As you may have heard, both Gothamist and DNAinfo were shuttered this past Thursday. Billionaire owner Joe Ricketts scrapped the sites and purged their archives shortly after workers pushed for unionization. In the span of a second, many worthy writers, editors, and staffers lost their jobs. Years of important reporting was needlessly scrubbed from the internet. And, selfishly, I couldn’t help but feel a part of myself disintegrate.
I was 19 years old when I moved to New York City. Like so many others, I had visions of who I wanted to be, but few actionable goals or resources. It is one thing, I learned, to live in New York City — it is another thing entirely to function within it. Still, I worked hard to maintain the veneer that I was in control. And, perhaps faking it is half of the battle. The other half, of course, is the Internet.
During one of my many feverish searches for “where to take vegan Tinder date” or “how to interact with a slum lord,” I discovered Gothamist. I was instantly hooked on the site’s utter lack of pretense and friendly-yet-wry tone. It was the one place that seemed to quietly understand that everyone here is peeling back New York City, layer by layer, every day.
It was a site unafraid to be critical of NYC and its denizens, but somehow the reporting was always infused with the deepest love for this strange, fucked up city. It decried the city’s corruption but cherished its quirks. It fostered a sense of community in a city where you can hear gripes of “It’s so hard to meet people!” miles away. It provided practical advice that didn’t dare assume what one knew or did not. It conducted vital reporting on local politics and culture that was always presented in an accessible manner. It achieved what every glossy website that alleged it covered New York failed to do.
Opening Gothamist in a new tab was always a pleasure. Even after years of navigating New York, I would return to it daily, always finding something new. It was a place of reading and learning that I did not force myself to like, it was a resource I genuinely cherished and I, as a reader, felt cherished in return.
Perhaps I am glorifying Gothamist. Perhaps 24 hours of distance has already made my heart grow fond to bursting. Truthfully, I do not care that I am writing a lament for a collection of words and pictures that once existed on the Internet. With Gothamist gone, I can’t help but feel adrift. It helped shape a nervous girl into the New Yorker I am proud to be. Still, I did not expect the training wheels Gothamist provided would be yanked away from me so forcefully. I most certainly was not ready to say goodbye.
Yes, woe is me. I did not lose a job. I never wrote for the site, and so I did not lose the sweat and keystrokes of reporting to the void of the internet. I could not be sorrier for those who did. What a violation it must be.
I fantasize that the spirit of Gothamist will rise from the ashes and be given the chance it deserves. That reporters will ban together to create something that embodies the spirit of the city not only in its content, but in its upper management and leadership. Until then, I sigh for the 19-year-old girl arriving in New York City today, for she is far worse off than I ever was.