TheGeorgetownDish starts up: Hyperlocal newspaper war ahead? Or a friendly buyout?

image A new online newspaper, the TheGeorgetown Dish, is starting up right in the neighborhood of Ben Bradlee, Sally Quinn and other VIP journalists.

Beth Solomon—no relationship to the fictitious government landlord in The Solomon Scandals, thank you—is the editor and publisher. She has worked at ABC News and Voice of America among other places.

Robb Hoffheins, co-founder and chief operating officer, was at America Online on the business side.

The “beta” version of the Dish comes across as promising, with a lively mix of the entertaining and the useful, while making good use of linking to sites elsewhere. Its topics range from crime news and government news to, yes, real estate price overviews.

What’s ahead on paper, if anything—not just on the Web?  And is there any business relationship between the Dish and the Georgetowner (home to my near-namesake, David Roffman), which donated free office space to Beth Solomon? I’ll e-mail Beth S.—no, I don’t know her—and see if she has anything to say. She seems eager to stay on good term with the Georgetowner.

I’m also curious what the Dish could mean for the Washington Post, which couldn’t get hyperlocal right when it started a Loudoun County site. Will the Dish do an Alexandria Dish? Or a Fairfax or Bethesda one? I didn’t see the related Internet domain names registered when I checked, but in Beth S’s place, I’d hop to it, ASAP, even if she has no plans now.

Sensibly and not surprisingly, the Dish seems more open to local contributors than the Loudoun spin-off of the Washington Post appears to have been. Among them is Quinn Bradlee, son of Ben and Sally B—he’s the author of a recent memoir.

Could the Post have some kind of present or contemplated biz relationship with the Dish, assuming it is buyable?  If the Post bought The Dish, it could serve as a template for other hyperlocal efforts. The Post could keep the present crew in place to encourage a diversity of approaches. From the start, the Dish has baked in social media services such as Twitter and Facebook and already is a presence in those places. Plus, its little crew has more of a feel for Web design than the Post has displayed in both its main edition and the aborted LoudounExtra (kudos to art director Doug Hummer, an AOL alum).

I also wonder about another possible buyer, Allbritton Communications, owner of The Politico. Aided by Jim Brady, former executive editor of the Post online edition, Allbritton is starting up a local news operation on the Web. The Dish would be one way to experiment quietly. Simply as fun speculation—I have no inside information here or elsewhere in this item—I’ll wonder if there might even be some kind of existing Albritton relationship.

Beth Solomon herself is a niece of the late Nina Hyde, once fashion editor of the Washington Post. Among the other writers for the Dish will be Janet Donavan, a publicist known for “Hollywood on the Potomac” as well as her contributions to Washington Life.

Also of possible interest: Three ways to save the Washington Post: A few ‘Post Apocalypse’ observations from Alexandria.

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David Rothman

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