Local journalism in the District took a gut-punch late Thursday as the popular blog DCist was abruptly shut down.
A letter by the site’s banking billionaire owner was placed at the top of the homepage, which features local stories ranging from city council votes to the growing restaurant scene to the latest Metro mess.
“Reaching this decision wasn't easy, and it wasn't one I made lightly,” wrote CEO Joe Ricketts.
In March, Ricketts’ company DNAInfo bought Gothamist, which operated DCist and similar blogs in large cities such as Chicago and New York. The closure comes after 25 employees in New York’s Gothamist newsroom voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America East.
“Businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” said Ricketts, who initially rejected the idea of unionizing.
DCist’s 313,000 Twitter followers and 88,000 Facebook fans made it one of the most popular local news destinations online, with stories often generating the most web traffic in the Metro area.
Other local news outlets could also be in trouble, with reports that Washington City Paper could be sold by its parent company SouthComm Communications. Baltimore City Paper, owned by newspaper and digital news corporation Tronc, ceased operations this week.
“Vaporizing DCist and its sister sites is the journalistic equivalent of blowing up Alderaan,” tweeted Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post’s opinion section. “This is terrible.”