After a nearly two-year hiatus, Foggy Bottom’s community-based newspaper is back to serve as an outlet for concerned neighbors.
In 2004, 73-year-old resident Ellie Becker, then editor of The Foggy Bottom News, announced she would be retiring and that the paper would no longer be printed. In December, however, Michael Malloy, a 45-year-old West End resident, brought The News back to Foggy Bottom after many called for the paper’s revival, he said.
Malloy, the new editor of The News, however, has made some changes. The paper, which is funded by the Foggy Bottom Association, a local community group that has been a vocal critic of many GW expansion efforts, is now being distributed weekly through another local paper, The Foggy Bottom Current.
Also, Malloy has brought The News to the Web by posting PDF files of each issue on the FBA’s Web site http://www.savefoggybottom.com.
“Technically it’s a paid ad in the Current,” Malloy said. Although there is no banner stating that the newsletter is a paid advertisement, it is printed in a different font and font size than the rest of the news in the Current, he said.
Malloy said he became a member of the FBA after he asked the association to help him save his apartment building from a zoning change a few years ago. Now a part of the FBA’s Board of Directors, Malloy said he is glad to have the newsletter back.
“There was a large clamor from the community for this paper,” he said, adding that the best thing The Foggy Bottom News brings to the neighborhood is a sense of community.
Since June, the FBA has been criticizing the University’s plans for Square 54, the old hospital site across from the Foggy Bottom Metro, and has threatened to use legal means to block the project because members of the association believe that the University is not in compliance with the Campus Plan, a legal agreement between GW and the city. Previously, The News has been used as a platform from which several residents denounced GW’s expansion into residential Foggy Bottom.
“It’s got a mixture of news and opinion just like any other paper,” Malloy said. When asked if he thought his position on the FBA Board of Directors would create less-than-objective reporting, Malloy replied, “I’ve been in journalism for 20 years and I have not found an unbiased news source.”
Tracy Schario, GW’s director of Media Relations, said that while she does not consider The News to be biased and is pleased with its return, she said she sees it as an advocacy publication.
“It has a very anti-GW agenda. It’s not a bias – it’s an agenda,” Schario said. “On the positive side, you know, The Foggy Bottom News has had a long string in the neighborhood. It’s good to have the return of the neighborhood-driven newspaper.”
Despite calling the newsletter a “public amenity,” Schario expressed concern that the lack of input from GW and pro-GW community members in stories published in The News may intensify the animosity between the neighborhood and the University.
“Is that just going to escalate the tit for tat?” she said.
The News was first printed in 1958 and was under Becker’s leadership since 1989. When Becker was the editor, The News printed nine times a year and was hand-delivered throughout the neighborhood by volunteers. Malloy has already published five issues of The News since he started it up again Dec. 14.
Becker said she is generally pleased with Malloy’s continuance of her work and added that she has decided to contribute to the paper by continuing the column she used to write for it, called Foggy Bottom Folks.
“I’ve started it again,” she said. “It’s sort of, you know, a gossip column.”
Becker said that her only concern with the revival of the The News is that it’s not reaching everyone in the community.
“When I was doing it everyone in the neighborhood got a copy,” she said. Becker believes that the Current’s method of hiring one person to deliver to the residents in Foggy Bottom will never be as effective as the network of volunteers the newsletter relied on for delivery in the past.