DC is a city full of media types. From freelance writers to professional talking heads, DC is stacked full of journalists. Think tanks, magazines, the Washington bureau of every outlet... there are probably as many journalists here as there are people who are HIV positive. But if you want to find some semblance of talent or professionalism, don't look to the local media outlets. They are all god awful terrible.
I realize this is true in most media markets, that the "local" television stations, and local newspapers do not attract the best talent. What is seemingly beyond all comprehension is just how terrible local news in Washington, D.C. is. You would think that outlets such as WTOP, WJLA-TV, WRC, so on and so forth could attract at least some young and upcoming talent. Sure, the local NBC outlet isn't the same as working for Brian Williams, but it's a start, right?
Let's focus on NBC for a minute here. While the newscasts themselves are of average quality, the station tries to bill itself as an Internet savvy group. They recently redesigned their web site (which is part of a nationwide NBC effort, I should note).
"Locals Only," cute.
Take this story, for example. It's called "Sign System To Differentiate Lincoln From Washington." It's written by resident funny man Jim Newell, who apparently also writes for Wonkette. This piece tries to be funny, and was actually the "top" local story Monday morning.
The story opens with:
Washington D.C. is a very confusing town, with its monuments. Sure, most students on field trips to the city would be able to name the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument at first sight -- if their school is Harvard! For the rest of us unemployed, uneducated and barely literate slobs, however, we see the Washington Monument and can only wonder, "What is this 19th-century style obelisk?"
And displays the following photo:
Since the site is for "Locals Only" after all, we are supposed to understand that's not a horrible mistake, and is instead an attempt at a joke.
Add to this the "Cheney Discovers Cars, Technology" story, and it's like reading the Internet written by someone who just discovered the Onion existed.
Here's the real deal, your site is difficult to navigate. It's next to impossible to locate any actual news, and it's not funny. Has everyone just decided to give up on actually providing news? The only reason why anyone would visit the NBC site, or WJLA's site, or WTOP, or any other news site is to locate actual news. If you want silly commentary, you read blogs. News channels, listen up, you have resources to actually cover local news. You hire people to be "reporters" who are supposedly spending their days working on these things. Why not spend a little bit of time writing decent quality copy about the stories you cover. Maybe people would actually read your site then. The gimmicks are lame.
Less people are watching newscasts. More people are reading the Internet. Any person with basic reading and writing skills could summarize your top news stories and put them online, before the newscast even finishes. Maybe, just maybe, you could also run a spell check and make sure your headlines don't have any typos. Is it really that hard? Do you even pay your staff, or is it a bunch of volunteers from the local high school?
I challenge you, NBC Washington, give me a summary of your newscasts. Give it to me in text, on your web site, and easy to find. Tell me about the stories you are reporting on, right now. Tell me. Don't keep it a secret. Maybe I can't be at my TV for the newscast. Maybe I can't watch a video on my computer.
Don't even get me started on WTOP, you're next.