News Shutdown: DNAinfo Chicago, Gothamist, LAist, DCist, Chicagoist, SFist Suddenly Shut Down

A shut down of the popular local news and culture sites DNAinfo Chicago and more was announced today, one week after editors and reporters joined a union.

Chicago Cubs owner “Joe” Ricketts, who found in November 2009, announced the closures today, November 2, 2017, on all of the news websites. When readers visited the websites, they were met by a letter announcing — among other explanations — that “progress on the business has not been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to product the type of journalism on which the company was founded.”

The digital news service that covered neighborhood news in New York City and Chicago provided excellent coverage of crime and public safety reports, cultural news, local business news, and restaurant news.

Apparently at least some of the websites were down before DNAinfo reporters were informed of the decision.

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The latest tweet from @DNAinfoCHI was posted at 1:43 p.m. on November 2, 2017, but the referred article has been re-directed to a letter from Joe Ricketts …

November 2, 2017
Dear DNAinfo and Gothamist Readers:
Today, 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.

I started DNAinfo in 2009 at a time when few people were investing in media companies. But I believed an opportunity existed to build a successful company that would report unbiased neighborhood news and information. These were stories that weren’t getting told, and because I believe people care deeply about the things that happen where they live and work, I thought we could build a large and loyal audience that advertisers would want to reach.

A lot of what I believed would happen did, but not all of it. Today, DNAinfo and Gothamist deliver news and information each day to over half a million people’s email inboxes; we have over 2 million fans across our social channels; and each month, we have over 15 million visits to our sites by over 9 million people. But more important than large numbers of visits and fans, we’ve reported tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people. And in the process, I believe we’ve left the world a better place.

But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure. And while 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. I want to thank our readers for their support and loyalty through the years. And I want to thank our employees for their tireless effort and dedication.

I’m hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling for I believe telling those stories remains essential.


Joe Ricketts
Chief Executive Officer

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DNAinfo Senior Editor Justin Breen left the company in June 2017 to start his own communications and public relations business.

“Oh my god this is horrible news. So devastated. DNAinfo was built from scratch with guts and nonstop hard work. In shock right now. I owe everything to DNAinfo”

— Justin Breen on Facebook

The shutdown is estimated to put about 100 journalists out of work. Employees will receive three months full salary designated as “administrative leave” and four weeks of severance, according to the company.

In March 2017, DNAinfo purchased Gothamist LLC which ran news sites in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

DNAinfo designated the flagship New York-based Gothamist site, and the Chicago-based Chicagoist as the official blogs of its New York and Chicago DNAinfo sites, where DNAinfo already operated. The sites kept their web address URLs as they covered events, arts and food coverage. LAist, SFist, and DCist initially remained standalone sites covering Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, respectively,

Joe Ricketts is the also founder, former CEO and former chairman of TD Ameritrade, one of the largest online discount brokerages in the world.

Ricketts also co-founded the Campaign for Primary Accountability (CPA) with Eric O’Keefe, Leo Linbeck III, and Tim Dunn. CPA targets both Democratic and Republican incumbents in primary elections.

In the 2016 presidential election, Ricketts donated at least one million dollars in support of Donald Trump, and raised funds for the Future45 Super Pac and the 45Committee, a pro-Trump 501(c)4 organization that is not required to disclose its donors.

Previously, during the Republican primaries, Ricketts had contributed to Our Principles PAC, a Super PAC dedicated to opposing Trump. Ricketts explained his changed position citing economic grounds, stating that Hillary Clinton “represents four more years of the Obama-Clinton economic policies that continue to cripple the middle class.

In 2010, Ricketts led a campaign against earmarks and what he perceived to be wasteful federal spending. Ricketts founded an independent organization called Taxpayers Against Earmarks that classified every Member of Congress as either a spending “hero” or “hooligan.

Since 2008, Ricketts has pursued a variety of other entrepreneurial ventures including High Plains Bison, The Lodge at Jackson Fork, and The American Film Company. Ricketts also engages in philanthropy through Opportunity Education Foundation, The Cloisters on the Platte Foundation, The Ricketts Art Foundation, The Ricketts Conservation Foundation, and Ending Spending, Inc.

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The last tweet from DNAinfo Chicago … when this Cardinal article was published …

DNAinfo Chicago Last Tweet