Three public radio stations acquire Gothamist sites

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The local news websites Gothamist, LAist and DCist will live on after their assets were purchased by three public radio stations, the stations announced Friday.

WNYC in New York City, KPCC in Pasadena, Calif. and WAMU in Washington, D.C., acquired the archives, internet domains and social media assets of the sites in a move that they say will help them “expand their digital footprint and support their shared missions to reflect and serve their listeners and the public,” according to a press release.

WNYC also acquired the archives of two other Gothamist sites, Chicagoist and SFist, and of the Chicago and New York news sites DNAinfo. The station has approached Chicago’s WBEZ about acquiring Chicagoist’s assets, according to WBEZ spokesperson Betsy Berger. “Given WBEZ’s commitment to local journalism, as well as great admiration for the work of these former outlets, WBEZ is actively exploring this acquisition and determining how these assets might be used most effectively in keeping with the organization’s mission to serve the Chicago community,” Berger said.

KQED in San Francisco was contacted about acquiring SFist, according to spokesperson Peter Cavagnaro, but the station is “not looking to acquire SFist at this time.” KQED already covers “the same areas of content as SFist. We very much admire the quality and value of their journalism, and we are open to further conversations and collaboration with SFist in the future.”

WNYC led the effort to purchase the Gothamist portfolio after billionaire owner Joe Ricketts shut down the sites in November, a week after employees at Gothamist and DNAinfo unionized. Ricketts founded DNAinfo New York in 2009 and acquired Gothamist last March.

WNYC contacted WAMU and KPCC about joining the deal and acquiring DCist and LAist, according to JJ Yore, WAMU GM, and Bill Davis, KPCC GM. The deal was funded primarily by two anonymous donors.

“We already planned to make further investments in digital journalism in next fiscal year … so this was a no-brainer for us,” Yore told Current. Investing in DCist will help the station’s “radio journalism team become more fully multiplatform,” he said. “And it will add significantly to our digital audience.”

WAMU will add three reporter-writers to “replicate” the DCist staff, Yore said. The station has already hired former DCist editor Rachel Sadon as a producer for The Kojo Nnamdi Show.

For KPCC, the acquisition is “entirely consistent with our public service mission,” Davis told Current. “This will allow us to extend our high-quality news coverage and civic engagement onto new platforms to serve new audiences.”

The move could help KPCC expand its digital audience. LAist drew 776,000 visitors in October 2017, while KPCC’s website drew 689,000 that month, according to a KPCC article about the deal.

Davis said the station is still deciding how to integrate the site with KPCC’s newsroom and has not decided on staffing.

New York Public Radio CEO Laura Walker said in the release that Gothamist’s focus on local news “resonates with us at WNYC. … As we’ve seen a decline in local journalism in even the largest metropolitan areas across the country, even at a time when it’s so vital, we remain committed to strong, independent reporting that fills the void.”

Gothamist is expected to relaunch in the spring. Founders Jen Chung and Jake Dobkin will join the WNYC staff as executive editor and head of strategy for Gothamist, respectively.

“The most important thing for me was to make sure the assets went to a news organization that would honor our commitment to neighborhood storytelling,” Ricketts said in the release. “I can’t think of a better home for these sites and their archives than WNYC and public radio stations KPCC and WAMU.”

This post was updated to include details about WBEZ’s interest in Chicagoist’s assets and KQED’s comment about SFist.

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