DNAINFO’S DEMISE IS CHICAGO’S LOSS IN A GREAT NEWS TOWN
If all politics are local, as it is said, so too is the news. The more a story hits home, the more people care.
We’ve been thinking about that this week as we check our email each morning, looking for the latest news from DNAinfo Chicago. We have to remind ourselves that one of our city’s best sources for neighborhood news is no more. DNAinfo’s websites in Chicago and New York were shut down on Thursday.
The loss is very real for Chicago, where every news company is struggling to find a viable business model in the internet age. Every news shop in town will no doubt do its best to fill the reporting vacuum created by DNAinfo’s demise — certainly the Sun- Times will — but a great city is served best by a multiplicity of news organizations, all competing hard.
The more the better, especially if they are of the caliber of DNAinfo Chicago.
It was from DNAinfo earlier this month, just before the plug was pulled, that we heard first of a protest against a landlord in Logan Square who was evicting all his tenants. Nothing reveals the human toll of gentrification better than a hyperlocal news story like that.
It was from DNAinfo that we learned, a day earlier, that a woman had given birth to twins at a CTA bus stop on Roosevelt Road. That, for our money, was more a real Chicago story than anything the City Council might have said or done that day.
It was from DNAinfo that we learned, one week earlier, about an oil spill on the Chicago River in Bridgeport that had city workers rushing to save the lives of ducks and geese. We worried about those ducks and geese.
The news business, especially when it come to local news, is in a tough spot right now. The paper product is going the way of parchment, and nobody has figured out a sure- fire sustainable way to pay the bills — yet alone turn a profit — by delivering the news online. Traditional TV news operations face similar challenges.
DNAinfo was founded by a billionaire, Joe Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs. Ricketts thought intensely local news was important, and he thought he could make it pay, so he started DNAinfo in New York in 2009 and in Chicago three years later.
But the revenue never matched the quality of the journalism, and Ricketts had to pay salaries out of his own pocket. On Nov. 2 , after the New York staff unionized, he shut it all down.
DNAinfo was good for Chicago and for our competitive instincts. There will never be a shortage of good Chicago stories, and there will always be a need for skilled journalists to tell those stories.
We do and we will.