An Introduction to 730DC

It’s one a.m. again.

Seven or eight tabs still to go. I click the rightmost.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr? When did they think this was a good name? Do they have to pay royalties to use that name? What do I call this? Is it electropop? Indie dance?

I don’t even like this band, but I know people who do, and they’re expecting an email at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. So I soldier on, sleepless, clueless, and without pay. I type the musical act into YouTube’s search bar. Minutes later:

Tunes || Dale Earnhardt, Jr Jr rock the d-flo at 9:30 Club
The indie-pop dance duo bring their act to D.C. Tuesday night…

* * *

The six-month anniversary of 730DC passed quietly, and if either of my fellow 730DCers noticed the date, they said nothing, perhaps because they’ve been busy. Writing a newsletter once is no big deal. Every day for eight months? That’s something else entirely. Like a tick, affixed to your scalp and slowly engorging itself, it grows; it takes what is precious—blood or time—and asks, every day, for more and more.

The phrase one commonly uses in this context is labor of love. I wish I could say something witty to invert this trite aphorism, turn it on its head, but I can’t; that is what it is, and we’re told, as writers, to call things what they are. I’ve detailed the labor: late nights writing about fuck-all around the city, previewing bands we don’t like, immersing ourselves in local budget policy, and handing out business cards even though we hate handing out business cards.

Enough with the complaining. What about the second half of the saying—the love half, the justification, the raison d’etre?

In a limited sense, 730DC is a daily email newsletter that cuts through a fragmented local news space to deliver the most relevant D.C. news and events to our readers’ inboxes each morning at 7:30 (or 7:28, if MailChimp is feeling feisty).

In a broader sense, though, 730DC is a social experiment, one we hope can solve a distinct problem in this city. It’s one you likely are aware of—and a part of.

Urban areas across America are swelling with aspirational twentysomethings, and in Washington we’re more numerous, more talented, more affluent, and less likely to stay in place than nearly anywhere else. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Washingtonians aged 25-34 grew by an astounding 23 percent. In the last two years alone, half of D.C.’s population growth came from this same demographic–a trend with no signs of slowing. And the political nature of the town makes for a great deal of turnover, with seemingly everyone just arriving or about to leave.

Demographically, we’re a huge part of this city (we being those recently added 20-34 year olds). But that’s not the whole story. If we’re ensconced in the Capitol bubble, use our money to treat the city as an Ubertarian playground, or never bother to expand our horizons, knowing we’ll leave for New York or San Francisco in a year anyway, we’re not really a part of D.C.’s ongoing consciousness and conversations. Not only are we not contributing, but we’re not getting the full depth of experience and brilliant variety of perspectives that this city has to offer. No one wins.

Everyone is from somewhere else, and everyone is heading somewhere else, and therefore few us can say we are here now.

At 730DC, we like to speak internally about a tripartite motto:

inform || provoke || engage

History students and activists will recognize in that troika the trace of Susan B. Anthony’s famous imperative: “Educate, agitate, organize.” 730DC isn’t an advocacy organization, explicitly, but we do believe we have a civic function: namely, to inform our readership so that they can act as an educated citizenry; to provoke that readership to consider new perspectives on District issues; and to offer ways to engage with the city and with one another.

Our readership is educated and motivated, but also busy and distracted. The newsletter cuts through that distraction to make connection with the city that much easier. We hope we can expose them to important conversations and happenings in the city, letting them form their own opinions and preferences. Ultimately the goal is to empower millennials to contribute their own perspectives to the citywide discourse. We aspire for this organization to be the forum for those conversations, and the vehicle of that empowerment.

 * * *

When the media is called the Fourth Estate, there’s an implicit suggestion that they are a vital part of the sociopolitical ecology of a state. We hope we can become a keystone species by facilitating unexpected connections. Maybe we’ll profile a volunteer cabaret group, and a reader’s high-school love for theater will be rekindled, or we’ll list a workshop for fledgling writers, and the seeds of the great D.C. novel will be planted. These successes aren’t quantifiable, but then again, the best things never are. If just one person every week gets passionate about a news item they read in the Daily, or meets a new friend at an event from the Scheduler, or is inspired by something from a 730DC.com article, then our late nights working on this project have been worth it.

I love music and I go to a show every week or so, but they’re certainly not my favorite part of putting together the Weekly Scheduler every Tuesday night. Bands come and go. The most interesting entries are the ones marking lasting entries in the long ledger of Washington’s history: the audio documentary group chronicling forgotten neighborhoods. The start-up accelerator dedicated to fomenting creative endeavor in business. The group working for food sovereignty through community gardens in underserved neighborhoods. We’re excited to make our own contribution to this conversation, and we hope you will too.

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