Billionaire patriarch Joe Ricketts announced Thursday he was closing DNA Info and the “ist” online publications, effective immediately. Gone are DNA Info Chicago and is sister news site, DNA Info New York. Also gone are the related “ist” sites (Gothamist, LAist, Chicagoist, etc.) based in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. Ricketts acquired those earlier this year.
The Ricketts family owns the Chicago Cubs, who bought the team from the Tribune Co. in 2009.
On DNA Info’s website Ricketts explained why he was ending the site after eight years. You can read the full text here.
While Ricketts declined to say what was the direct reason why DNA Info was closing, members of its New York site recently voted to unionize. Ricketts was known in circles to be anti-union.
DNA Info was a “hyper-local” news website, focusing on neighborhood news. In Chicago, news was divided into several sections based on what neighborhood you lived in. For example, the neighborhood yours truly lives in (Avalon Park), was grouped in a section including Chatham and Auburn Gresham, while on the North Side, Lincoln Park was joined together with Lakeview. DNA Info however, did not extend its reporting to Chicago’s suburbs.
The publication also featured some recognizable talent including former Sun-Times reporter and columnist Mark Konkol, who left DNA Info a few years back.
With the closure, DNA Info employees will continue to get paid for the next three weeks, and receive four weeks severance. DNA officials also said the journalists’ work would be archived, though declined to elaborate how they would do so.
The departure of DNA Info is a huge blow for local journalism in Chicago, as many neighborhood stories – including some on North Side gang violence (notably around the area of Addison and Lake Shore Drive) wasn’t usually covered by the Sun-Times, Tribune, or local news channels.
This comes at a time when media consolidation is ramping up – thanks in part to the FCC’s willingness to let big media companies get even bigger. Sinclair Broadcasting is in the process of acquiring Tribune Media, owners of WGN-TV and WGN-AM, and likely would impose job cuts throughout the soon-to-be former broadcast group – meaning WGN and other Tribune stations would have their resources to cover neighborhood news cut (but plenty of time to feature Trump-loving commentators Mark Hyman and Boris Epshteyn.)
In a recent article of Broadcasting and Cable involving the deregulation of the media ownership rules – scheduled for November 16, the trade magazine noted: “FCC officials speaking on background outlined the combination order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Thursday [Oct. 26] prior to its release late in the day, and outline the reasons behind its proposal, notably that in a world filled with digital competitors, the rules are outdated.”
Well, one of those digital competitors a lot of people depended on for news in their neighborhood is no longer in operation. Your move, FCC.