It was announced last Thursday that the beloved San Francisco news site, the SFist would be shut down. This comes under the closing of the Gothamist and DNAinfo by the owner, Joe Ricketts, as a response after members attempted to unionize. The shutdown of this national network of community based blogs meant that SFist would no longer publish. The Foghorn staff believes that students at USF have lost a resource to learn and interact with their city.
Ricketts explained his decision in a letter addressing the two blogs’ readers. “That progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded,” he said. Making no mention of unions, Ricketts claimed that the Gothamist and DNAinfo were not financially viable in the long-run.
For a liberal city such as San Francisco, this shutdown has been quickly attributed to what the Examiner alleges is Rickett’s party affiliation. Columnist Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez describes Ricketts as “a despicable Trump-backer whose name sounds distinctly like a terrible skeletal disorder.” Yet, the letter written by Ricketts makes no political connections and does not give a clear reason besides business performance for the shutdown.
Whatever the explanation may be, students at USF and citizens of San Francisco are left without a community resource. As newbies to San Francisco, many of us stumbled across sites like the Bold Italic (“shut down” in 2015) and the SFist. We loved the SFist because it wrote simply and with authority. It was funny and enlightening. In the spirit of not romanticizing a loss-something, it had it shortfalls, too. Articles also could get too bloggy at points. News was exaggerated, sometimes sensationalized. But it was an interpretation of our new city — a city we were excited to learn about.
Now, an opportunity to find out about shows, concerts and inspiring local figures is gone. We no longer have the chance to read articles that help make sense of confusing occurrences in the city. Perhaps more concerning, it means that the people creating the content we so quickly chew up and spit out face termination if they attempt to unionize. It’s important to realize we won’t miss out on just content and a variety of news sources. We also will miss out on an opportunity. The SFist was online-only and consequently offered budding writers a chance to contribute to the culture of San Francisco. Yet another option for commentary on all things — SFist is gone.
Adding insult to injury, the archives are inaccessible following the shutdown. This means formerly published writers have nothing to show for their work. Old gems from the SFist can’t even be re-read or shared. All told, the staff of the Foghorn hopes that the archives can be restored so the impact of SFist can be cherished. This is a lesson to the community, and particularly USF students, to make use of their community resources. Do not let the SFist go in vain; instead, use it as a template for the next community-based news and culture blog for our city.