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Washington Post Swings, Misses in Ramp Up for Rival TBD.com

With former Washington Post online executive editor Jim Brady getting closer to launching his local D.C. news operation TBD.com, WaPo announced a new local blogger opinion feature yesterday to tap into the news on the streets but somehow failed to realize Richmond and Baltimore aren’t really “local.”

The pressure is on WaPo with Brady launching TBD.com, whose name “Too be Determined” was announced today in a cheeky explanation on the news outlet’s new website.

The WaPo “All Opinions Are Local” feature has seven bloggers writing about local issues.  Great idea, and the blog network will likely grow.  But the rollout raised eyebrows because two of the seven don’t even live in the local area. One covers Virginia politics and lives in  Richmond, a two-hour drive from D.C., and the another covering Maryland politics (and the network’s only non-white contributor) lives in Baltimore.

The other five bloggers include D.C. residents–all from the rich and hip reaches of D.C.–and the token conservative blogger who lives in suburban Virginia. In a region defined by geography and race, the rollout seemed to indicate that the WaPo still is unsure who their local market is and how to cover it.

They have a blogger from tony Georgetown, but no one focusing on Prince George’s County, Maryland–the wealthiest, majority African American county in the country. They have three bloggers covering the minutiae of hipster DC, but no one focusing on the outer Virginia suburbs that dominate the region and Virginia politics.

That uncertainty comes as WaPo is facing a frontal attack from from Allbritton Communications (a/k/a  Politico’s corporate bosses) who have hired former Postie Brady and former Washington City Paper top editor (and WaPo critic) Eric Wemple to oversee TBD.com, an online venture zeroing in on local news and opinion. In addition to Poltico, Allbritton already runs a 24-hour local cable news outfit and the local ABC affiliate.

Although the Brady-run online news operation is still being formed, news trickling out from Brady is that it will be hyperlocal with links to blogs and traditional news outlets.  That could represent a real challenge to the WaPo, which currently faces little competition for daily local news coverage.

But local news isn’t going to come from tapping into residents of Richmond and Baltimore.

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