DNAINFO’S DEMISE IS CHICAGO’S LOSS IN A GREAT NEWS TOWN

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

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.

Joe Rick­etts

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