WAMU abruptly shuts down DCist site, lays off 15 journalists

The D.C. NPR affiliate, WAMU, shut down its web-based local news site, the DCist, Friday morning and laid off 15 journalists.

WAMU General Manager Erika Pulley-Hayes did this, she told Axios, to refocus on the core radio product.

“We’re making the choice to invest in what we’re better at than anyone else in this town, and that’s audio,” Pulley-Hayes said.

Thursday, DCist staffers received an email announcing an all-staff Zoom meeting to discuss a “new strategic framework.”

When visitors try to access the site, a message appears:

“Thank you for visiting and supporting DCist. Since 2018, it has been a part of WAMU 88.5, the Washington region’s public media and NPR member station. As of February 23, the site will no longer publish new content. Please visit WAMU.org for local news and programming.”

The DC Council called DCist’s shuttering “a true loss to our community.”

Former reporter and editor at WAMU and DCist Martin Austermühle said the decision was the result of “a failure of leadership,” more than anything else.

This comes six years after WAMU saved the DCist from a similar fate.

In 2018, WAMU was part of a group that bought and revived the DCist after it was shut down by its previous owner Joe Ricketts in 2017.

Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade and DNAinfo, shut down the DCist a week after the editorial staff voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America. Many felt he did this in retaliation to unionization.

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