General Manager Jim Brady is leaving TBD.
In separate conversations, Brady and Publisher Robert Allbritton told senior managers the surprising news Friday afternoon. Before Brady could tell the staff, FishbowlDC broke the story.
Editor Erik Wemple will take over leadership of TBD. In a meeting with the staff Friday evening, Wemple reaffirmed his commitment and Allbritton's to continuing the mission of TBD.
One of the reasons we chose TBD for our name was that it reflected the dynamic, unfolding nature of the product we were planning. We expected lots of changes, but I don't think any of us expected Brady would be gone less than three months after launch.
I'm not going to try to explain what I'm still trying to understand.
In an email message to the staff Friday evening, he wrote:
"I’ll be in on Monday and glad to chat with everyone as a group or individually. It goes without saying that I’ll miss all of you, and that I know how hard you’ll all keep working to innovate and improve TBD and TBD TV. We’ve made an immediate mark on this region with the innovative way we’re producing local news, so keep up the good fight and I’ll see you on #tbdnight."
Allbritton, chairman of Allbritton Communications, which owns TBD, sent the following email message to the staff:
I want to report on two important pieces of news about TBD.
The first is that Jim Brady, my partner in launching this enterprise and someone who is heavily responsible for many of the terrific innovations in technology and community engagement that have led to our successful launch, has decided to move on.
The second is that Fred Ryan and I have made a decision along with editor Erik Wemple to begin a new round of investment in journalistic resources for TBD. To me, the creation of outstanding original content has always been what will determine the long-term success of TBD.
I’d like to share a bit more on both these moves.
In his positions at AOL, Washingtonpost.com, and now at TBD, Jim has proven himself to be a true visionary and a champion of innovation in the world of online journalism. The results of his expertise are self-evident: our site is being studied and praised throughout the community of people studying the future of media.
As we talked about the next phase of our growth, it seemed clear to Jim and I both that we had some stylistic differences. So with mutual respect—and in my case a lot of appreciation for the work he has done across the company for the past year—we decided to shake hands and go in different directions.
What’s important for all of you to know is that our main mission remains unchanged. We are going to build on the success to date with the aim of making TBD the dominant online local news organization in Washington and the Virginia and Maryland suburbs. What we have achieved over the past generation at WJLA and NewsChannel 8—a robustly profitable business that produces the region’s most outstanding local journalism—is what we are on the path to achieving here.
There’s more work for all of us to do: More hiring, more innovation in social media, community engagement, and above all more original reporting and creative story-telling.
So thanks to Jim for the great start he has provided to us, and thanks to all of you for plunging in with such inspiring results on an enterprise that is being watched around the nation by everyone who cares about the future of local news.
Brady told PoynterOnline that he and Allbritton "had some -- I would say minor -- disagreements, but on many issues." He told Poynter's Steve Myers that any suggestion that he values "technology and curation [over content] belies everything I've spent 25 years in the business working on."
Brady, a dog-lover who has blogged about travels with his beagles, told Myers: "What journalist isn't interested in having more original content? Being anti-content is like being anti-puppy."
In fitting form for the leader of a site that has used Twitter aggressively, Brady also tweeted Friday evening about his departure:
For those asking, it is true that I'm leaving TBD. But the site is in great hands going forward, so keep it in your bookmarks. :-)
For the record, I am both pro-aggregation and pro-content, despite what company e-mail said. No need for a Sophie's choice.