Local News Now announced Monday it plans to close the DC news site Borderstan. “We could not in the end get the support of local advertisers,” says Scott Brodbeck, Local News Now’s founder and publisher. Unlike many grim holiday-period media announcements, this one comes without job cuts: Borderstan co-editor Tim Regan will work on the company’s publication ARL Now; its other co-editor Andrew Ramonas has a new job.
Regan says he found out about Borderstan’s fate last Monday. The publication will publish its last stories this Friday, with possibly a retrospective of its editors’ favorite moments.
Brodbeck emphasizes that the closure is a business-side failure. The publication also existed in an odd space between a hyperlocal neighborhood blog and a news source for the whole city: “Maybe we were just occupying an awkward space and that contributed to it as well,” he says.
The company’s other publications are going fine, Brodbeck says, and Reston Now will soon have a new editor, Dave Emke, who has been the editor of the Martinsburg, West Virginia, Journal.
“We remain very committed to helping to create a sustainable business model for online local news,” he says; the company will consult with other local news publishers on technology and sales. “Obviously the news business is going online. I don’t think there are many people who think print is going to be around forever. Ultimately if you think about readership habits and what people prefer they’re reading online, they’re reading on their phone.” Given the importance of local news, Brodbeck says, he’s surprised there’s not more energy going into finding a viable business case for it.
“Local reporting is so vitally important to the journalistic landscape in general, and you’re seeing across the United States there’s a great need for the reporting that Borderstan and other publications in DC do,” Regan says. “It’s also something that’s really hard. That’s most evident by the fact that we’re having to shut down.”
Local News Now, which also publishes ARLNow and RestonNow, announced in April 2015 it had purchased Borderstan from the blog’s founders, Matt Rhoades and Luis Gomez. At the same time, the publisher sold Bethesda Now to Bethesda Magazine. Borderstan relaunched that June, with Regan as its editor.
Local News Now previously closed its Hill Now blog in July. “We are out of the business of owning and operating sites in the District,” Brodbeck says. At least for now: “This is not to say at some point in the future we would not come back. We’re committed to the Washington, DC, area. For the time being DC just didn’t to not work for us as a local news market.”
Borderstan in its short second life became an essential source of news for many Northwest DC neighborhoods. It was also a fun read, pushing stories like a missing playground firetruck and a fart-related fine for a DC business far beyond its original coverage area. “One thing that I think Andrew and I tried to do while I was here was have as much fun as possible and as often as possible do what we wanted to do,” Regan says. “Our mission was to grow and learn about things as we were interested in therm.”
Regan says he’s “incredibly proud of the stuff we did. I think we hit the beat really hard. We had such a great opportunity to report on interesting and great local news stories. I can’t stress how proud I am.”
“We are a little bit sad that it didn’t work out,” says Brodbeck. “We had a good thing going and we had some devoted readers. But we don’t have any outside funding, we don’t have VCs funding us, so we need to be very realistic about what’s going to work and what’s not. This was one of those cold rational decisions where it was apparent it wasn’t going to work out. We really did enjoy covering this area, and we hope local news coverage continues with other publications.”