Ricketts shuts down DNAinfo

DNAinfo Chicago

DNAinfo Chicago, the hyperlocal digital news enterprise, was abruptly closed Thursday along with its counterparts in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, putting more than 100 journalists suddenly out of work.

“Today, I’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist,” Joe Ricketts, founder and CEO of the company, said in a public post. “Reaching this decision wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t one I made lightly.

“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.”

Ricketts, patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, founded DNAinfo in New York in 2009 and expanded to Chicago in 2012. He added Chicagoist to the company in March.

The move came one week after newsroom employees in New York voted to unionize.

Shamus Toomey, managing editor of DNAinfo Chicago, declined to comment, referring all inquiries to his New York bosses.

Employees will receive three months of paid “administrative leave” at their full salaries, plus four weeks of severance, according to the company.

Here is the text of the message from Ricketts:

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.

Sincerely,

Joe Ricketts
Chief Executive Officer