DCist shut down by parent company after union vote

DCist shut down by parent company after union vote (Mike Carter-Conneen/ABC7)

After more than a decade of local news coverage, DCist is frozen in time with its last post Thursday at 4:54 p.m.

Along with DNAinfo, Gothamist and sites in other major cities, DCist is owned by billionaire Joe Ricketts.

In a letter posted on all of the DNAinfo company’s websites, Ricketts writes, “I've made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist. Reaching this decision wasn't easy, and it wasn't one I made lightly."

His statement continued, "We made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn't been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded."

But skeptics point out the abrupt move came a week after Ricketts' New York-based employees voted to unionize. And a company spokesperson told the New York Times, "The decision by the editorial team to unionize is simply another competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful."

Locally, former DCist staffers are outraged.

“It's all gone. There was no warning. And there's a sense of loss,” said Catherine Andrews, who was a founding member of the website.

WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle, another DCist alum, calls the decision "terrible" and "tragic."

“I mean it was nice to see the support from people who have been covered by DCist both critically and just getting comments from them,” he said.

On Twitter, D.C. elected officials weighed in. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton tweeted, "Loss of DCist is big loss for local journalism.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council also expressed disappointment.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, often targeted by DNAinfo reporters, raised eyebrows with his tweet, calling Ricketts “a coward."

The end of DCist comes at a time when the Washington City Paper is for sale and other local, web-based news organizations are struggling to survive.

But there is still hope for DCist, with talk of potential crowd-funding efforts to save it and the other sites.

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