LAist goes dark

laist-logo.jpgA sad day for Los Angeles online media. LAist, one of the very early Los Angeles city blogs, was abruptly shut down at 2 p.m. Thursday along with sister websites in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere.

In all about 115 people lost their jobs, most of them journalists, including LAist editor Julia Wick and her staff.

In place of the sites and their archives, visitors were redirected to a note from owner Joe Ricketts announcing "the difficult decision" to close a network of news websites that, he says, drew 15 million visits a month with two million followers on social media. "Businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure," he posted. He made no mention of a newsroom union vote last month by the Gothamist and DNAInfo newsroom in New York that Ricketts fought, but the connection was made by the New York Times in its story.

When the DNAinfo and Gothamist New York newsrooms first moved to join the union in April, management warned that there might be dire consequences... DNAinfo’s chief operating officer sent the staff an email wondering if a union might be “the final straw that caused the business to close.”...

In September, Mr. Ricketts, a conservative who supported President Trump in last year’s election, raised the ante with a post on his blog titled “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create,” in which he argued that “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”

When the sites went dark, it appeared for a few hours as if the many years of archives were being removed from the active Internet. Bloggers scrambled to scrape as much of their work as possible from sites like the Internet Wayback Machine and Google, and I ranted to interviewers for KCRW and KPCC that it would be stupid for Ricketts to remove such a valuable asset from the web. The company clarified later in the day that the online archives would be restored within a few days.

Wick, the LAist editor, at first could only reach readers and her roster of editors and bloggers on Twitter.

The original Gothamist blog was started in 2003 by Jake Dobkin and Jen Chung and quickly expanded to Los Angeles under editor Tom Berman. LAist covered news, culture, trends, events, media happenings and some politics — the site this year broke the news about City Council candidate Jo Bray-Ali's unsavory past, and lots of others. An incomplete list of LAist bloggers and editors through the years includes Carolyn Kellogg, the Los Angeles Times book editor; Zach Behrens, the former KCET producer now working at the U.S. Forest Service; Adrienne Crew, the former LA Observed contributor; Tony Pierce, the Busblog blogger; Lindsay William-Ross; Emma Gallegos; Jason Toney; Marleigh Riggins; and others.

Ricketts' DNAInfo acquired the Gothamist sites earlier this year. He had started DNAInfo as a network of local news sites in 2009.

Ricketts had tried to put the fear in his New York employees about the vote about joining the Writers Guild in a September message, and many see his action today as retribution. The threat followed by shutdown will certainly be an item of discussion in the Los Angeles Times newsroom, where a large segment of the staff is actively trying to organize a guild unit there for the first time over the resistance of parent company Tronc.

Some of the many LAist tributes around social media.

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Blogosphere stories on LA Observed:
LAist goes dark
LA Weekly loses film critic Amy Nicholson too
California's secret water blogger is a she
Scientists who help write the movies
RV encampment on Tujunga Avenue in North Hollywood
Michael Higby, LA blogger, was 50
Original Wonkette blogger wants you to know she's a Christian
Andrew Sullivan to shut down The Dish