By Chris Kirkham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Local media entrepreneur Robert Allbritton and Washington journalist Martin Tolchin are teaming up to create a new Capitol Hill-centric newspaper that will debut Nov. 21.
The paper, to be called the Capitol Leader, will enter a competitive niche market, joining Roll Call, the Hill and other publications such as the National Journal and Congressional Quarterly that concentrate on national politics and policy.
Allbritton said the intent is to combine in-depth reporting from the Capitol Leader with the exposure of his company's local television stations, WJLA (Channel 7) and News Channel 8. Demand for political news in the city remains strong, Allbritton said, and the hope is to offer advertisers packages with politically oriented television programs such as "Inside Washington" and "Capital Sunday," which appear on Allbritton stations.
The venture is a pairing of two high-profile Washington figures with long backgrounds in the news and other industries. Allbritton's family owned the Washington Star in the 1970s. Allbritton also succeeded his father, Joe L. Allbritton, as chief executive at Riggs Bank, which was sold in 2004 after reports that it helped hide money for the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and the ruling family of Equatorial Guinea. He is now chief executive of Allbritton Communications Co. and will be publisher of the Capitol Leader.
Tolchin is a former New York Times correspondent who co-founded the Hill in 1994. He said the new publication would do more investigative reporting and include book and restaurant reviews of interest to members of Congress, staff members and lobbyists.
"There is so much going on up there that there's definitely room for another publication, and probably many more publications," Tolchin said. "I don't think we'll be the last." Tolchin left the Hill three years ago to work on a book and said he planned to stay with the Capitol Leader as a senior editor for about a year and a half.
Tolchin said he had been recruiting from several Washington publications, including The Washington Post, Roll Call and the Hill. Frank Meyers, the production manager at the Hill, has already joined, Tolchin said.
He said he hoped to have about 14 reporters and a dozen editors when the paper is at full staff. The paper will publish Tuesday through Thursday when Congress is in session, and on Wednesdays during recess. That's the same publication schedule as the Hill. Roll Call publishes Monday through Thursday, and Mondays during recess.
Allbritton executives plan to have Capitol Leader reporters appear regularly on WJLA and News Channel 8 programs. About 90 percent of the copies of paper will be available free on Capitol Hill.
Allbritton Communications owns television stations in Washington and six other markets. Allbritton had explored buying the Hill last year but the asking price was $40 million.
Like Roll Call and the Hill, the Capitol Leader plans to get advertising mainly from advocacy groups that want to get their message around Capitol Hill.