B3 BDELAYED

You were supposed to see a different looking Metro section today. B3 was slated to become the “Destination Page” but Lynn Medford informed Posties that it will be “delayed one week due to technical difficulties. It seems we have to program the thing-a-ma-jig to do round corners for the interactive boxes. Or something like that. Anyway, please stand by.”

In the meantime, you can learn more about B3 by reading a bit of the memo sent out by Medford and Ashley Halsey recently:

“Page 3 in the Metro redesign– the regional page carrying the John Kelly column — presents an opportunity to add personality, new sparks, inventive concepts, energetic writing and interactivity in the section. We’ll have a menu of features that change daily — someone called it a mixed grill — and reflect who our readers are, what our region is, in all its many flavors and incarnations — in their words and ours.”

The rest of the memo and a full description of B3 when you click below.


This “Page Three” should be informative as well as entertaining. It should be a forum for reporters to stretch their writing and creativity, to experiment, to publish the information, rich scenes, meaningful moments, frivolous gossip that currently have no home — those scenes and features that aren’t quite a story, yet do reflect life here. Page Three can offer another showcase for engaging photos, photo essays, graphics and design. The page has potential to generate story ideas.

To gin up ideas for the page, we canvassed Metro reporters and convened a cross-staff collective for a brainstorming session: Carla Broyles, Karin Brulliard, Patti Davis, David Von Drehle, Joe Davidson, Marc Fisher, Steve Ginsberg, Marcia Greene, John Kelly, Robert Pierre, Craig Stoltz, Valerie Strauss, Hank Stuever, Avis Thomas-Lester, April Umminger, Jose Antonio Vargas and ourselves–Lynn and Ashley. Ashley will be the editor for the page.

Many compelling ideas were pitched. We became so sure new ideas would bubble up as the process evolves that we decided to make the format extremely flexible to accommodate that. We feel strongly that this should be the reporters’ page and the readers’ page. The more invested they are, the stronger the page will be.

Some basics:

1) The features will change every day, a revolving menu of new content — short (no more than 12 inches, often 3 or 4), lively, surprising items. They will fit into the three-column hole beside the Kelly column, leaving the bottom three-column hole for regional briefs and regional news stories. They will run Mondays through Thursdays.

2) To keep the content energetic, fresh and surprising, most features will be occasional, and even then most will run for only a few months, then be replaced. The page is NOT limited to the features you see here–it must stay surprising. As Ashley says, reporters should not be asking: “Well, what do THEY want?” Instead, they should be saying “I want to do THIS.”

3) Staffwise, NO ROTATIONS, NO DUTY COPY: We’d enlist only volunteer reporters, who want to be a part of the team, who want to exercise their writing chops in a different way. *Special Note: If we don’t get any volunteers, we reserve the right to beg, wheedle, threaten.

4) Several features have an interactive component (and theoretically more and more as the page takes hold, which would ease the burden on the staff). Readers would be invited to write in tips, vignettes, suggestions for subjects, etc.

5) We’ll want to shoot or retrieve pictures of readers who participate. Many of you can take care of the job with a digital camera–say, the mug for the commuter. Sometimes we’ll want the pros to shoot. Sometimes we can gouge up iconic art–you’ll see several examples in here. Please ask.

7) We’ll name the page “Page 3” to be consistent with the A section’s Page 2.

Here are some of the features we propose, lumped into loose categories:

Our Neighborhoods

1) My Neighborhood in 200 Words: We invite readers to tell us what’s special — good or bad — about their neighborhoods; Life as Haiku only about places.

2) Verbatim: Sparks from the neighborhood listserves.

3) Extreme Washington: We tell readers about the house tucked in the corner of a ramp, the last residence in a block enveloped by commercial development, the highest point in the area, the most expensive condo, the section with the highest crime rate, the lowest, the last beater store in a regentrifying nabe, the cemetery with the most rigid rules, etc.)

4) Eyesore: Readers call in an eyesore that’s not getting fixed — a junkpile, a decrepit house, a bad bridge, a broken stoplight. We run a photograph. We get the experts’ explanation.

5) Dartboard: A Metro staffer throws a dart at a map of the region. Wherever the dart sticks he or she goes and writes a 10-inch story about what is there.

6) Faceoff: Which is better O&D Trail or Capital Crescent Trail? DelRay Dreamery or Max’s? Old Town or Annapolis? We write a little box suggesting a rivalry and ask for response. Folks write in, we sample the answers the next week.

Our People

1) Five Minutes of Fame: Here’s where we park items that are not a full story and not appropriate for Style. Items like: “Real Simple Television will be airing a personal profile of Washington DC’s Sarah Wildman. Learning that there are several ingredients to a fulfilled life, Sarah is embraced by an eclectic group of friends when she arrives in Washington DC and joins their ongoing dinner parties where food creates a bond of friendship and community.” Also, short updates on local people who discovered famous people, like Emmylou Harris’s guitar teacher.

2) Lost to Fame: Many celebrities came from the Washington region. Lewis Black is from MoCo., etc. We ask: What they love, hate, miss about the area, what pivotal thing happened in their formative years and where it happened.

3) Whose Big Idea Was That: Ideas create heroes and jackasses. We keep an eye out for the occasional high-visibility big idea around the region and tell you where it came from and why.

4) Hey, Try Being Me: Readers invite us to work alongside them — as museum security guards, temp workers, bank CEOs, salt-truck operators, Carville’s nanny, real estate sellers, etc. — for a day and live to tell of the experience.

5) Single in the Suburbs: A write-in box. If you live by yourself in the Washington suburbs, you’re not alone. There are more single-person households in suburbia now than two-parent families. The Health Section has given a voice to baby boomers with “Boom Box”; let’s give voice to singles.

6) What They Earn…. What They Do to Earn it: We find public figures’ salaries, then get them to explain what they do.

Our Schools

1) Dispatches: A scene-based local Letters From … . We describe what’s happening behind the closed door. Spend a day with a teacher, a school bus driver, a janitor, etc.

2) The Next Big Thing: What’s in and coming in, here or coming in from New York or Los Angeles etc., in elementary school, middle, high school and college — the slang, the fashion, the makeout spot, the drink, etc.) NOTE: This one actually can be about anything –the next cop gadget, the next golfing trend locally, the next hot urban game like geo-whatever-it-was.

3) Point/Counterpoint: A solicited parent/kid debate.

4) The Experimenters: What are the schools trying out, something unusual or adopted from out of state. Focus on a different school(s) each time. Schedules, classes offered, teaching technique, extracirrucular activity, rules, homework assignments, lunch offering. How’s it working?

5) The Hang: Conversations with kids at the mall, at work, at the video store, at the basketball court. Ask a certain question. (Valerie is going to ask kids What You’d Fix First (or Second) at Your School.

Our Lifestyles

1) Dispatches: (a local Letters From … ) Simple scenes as we go about life in megachurches, NGO headquarters, think tanks, bowels of the Smithsonian, the back of a taxi. Very slice of life. Very of the moment. A way to access subcultures we don’t tap into often.

2) What a Weekend: As this weekend arrives, what did you do last weekend? We ask regional people of all stripes.

3) What’s Your Day Job? We hit the club scene and find the exuberantly dressed, the orange mohawks, the totally pierced, the totally tattooed, long-haired patrons … shoot a picture and find out what their day job is. A way to access the Washington nightlife.

4) Real Time: Snippets of conversation overheard in our rounds that are funny, weird or both (like the woman apologizing to a black woman for selling to a Hispanic).

5) Saturday, In The Park: It inspired a song. Why not a feature? There are a ka-zillion parks in our area. More than 200 in Fairfax County alone. It would give us vehicle to write about real people and a different park. And give us a reason to snoop. Who are you? Why are you here? How’s your life going?

Our Commutes, Our Work

1) The Commute: Modeled on Sunday Source’s Road Trip, we experience local commuters’s daily treks and write clever travelogues documenting the snarls and snags and frustrations. We’d solicit Other Commuters’ Tips on the route and alternate routes and run them in a box the next week.

2) Danger Spots: The region’s top 10 most dangerous intersections, top 10 reasons an intersection is dangerous, Rockville’s most dangerous, Arlington’s most dangerous, etc. The red-light camera with the highest intake, etc.

3) Worst commute contest: Interactive: A box would solicit readers’s tales of sorrow and woe, surprise and joy — and we’d specifically solicit from traffic authorities such as Dan Tangerlini, Pierce Homer, meter maids, etc.

4) The Race to Work: We pick a route and have reporters take it by cab, Metro, car, bus and see who gets there first.

5) The Lingo: Solicited boxes on commuter lingo (many commuters develop a language for the travails they routinely encounter…. clotters [slow drivers in the left lane, double parkers], alligators [cars menacingly waiting to pull out from a side street or business], border collies [aggressive drivers who weave in and out], cheaters [single drivers in the HOV lane, people who take the local access roads to skip backups]). This feature can morph to workplace jargon, say, elevator music-speak, ER room-speak, waitress-speak, etc.

6) Commuter Games: Solicited boxes. Admit it: If you make a long commute, you play games and develop rituals to pass the time: You listen to WTOP until the DC line, then switch to El Zol. Smugly count the cars you pass if you can drive in the HOV lane. Count stoplights. Rehearse speeches.

7) Verbatim: Give a commuter a tape recorder and have them “think out loud” on the commute home.

8) The Unexplainable Explained: Use a graphic to explain seemingly unexplainable things: Why does it cost $10 million to build four lanes one mile on Interstate 66? The graphic on this could show a profile of the roadway and attach dollar figures to each layer of material and why cement costs what it does. “How come no bus comes for an hour and now three are here at once?” How come it’s nearly impossible to time lights on the same road going in opposing directions? How come after the New York Avenue Metro station opened there wasn’t enough time for pedestrians to cross New York Avenue? The reason is because every second they get to walk is one more second drivers back up on one of the city’s busiest streets. The graphic could show the traffic models and how an extra 5 seconds for walkers would have a cascading impact on drivers.

9) Tales From The Beltway: What it’s like to work in a pothole crew, animal hunts, weird things just off the exits, etc.

10) People Who Walk To Work: It sounds like a dream to commuters … but is it? Isn’t there weather, fear, fatigue?

Kaleidoscope

1) The Metropo List: A local list off the news. Say Cheney shoots a buddy instead of the bird. We list the hunting accident numbers for Maryland and Virginia and whether they’re up or down. A Cessna goes down — we list the crash rate for the regional airports. Big mayoral debate is coming: We list famous moments from past local debates. Valentine’s Day approaches so we list the area’s top imported or selling flowers or the area’s top Seitsema-rated restaurants. A zoo animal dies so we list the lifespans of various animals–in and out of captivity. We stockpile county demographic snapshots to intersperse: moco’s ethnic breakdown, avg. income, some school parameter, avg. bedroom size, the county homeless survey, marriage licenses county by county, whatever.

2) You Be The Editor: In an age in which newspaper consumers are choosing their own news, allow readers to pose a question that we would then write a story about. Start a feature on our Web site in which readers would propose questions they would like answered. Other readers would vote on which question they liked best and we would answer each week’s most popular question in the newspaper. We would also include a picture and short bio of the questioner. Or we could vet the questions and give readers a top 10 to choose from. The hope would be that readers would ask intriguing and insightful questions about something in the local community or some aspect of a local issue that we haven’t reported on.