More than 100 Journalists Lost Their Platform Yesterday, I’m One Of Them.
I started writing for Chicagoist, part of the Gothamist network, more than 8 years ago. On Thursday I, along with everyone else at our sister sites as well as those who worked for DNAinfo — all owned by billionaire conservative Joe Ricketts — found out we no longer had an outlet or jobs. The move seems to have come in retaliation after staff in New York City formed a union. Rather than allowing it to help breathe life into the staff and their work, Ricketts decided to smother it and burn the to the ground.
There was no warning, at least for me. One minute the site was there, the next, it was gone. I was packing my gear to go cover a story on a march the Chicago Teachers Union was doing to a neighborhood school to honor the more than 50 schools Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed in 2013. My phone began buzzing with notifications from friends asking “what happened to Chicagoist?” I popped open the site and found this letter from Joe addressed to our readers that the site was no more.
Imagine finding out nearly 8 years of your work was gone like this.
Thankfully, the sites are back up now, with a link to the letter at the top from the founder of DNAinfo, who bought the Gothamist network in March. They won’t be forever, and we’ve got no way of knowing how long they’ll be available to people.
There are more than a hundred people who worked for DNAinfo/Gothmist affiliated sites who reported on countless stories. At Chicagoist we covered so many stories of marginalized communities/activists working to help folks. In the past 7 years I’ve chronicled more movements than I can count. Those movements helped shape our city & gave communities a voice.
At Chicagoist we were also unabashedly critical of every administration — from Emanuel to Rauner to Trump. That’s part of the point of journalism. There’s no doubt in my mind that in addition to busting the newly formed union of DNAinfo and Gothamist staff in New York City, the decision to close DNAinfo/Gothamist was because of the critical reporting we did. Ricketts is an ultra rich ultra conservative, and this is a tactic. When powerful people don’t like something, they can simply buy it & shut it down.
One of the things that DNA/Chicagoist did with our reporting is buck the right wing/racially charged narrative that Chicago is a war-torn hellscape. We reported on crime, but also on people doing the work to lift their communities in the face of wealthy neoliberals trying to take from them. Like any other city, Chicago has its problems, but it’s also a wonderful place (and my favorite city in this country). I hope our work reflected that. There’s now a huge hole in journalism both here & in the other cities DNAinfo/Gothamist had a presence.
We tried to tell under-reported stories, the stories of marginalized and struggling people, and those of the millions of people who live work and play in our city, from their perspective. Now who will?
This is why believing that rich people buying news outlets will save journalism. It won’t. They only care for their own power and wealth, and when something is no longer useful to them or they have an avenue to shut it down, they do. I’m not certain what the model for saving journalism is, but I am certain what it isn’t — and that’s rich people buying and running news outlets.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all of you. If my or anyone else’s work had value to you and your community — thank you for reading, sharing, and supporting. I’m not sure where I or anyone else will land, but I hope we all find somewhere pleasant. In the meantime, support your local indie journalist.