DNAinfo Shuts Down, neighborhoods go dark

Theresa Cherone, Writer

Founder and CEO of DNAinfo Joe Ricketts decided to shut down DNAinfo on Nov. 2, leaving many people jobless.

Ricketts claimed DNAinfo wasn’t a profitable business, but the shutdown came suspiciously after DNAinfo and Gothamist formed a union.  

This cannot be a coincidence.

Ricketts didn’t want to pay union dues so he decided to shut down. According to the Chicago Tribune, 115 people lost their jobs.

According to the NY Times, the workers of DNAinfo tried to organize earlier in the Spring but Ricketts wrote to them and said, “As long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business.”

DNAinfo was a free news source, so I can partially understand that a business needs to be profitable. However, the next step could have been to charge readers who wanted a physical copy of other large newspapers.

I’m sure many people would’ve paid if Ricketts charged because this was the main source of local news.

Maybe that’s just not something Ricketts wanted to do, or maybe he never considered this, but there is more to his decision to shut down. He didn’t want the company unionized.

DNAinfo started as a monthly neighborhood news source where journalists in charge of different neighborhoods reported local news since 2009.

It went live on the internet in 2012 according to the Chicago Tribune. Going live made it easier for many to follow the local news as a strong following was developed.

Patty Wetli was my neighborhood reporter and every story she wrote was incredible. Her articles helped me to be more aware while walking.

Growing up in Lincoln Square, I didn’t read the newspaper until Wetli came into the neighborhood. I read DNAinfo because it was local and Wetli wrote clearly.

The articles mostly consisted of information about new and old businesses and real estate, along with stories about local events.

Then my neighborhood changed. There was an increase in robberies, bullet holes in cars, vandalism, and a man riding his bike assaulting women who walked alone or with children.

Wetli was the first to report on these incidents, eventually larger news platforms reported, but that was after these incidents were repeated several times.

Not only did Wetli make me aware at home but she was also around as NEIU was suffering from a lack of budget. She reported on rallies and was there when 180 NEIU employees were fired this past summer.

Sure, television and other newspapers give information, but it’s general and the stories aren’t about local news.

DNAinfo gave me a better platform. All the journalists wrote in a way that an average Joe like me understood politics in Chicago and how much was being affected by the leaders in Chicago, Illinois, and the United States.

One aspect of the DNAinfo shutdown I approve of is that former employees will receive “three months of paid ‘administrative leave’ at full salary, plus four weeks of severance” according to the NY Times.

I am thankful employees will still have an income.

While the number of layoffs may not sound very high, 115 is still more people out of work and in need of a new job. It leaves millions of people with less access to local news.

Currently, I am using my neighborhood Facebook page to find out what is happening locally.

Chicago residents can also keep up with local news by trying chicago.everyblock.com. The information can be looked at without signing up but there is also the option to sign up and follow a neighborhood.

This site has several categories: neighbor messages, crime and under the “more” tab there are additional options.It is not the same as DNAinfo, but it keeps the neighborhood aware and is a platform to ask questions and get neighbor responses.