If you want to make it as a blogger in D.C., the prevailing wisdom says you have to think big. That’s how Dan Silverman, aka Prince of Petworth, turned his humble neighborhood news source into a full-time job, by expanding his realm citywide. Borderstan was resurrected last year by Local News Now to cover Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights as well as the U Street area. WJLA, the local ABC affiliate behind the former tbd.com, dipped its toes into the internet waters again earlier this year with the launch of DC Refined, a local lifestyle site.
But for readers who want the scoop on what their elected representatives in their local Advisory Neighborhood Commission have been working on, or to know what the community thinks about the townhouse down the street that’s been bought and turned into a behemoth multi-unit “pop-up” condo building, they’ll have to consult the nearest hyperlocal blog. Armed only with curiosity, these residents have turned their inquisitive minds into one-writer journalism machines — and they’re not slowing down. We asked a few of our favorite bloggers how they run some of the most informative sites in the city.
Elise Bernard, 37
Blog: Frozen Tropics
Day job: Lawyer
Bernard answered these questions on her way back from a neighbor’s house, where she had stopped to borrow some cat food. It’s those kinds of neighbors that have kept her in Trinidad for 13 years, and blogging about it for 12. She also helped found Trinidad’s neighborhood association and held a seat on Trinidad’s ANC in 2007 and 2008.
Originally, there wasn’t a lot of information about Trinidad online. And honestly, when I first started it, I had a new laptop and I wanted to learn to do some new things with it.
What’s the part of the site you’re most proud of?
I spend a lot of time on some of the ANC posts and the ANC meetings stuff. I think that’s pretty important.
What is the most important issue developing in your area?
We have some massive developments coming around the Starburst area [the intersection of H Street, 15th Street, Bladensburg Road and Maryland Avenue NE] and near Benning Road.
Jacqueline Dupree, 50
Blog name: JDLand
Day job: Washington Post intranet editor
In 2004, Dupree just wanted to snap photos and keep a record of what Navy Yard looked like before and during the construction of the baseball stadium and a gajillion high-rises. Her reporting on commercial real estate earned her a Knight-Batten award for citizen media in 2008.
Can you remember the first post you wrote?
The oldest existing post is from October 2003. I said the representatives of William C. Smith [apartments] had told me the school buses were going to be removed from the Canal Park footprint in approximately 90 days. It turned out to be another six years.
Have you embraced social media?
I’ve had no choice. I think you’ll find that caused the death of a lot of local blogs. Anybody can come into the neighborhood and decide they want to be the person who tweets about everything.
What is your relationship to other neighborhood blogs?
I’m pretty strong on my boundaries. [Recently shuttered Capitol Hill blog] Hill Now wanted us to have a blogger summit. I was like, “What? In person?”
Drew Schneider, 44
Blog name: Petworth News
Day job: Director of interactive media for the Department of Defense’s Stars and Stripes newspaper
Petworth News, a runner-up for Washington City Paper’s best community blog this year, started out as the Facebook page of then-ANC commissioner candidate Schneider in 2014. He lost the race, but he’s still writing about crime, ANC politics and local businesses.
Why did you start a blog?
People really wanted hyperlocal news. I post long-form articles about different topics. You have to focus on “your trash is going to be delayed” as much as the op-ed piece about the things a community can do to prevent juvenile crime.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I spend 30-plus hours a week of my nights and weekends on the blog: calling people, taking pictures, doing interviews, writing and managing it. I attend two ANC meetings, [Petworth commissions] 4C and 4D, and post notes and photos.
What is the most important issue developing in Petworth?
Pop-ups are making people very unhappy. People came to Petworth, or they’ve always lived in Petworth, because it’s a neighborhood of single-family homes. And all of a sudden you have a rowhouse that’s been pushed back 20 feet, up 5 feet and it’s three separate condos.
Tim Wright, 38
Blog name: The X2
Day job: Manager of teacher engagement at the National Building Museum
After Wright spent eight years covering the Mount Pleasant area on The 42, a move to Carver Langston in March prompted him to start a new blog called The X2. Like his previous blog, The X2 is named for the area he covers: “If it’s somewhere I can take the bus to or walk to from the bus, it’s under my purview,” he says.
How much time do you spend on this a week?
On the 42 blog, I’d spend about five hours a week on it. I haven’t written very much on the new blog because I’m still learning. For me to document a new change, I will need to have been there for a while to notice it.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve written about?
The most hits I ever got was 25,000 on a story when “The Real World” was rumored to be coming to D.C. So I wrote this post generalizing [about] different neighborhoods. Like, “If the house were in Brookland this would happen,” etc. I did it in 10 minutes.
Have you embraced social media?
Even if I have 2,000 page views a week, it’s easier to engage with my 2,000 [Twitter] followers. It’s easier to talk about issues on Twitter than in the comments.
A previous version of this story misstated when Elise Bernard served on Trinidad’s ANC. It has since been corrected.
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