Essay: Reflecting On The 1 Year Anniversary Of LAist's Shutdown
Where were you when you heard the news, one year ago today, that LAist had been shut down? Perhaps you were running errands in Glendale, waiting in line at Zankou while scrolling through Facebook. No? Just us? Cool cool.
On Nov. 2, 2017, owner Joe Ricketts decided to pull the plug on LAist, Gothamist and the entire family of "ist" sites. The decision seemed sudden since Ricketts, via his company DNAInfo, had bought the Gothamist network only seven months before in March 2017. The closure happened a week after Gothamist writers voted to unionize.
To add insult to injury, Ricketts, who made most of his billions as founder and CEO of brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, didn't simply decide the "ist" sites would stop publishing. He had his tech minions remove all the content on all the sites — thousands of stories stretching back more than a decade, in some cases — and, instead, redirected users to this farewell letter.
The news hit me especially hard, because LAist was the first outlet, about a decade prior, where I'd had the chance to stretch my wings and write about local news and culture. My unpaid, sideline gig as "film editor" of LAist got me hired at the Los Angeles Times and launched my career. But now, LAist was dead and the L.A. Times was suffering through a series of owners that played out like a string of bad relationships.
A few weeks later, L.A. Weekly, where I'd later worked for a couple years as a food writer with Jonathan Gold, was sold to a secretive consortium of owners who promptly fired almost the entire staff and eventually revealed themselves to be people who couldn't even spell the word "Angeleno." It was a triple whammy for me. For local journalism in Los Angeles, it was a grim era.
But there is hope. DNAInfo restored the content on LAist and the other sites it had shut down. KPCC bought LAist and relaunched the site in June. Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon Shiong bought the L.A. Times and went on a hiring spree. Other outlets are working to fill the gaps that traditional news orgs no longer have the resources to cover — or never paid much attention to. I'm a big fan of the Long Beach Post, LA Taco and Curbed LA, and I'm excited to see what happens with LAnd magazine, a new publication spearheaded by a bunch of former L.A. Weekly writers and set to launch by the end of the year.
Seeds of life take time to grow and they need to be watered, but I think all of these have a chance to blossom into something awesome. Maybe you do, too.