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One of the first questions I asked Jim Brady when he went public with his Allbritton local news startup was when would Erik Wemple be joining? The answer is now. Wemple, the high-profile editor of alt-weekly Washington City Paper for the last eight years, will be the new enterprise’s editor, reporting to Brady, president of digital strategy for Allbritton Communications. Brady promises to announce the name of the new outlet in early March.
Wemple started at the City Paper as a freelancer in 1994, becoming editor in 2002. At Allbritton, his mission will be very different — creating an editorial product that is not print-centric, but relies heavily on the resources of the company’s ABC (NYSE: DIS) affiliate WJLA-TV and its cable News Channel 8. That’s a different model from Allbritton’s successful start-up Politico.com, which has a valuable print edition. The local news venture also has a strong social media component; Brady’s first news hire was newspaper vet Steve Buttry as director of community engagement. (Trust me, he’s engaged. One example: he has more than 10,675 tweets, follows 1,154 and has 2,835 followers.) Wemple will have to blend the strong news reporting and lifestyle/entertainment features he brings from City Paper with social and citizen media, plus craft an editorial identity that stands out in DC. He also has some serious hiring to do. The City Paper‘s coverage is here.