For most of the day on Thursday, DNAinfo, Gothamist and DCist were all living, breathing publications, covering their home cities and neighborhoods with their characteristic granularity. On Thursday at 5 p.m., however, all of these publications had disappeared from the Internet, their sites replaced by a letter from Joe Ricketts, their billionaire owner.
The letter said: DNAInfo and Gothamist — and all the other sites within their networks of publications — were shutting down for good. According to the New York Times, the decision came a week after the employees of DNAInfo and Gothamist voted to unionize:
This letter is the only thing you see if you try to navigate to any of the stories or sites across the DNAInfo and Gothamist universe, which includes the DCist, Chicagoist, SFist and Shanghaiist. The archives, for now, are completely gone.
Although Ricketts hasn’t specified what he plans to do with the archives of all these sites in the long run, their abrupt removal from the Internet is, among many other things, a scene from a journalist’s worst nightmare.
Journalists depend on their archives — commonly called their “clips” — to apply for jobs. Our work is our resume. The 115 editorial staffers who just lost their jobs, according to the New York Times, are now venturing out into the market with all the evidence of their past work disappeared.
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) November 2, 2017
I have bled, sweat, cried, put myself in harm's way for this job, and now the last two years of my live have been erased
— Noah Hurowitz (@NoahHurowitz) November 2, 2017
Reached by email Thursday evening, Noah Hurowitz, who covered the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bed Stuy for DNAInfo, said he hadn’t been given any information on what would happen to the archives of his publication. All he knew was that, for now, they were gone.
If you want to read some of the best work that this decision has erased, there are a few imperfect solutions. The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has archives of the site, which you can visit here. But those archives aren’t complete, and by their nature, they’re more difficult to search than a live website.