“Oh Hi,” was the headline that reintroduced local news site Gothamist late last week, after its previous owner, billionaire Joe Ricketts, shuttered it, along with its network of blogs and DNA Info, after the newsroom voted to unionize.
Ricketts cited is as an unsustainable business.
Soon after Gothamist’s shuttering, New York public radio station WYNC announced that, thanks to two anonymous donors, Gothamist, DCist and LAist would be resurrected and become part of the local radio networks in each of their respective cities.
To aid in its relaunch, Gothamist introduced a Kickstarter campaign called Bring Back Gothamist, with a goal of reaching $100,000. As of two days ago, the campaign had raised nearly double that amount, at $175,809.
Membership programs and paywalls are springing up everywhere, as outlets struggle to determine how to survive in the digital age. In many cases, those additional streams of revenue are offering real avenues of support. They also remind readers that local news matters and requires financial support.
Gothamist was one of the early blogs chronicling life in New York City. (The above links to a photo gallery of the early days of blogging, and offers an oral history on the site's launch.) Because of its singular nature when it launched, the website was able to amass a loyal following of readers who relied on it for everything from local crime news to stories such as “Eleven More Unique NYC Experiences That Deserve Their Own German Expressions.”
The success of the Kickstarter and investment from WNYC reflects the confidence of its readers and the necessity of its voice in today’s local news landscape.
During a meeting with journalists this week, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg suggested news outlets be supported with public funding, like the BBC. This was in response to his denial the platform should pay for the news that runs in its feed.
The idea that the U.S. government will swoop in and offer a reprieve to struggling news outlets is unlikely, especially considering the current administration’s attitude toward a free press.
But the survival of Gothamist and its sister blogs offers hope regarding what can happen with a publication authentically engages with an audience willing to pledge its support.