to written questions, saying the group aims "to support and advance the public's interest in the First Amendment, particularly the freedom of the press to report vigorously on the activities of the office of the President."
But even wrapped in First Amendment ideals, the WHCA is more akin to the American Bar Association than to the Sisters of Mercy. "It strikes me that the primary purpose is to promote opportunities for journalists," says attorney Bruce Hopkins, author of The Law of Tax-Exempt Organizations. "The charitable, educational part is more secondary than primary."
When such things are said about other charities, they risk alienating donors. That won't likely happen to the WHCA, whose fun dinner raises the bulk of its money. But as the event continues to attract more attention, and more cash, it may be time for the organization to act less like media clubhouse and more like the charity it purports to be.
Last year, the Washington Post’s “The Fix” blog lit up the Internet with a list of “weed wordplay.” Unfortunately, that story barely sifted in any of the Post’s own homegrown headline humor.
The paper has hit the bong beat since at least 1883, when it quoted a New York Tribune story about an American who tried hashish in India. Those early stories had headlines like “THE TERRORS OF A NIGHT: Strange Hallucinations Produced by Swallowing a Pellet of Hashish” or “HEMP EATERS’ ORGIES,” which promised “Scenes at the Sacred Dance That Surpass the Wildest Ecstacy [sic] of Any Opium Dream—It Occurs at the Time of the Full Moon and Is a Strange Spectacle—Women Join in the Ceremony, Which Develops Into a Regular Saturnalia in Time.”
In the late ’70s, the Post began running headlines like “Pot Luck” (1979) and “The Mellowing of ‘Mister Marijuana’" (1978). Then, in the mid-'90s, its newsroom developed a regular regimen of pot groaners. And as the District headed toward legalized weed, even more pun headlines bubbled up.
We can divide most of these headlines—all in print, unless otherwise noted—into a few basic strains. Below, a guide to how the Post likes to roll.
Pot, Seeds, Growing, Buds, and Weed
April 17, 1998
“San Francisco’s Political Potboiler: In Fight Over Marijuana as Medicine, Sheriff Backs Growers”
by William Claiborne
December 7, 1996
“Taking the Cover Off Pot”
February 15, 1981
“Marijuana: A Pot of Gold In Latest Crop”
by Jerry Knight
August 23, 2013
“At White House, questions go to pot”
by David Nakamura
October 1, 2006
“In Calif., Modest Suburbs Go to Pot”
by Don Thompson
March 27, 2015
“Seeding District’s era of legal pot”
by Aaron Davis, Perry Stein
May 4, 2010
“As D.C. votes on marijuana, seeds already firmly planted”
by Paul Schwartzman and Annys Shin
November 29, 2009
“Medical marijuana is the seed of a new industry in Michigan”
by Dawson Bell
November 19, 1996
“Marijuana Initiatives Sow Seeds of Conflict”
by Susan Okie
March 16, 2015
“In D.C., that’s grow biz”
by Perry Stein
March 26, 2013
“In Colo., a growing industry is a federal crime”
by T.W. Farnam
March 1, 2015
“Budding pot moguls cruise D.C.'s first expo”
by John Woodrow Cox
March 20, 2012
“How Romney can make Ron Paul’s backers his buds”
by Al Kamen
May 7, 2014
“Federal funding is really getting into the weeds”
by Al Kamen and Colby Itkowitz
March 8, 2011
“D.C.'s cannabis capitalists prepare for weeding out”
by Paul Schwartzman
April 30, 1999
“Ex-Spy Lobbying on Weed-to-Know Basis: Woolsey Represents Hemp in Uphill Fight”
by David Segal
Smoke, fire, haze, and clouds
March 31, 2015
“The pot lobby nixes Tommy Chong to better appeal to 'conservative' Congress, report says: Actor Tommy Chong's role to lobby for The National Cannabis Industry Association on the Hill has gone up in smoke, a news report says”
by Erin C.J. Robertson
November 12, 2014
“Will D.C.’s nightlife go up in a cloud of pot smoke?” [There was an even better headline online: “For D.C. night life, marijuana brings on a hazy cloud of what-ifs”)
by Lavanya Ramanathan
May 10, 2012
“Group’s push for license goes up in smoke”
by Anny Shin
March 20, 2007
“Up in Smoke at the High Court”
by Dana Milbank
November 7, 1987
“Up in Smoke: Marijuana in America: The ‘60s Catch Up With Ginsburg”
by Henry Allen
July 21, 2007
“On Pot Question, Cabinet Doesn’t Blow Smoke”
by Mary Jordan
January 26, 1997
“Where There’s Smoke, There’s Trouble”
by Bob Marshall
February 27, 2015
“A deal with pot advocates lighted way to D.C. law”
by Mike DeBonis
August 28, 2014
“Ballot initiatives fire up 2014 races”
by Reid Wilson and Niraj Chokshi
October 27, 2009
“With medical marijuana on the back burner, what do we know?”
November 3, 1996
“Marijuana a Burning Issue in California”
by William Claiborne
March 29, 2015
“In former arrest hubs, positions on pot are hazy”
by Paul Schwartzman
October 12, 2014
“Simple vote on legalizing marijuana in D.C. is not so simple: In the hazy world of marijuana law, nothing is as simple as a yes or no vote on Initiative 71”
by Marc Fisher (Web-only)
January 16. 2014
“The clouded marijuana debate”
Headline for a selection of letters to the editor
August 9, 1997
“Marijuana Medically Useful but Issue Still Hazy, NIH Says”
by David Brown
January 11, 2013
“Is that guest going one toke over the line?”
by Kyle Spencer
February 4, 2009
“One Toke Over the Line”
by Kathleen Parker
April 5, 1992
“One Toke Over the Line”
by Tony Kornheiser
• Hendrix/Radiohead references
March 11, 2015
“Through the purple haze: Marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles”
by Nicole Crowder (blog)
August 28, 1999
“Drought Leaves Marijuana Growers High and Dry”
by Steven Gray
October 21, 2009
“Reefer sanity: The marijuana lobby goes mainstream”
by Kathleen Parker
January 27, 2002
“Reefer Madness: Marijuana Advocates Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm Sensed the Government Was Out To Get Them. And Then They Were Dead. Was Rainbow Farm Another Waco?”
by Peter Carlson
January 5, 1997
“Splendor in the Grass?”
by John Mintz
• Kellogg's Rice Krispies
February 13, 2009
“Snap, Crackle, Pot”
by Kathleen Parker
• Aesop's Fables
August 1, 2008
“Slow and Steady Gets the Bust As Turtle’s Trail Leads to Drugs”
by Paul Duggan
• Sally Jenkins writing about Michael Phelps
February 3, 2009
“Big Bong Theory”
by Sally Jenkins
February 3, 2009
“Sally Jenkins on Michael Phelps’s Tokin’ Effort”
by Sally Jenkins (online chat transcript)
High, Bust, Half-Baked, Mellow, Buzz, Blunt, Hit, and Joint
February 25, 2015
“D.C.’s limits on legal marijuana possession are twice as high as anywhere else”
by Niraj Chokshi (blog)
October 15, 2014
“Colorado marijuana revenues hit a new high”
by Christopher Ingraham (blog)
December 1, 2011
“New reality shows: High, but not so mighty” [A review of two marijuana-related reality shows.]
by Hank Stuever
February 28, 2010
“For aging boomers, a high point of life” [marijuana use increases among seniors]
by Matt Sedensky
August 3, 2005
“The Rock Journalist At a High Point In Music History” [Appreciation of the late Al Aronowitz, the pop music writer who in 1964 introduced the Beatles to pot.]
by David Segal
August 22, 2001
“Afroman, High On Success: An Obscure Performer Unfazed by Sudden Fame”
by Lisa Allen-Agostini
October 18, 1998
“Fallen Star: Chris Webber Came to Washington Amid High Hopes. He Left With Unrealized Dreams” [Unintentional? The profile came out soon after Webber was charged with possession of marijuana.]
by Bill Brubaker
January 21, 1997
“At This Club, the Third Floor Is High: Dispensing ‘California Green’ May Again Become Sticky for Medical Marijuana Group” by William Booth
November 28, 2004
“Dutch Pot Program Looks Like a Bust: Cannabis by Prescription Gets Few Takers”
by Maria Lokshin
March 8, 2015
“Half-baked tales from D.C.-born reggae fixture”
by Mark Jenkins
October 24, 2014
“Colorado’s marijuana experiment has a bitter aftertaste: The system still seems a little half-baked”
by Charles Lane (blog)
June 9, 2014
“Half-baked story in Colorado”
by Radley Balko
March 4, 2015
“Mayor harshes a pot advocate's mellow”
by Courtland Milloy
November 5, 2014
“The high may be mellow, but the ballot push isn't”
by Jessica Contrera
September 3, 2009
“Medical Marijuana Finds a Mellow Audience in Md.”
by Dan Morse
April 10, 1978
“The Mellowing of ‘Mister Marijuana’ “
by Paul Hendrickson
August 15, 2014
“Public support for medical marijuana is reaching new highs. Why do Republican 2016 hopefuls find the idea a buzzkill?”
by Sean Sullivan and Scott Clement (blog)
January 14, 2013
“Changes in cannabis laws create a new buzz for hemp”
by Juliet Eilperin
July 30, 2014
“Blunt forces: How marijuana is changing America”
by Danielle Paquette and Steven Rich (blog)
April 21, 2012
“Colorado University takes action to blunt pot celebration”
by Rema Rahman
April 11, 2014
“Half a hit”
May 13, 2012
“Marijuana market takes a hit in California’s Emerald Triangle”
by Peter Hecht
September 13, 2009
“Some Potent Arguments for Legalizing Marijuana”
by Robert McCartney
November 26, 1994
“In Minnesota, Joint Return Takes On a New Meaning”
by David Brauer
Hybrid Strains of Pot Puns
June 20, 2010
“The pot thickens: One kind of marijuana won’t get you high, but it’s creating a buzz”
by Karl Vick
November 12, 2006
“The Buzzer Means Your Buzz Is Here: N.Y. Dial-a-Doobie Services Offer Home-Delivered Pot”
by Tom Hays
October 26, 2006
“A Toke of Their Esteem: Few Stars at High Times’ Awards Show, but the Joint Is Buzzing”
by David Segal
March 18, 2006
“High Crimes, or A Tokin’ Figure?: Canadians Find the ‘Prince of Pot’ Harmless. The DEA Begs to Differ”
by Doug Struck
January 4, 2005
“Exhale, Stage Left: At 61, Longtime Marijuana Lobby Leader Keith Stroup Is Finally Leaving the Joint”
by Peter Carlson
August 28, 2000
“Potent Pot Rolling Up Sales: Dealers Cash In on Crack's Violent Stigma in D.C.”
by Serge F. Kovaleski
May 31, 1995
“A Fashionable Joint Venture: Marijuana May Be Illegal, but Use of Hemp Fiber Is Growing Like a Weed”
by Danny Hakim
No company that tows cars for parking violations will ever be beloved by the community. But while an Advanced Towing Company employee was undoubtedly mistreated by ESPN reporter Britt McHenry in a videotaped rant, her employer is an exceptionally unlikely candidate for sympathy.
ESPN suspended McHenry after she went berserk on the attendant at Advanced's lot on North Fifth Road in Arlington. The reporter was there to pick up her car a day after it was towed out of a parking lot next to Hunan One, a Chinese restaurant in Clarendon where she reportedly dined on April 5. Like anyone else who has their car towed, McHenry was not pleasant and sunny when retreiving it, but she appears to have ignored the possibility that her exchange with Advanced would be monitored by a security camera.
"I’m in the news, sweetheart; I will fucking sue this place," McHenry, who jumped to ESPN after a stint with WJLA, said in one of many cruel lines she flung at the attendant.
While McHenry should have left the Regina George tone at home, there's an argument to be made that Advanced Towing richly deserved her sharp words. Even by the standards of local towing companies, Advanced has racked up an impressive number of official complaints and lingering grievances. Its reputation includes stories of discourteous employees, aggressive targeting of parked cars, and even towing vehicles parked in residential spots with permits.
Earlier this month, Advanced popped up in the news when one of its drivers started towing a car with two kids inside from the lot outside CVS store on Columbia Pike that the car's owner was shopping at. The towing stopped only after yells from the kids, ages seven and 17, were noticed by the tow operator.
Technology consultant and writer Tom Bridge recalls having Advance tow his car from the same lot as McHenry's about ten years ago. While he admits his towing was deserved—he parked next to Hunan One, but walked down the block to a different restaurant—he says he was shocked by how quickly it happened.
"They park a spotter car, put some high school kid in there," says Bridge. "He calls in the tow truck which is around the corner. Literally when you’re at the end of the block they’re putting the crane on the car."
Bridge adds that when he went to pick up his car, he was told Advanced only accepted cash and would not make change, so when he arrived with $100 to pay the $95 towing fee, he was stiffed on the $5 change.
Brad Dayspring, a Republican strategist, wrote on Twitter after McHenry's video surfaced, that Advanced has towed his car out of his parking space at home four times, with each retrieval costing $135.
Hunan One is located in an office park on Wilson Boulevard near the Clarendon Metro station. The parking lot used by the restaurant's diners connects to North Garfield Street. A Hunan One employee says the building's management, not the restaurant, is responsible for monitoring whether people who park in the lot are patronizing the businesses there. But enforcment is swift. "As soon as you cross the street, you get towed," the employee says.
Advanced Towing Company did not respond to several questions about its practices, or whether one of its employees is responsible for posting McHenry's rant on the internet. But the company is in very poor standing among the public, and not just in the form of disgruntled Yelp reviews. It has an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau, which has tallied 15 complaints against the company in the last two months.
The Arlington Police Department also appears to be quite familiar with Advanced. While Advanced is contracted by private-sector businesses, it racked up 44 police complaints in 2014, though only four were found to be for actual violations of Arlington County's code.
UPDATE: In a statement, Advanced says it released the security footage of McHenry "highlight personal attacks employees in jobs like towing," but that it holds no ill will toward the sportscaster.
To Whom It May Concern:
Parking enforcement is contentious by nature. At the same time, neither Gina, our lot clerk, nor our company, have any interest in seeing Britt McHenry suspended or terminated as a result of her comments.
Ms. McHenry is our neighbor, and, as she said, to paraphrase, made remarks that were out of line. She is human and errors in judgement can be made in the heat of the moment.
Gina is a single mother of 3 children who works a difficult job to provide her family. Gina holds no ill will toward Ms. McHenry.
As a small business, we saw no benefit to releasing the video, except to highlight personal attacks employees in jobs like towing, public parking enforcement and others sometimes encounter. The video was not licensed or sold to anyone.
Advanced Towing Co.
When US Senator Rand Paul got testy with a female reporter, HuffPost Hill's headline was "Libertarian Not Good With Women." When President Obama granted an audience to the Huffington Post, the newsletter sold it as "Noted Academic And Drug User Sits For Interview." And when a power outage darkened DC buildings earlier this month, its headline was "Washington Beset By Metaphor."
HuffPost Hill is an email newsletter mostly written by reporter Eliot Nelson that hits inboxes on weekday evenings, whether Congress is in session or not. It sprinkles "Comfort Food" ("Thieving octopus steals camera") and a daily "Downer" courtesy of its editor, HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney ("A bill in the Missouri state legislature wants to control poor people's food choices" among the news of day, delivered with headlines like "CONGRESSMAN WANTS TO TAKE PORN FROM OUR HARDWORKING PUBLIC SERVANTS."
"I read it most every day," says Michael Steel, press secretary to House Speaker John Boehner. The email is "funny and well-written," Steel says, and "whether or not you agree with their particular point of view, it’s an enjoyable read with fun wordplay and pop-cultural references." Steel figures often in HuffPost Hill's sub-beat on haircuts, and says he recently emailed the authors because he appreciated that they referenced the 1979 film The Warriors.
"HuffPost Hill is one of the hidden jewels of political writing—especially political writing that tries to be funny," says Mark Leibovich, the New York Times' chief national correspondent. "This actually succeeds."
Leibovich says he sometimes misses the newsletter because it "comes out at a sucky time." It usually hits around 5 or 6 PM, and Nelson and Delaney say they've been trying to get it out a little earlier; Delaney says his wife knows he's on his way home when it arrives. It turns five years old on Sunday, April 19 (Nelson bemoans the missed opportunity of launching on 4/20), and the Huffington Post itself turns ten this year. This conversation, which took place in HuffPost's DC offices, has been lightly edited.
So take me through your process of collecting stuff for this. Are you looking for things you can riff on? Are you looking for news?
Eliot Nelson: From the outset we wanted it to be a pretty good overview of the day’s political news—and there have been a few occasions where the news has been so awful, like with the Newtown shootings, that we didn’t even bother trying to. So I think that’s the first priority is making sure that we touch most of the basic events of the day. We try to also get a good range of campaign news, Hill news and the like. Obviously we do beeline for some more frivolous stories that might be easier to vamp on.
I think sometimes some of the more enjoyable stuff or the stuff that makes us a worthwhile endeavor is when we can maybe inject a little DC humor and perspective about it. The government forced GE to spin off some part of its financial wing the other day as a result of Dodd-Frank. I think we quipped that all the authors of Dodd Frank were celebrating the occasion in their lobbying offices .
Arthur Delaney: I think you understand the mindset of Hill people.
Nelson: Maybe so, but I think you just have to live in Washington to get that. I think there’s this sort of osmosis, and it’s just sort of helpful to just sort of connect the dots. I think if you understand why Sidwell Friends might be a cause for people leaving government then I think you have a pretty good sense of how Washington works.
Who’s the audience for it? It can read as if it's for people who despise politics.
Nelson: Well, I think that’s a lot of people in politics, too. There’s just that psychological mechanism where I think a lot of people want to distance themselves from it or central players in it. But in terms of the target audience, it’s first and foremost an outlet for folks involved in politics at any level. It’s also folks with just a deeper interest in politics, too.
Are you writing with a certain type of person in mind? Can people buy their way in?
Nelson: Um, yeah. I’m glad you asked. No, I mean there have been a few times when we have poked at an individual person but I think by and large we just more want to target people who have a 400-level understanding or interest in politics. That will probably be lobbyists and staffers and journalists, but there are a lot of die-hard political junkies out there who understand what you mean when you talk about cloture votes and slow-walking something. For them, too. I don’t want those people to be excluded by this.
That brings me to something I was curious about. HuffPost Hill can be very critical, but I don't remember it ever being nasty. What tone do you strive for when you write this thing?
Nelson: Hopefully something dry but not resigned. I hope that people read this and don’t think that we get a little agitated about some of this stuff. There’s a certain extent to which anyone who’s operating in this sphere has to learn to digest some of this stuff and not get so bent out of shape each day that you can’t continue to operate.
When [former Massachusetts Governor] Deval Patrick takes a job at Bain, that certainly raises eyebrows. With something like that you want to convey a degree of at least suspicion about that development. But at the same time, one of my favorite terms that’s used in DC is the word “transition.” You see it in Playbook, it’s used to describe career shifts that can often be ethically dubious but it gives it this sound as if it’s something as natural as turtle hatchlings scampering to the ocean.
“So and so’s chief of staff is transitioning to Purple Strategies.” That term conveys as if that’s OK, as if that’s part of life. Hopefully our tone is such that we’re not necessarily pleased about it.
This sounds almost like a work of anthropology.
Nelson: A joke that I’m trying to formulate today, there was a duck and its ducklings that somehow found their way to downtown DC.
Delaney: It was at the Washington Post building.
That's a bad place for birds.
Nelson: I’m trying to work on a joke, I wonder what lobbyist the ducks retained for their fly-in. Sometimes we’ll play stupid. But if by being so stupid and naive about it we convey a certain thing about Washington, then that’s great.