Following his dismissal as editor-in-chief of DCist, Ben Freed sent out a mass e-mail addressing the incident. In it, he cites a claim by Jake Dobkin, the publisher and co-founder of DCist’s parent company Gothamist LLC, that Freed’s freelance piece for BuzzFeed, published in defiance of Dobkin’s wishes, was the “straw that broke my back.”
The suggestion, thus, is that Freed had other counts against him as the site’s editor. As mentioned here, he apparently had a history of annoying the site’s contributors.
Here’s the text of the e-mail, with the subject line “Moving on…” and sent at 9:44 a.m.
This is one of the most difficult letters I’ve ever had to write. But I wanted you all to know before you see in the news later today that yesterday afternoon, Gothamist LLC fired me. It’s a terrible shock and entirely unfair to all of you, but the Jake Dobkin let me know the decision was final.
Jake made his decision after I took a freelance assignment from BuzzFeed yesterday about what the sale of The Washington Post means for local D.C. journalism. While the feedback on the piece has been largely positive, Jake had asked me to tell BuzzFeed to spike the article, but they and I went ahead with the decision to run it. I knew Jake would not be pleased, but I did not think this would be his recourse. During our phone call though, Jake said that this was the “straw that broke my back,” so it’s possible my days were numbered anyway.
But that’s all in the past now, and DCist needs to go on as the valued source of local news and culture that it has been for so many years. Sarah [Anne Hughes], in whom I have complete trust to guide things, will be taking over, and I’m sure a hiring process will begin sometime soon to find a new associate editor. Though my term as editor-in-chief was short, the four months I had that job along with the previous 16 months as associate editor, have been the most rewarding job I’ve had in journalism, and the credit goes largely to all of you. I came to DCist in December 2011 as an outsider to this family, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But it has been a great experience, and I think we’ve taken DCist to new heights, in terms of quality, readership, and essentialness to D.C. and the surrounding area. This site has never been better and my hope is that it continues to improve.
Please keep news of my firing under wraps for now. An article is coming shortly from the Post’s Erik Wemple detailing the incident that led to my dismissal, after which, well, I guess everybody will know. But please don’t start a riot on my behalf. My parting wish is that everybody continues to work to make DCist even better. This is not the exit I had planned for myself, but it presents a new opportunity for me. Though my byline will now appear elsewhere, I’ll still be around, and I hope to see you all soon.