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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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BREAKING: WAMU lays off 15 staffers, shuts down DCist

WAMU to shift focus to more audio-related endeavors

American University’s public news radio station WAMU, NPR’s D.C. affiliate, laid off 15 staffers and shut down their local news site, DCist.  

The shift is part of a new strategy to focus on more audio products, such as podcasts and live events, Station General Manager Erika Pulley-Hayes told Axios

According to a press release from WAMU, their newest plan for audience engagement will capitalize on its “extensive audience experience.”

"We are committed to growing our relationship with current listeners while developing multi-

platform approaches that engage new audiences through compelling, top-tier audio storytelling," said Michael Tribble, WAMU's chief content officer in the press release.

WeMakeWAMU, the union representing WAMU and DCist employees, which was formed in 2020, released a statement on X (Twitter) this morning regarding the recent layoffs, stating that the laid off employees are “the lifeblood of our journalism.” 

“A curt email on Thursday followed by a short Friday morning announcement undid years of work,” the statement said regarding the decision to shut down DCist. “That’s thousands of daily stories, countless hours of work, and many, many community voices… all gone.”

Laid off employees will receive two weeks’ severance pay, according to Washingtonian. WAMU’s contract with its union requires that they provide “four (4) weeks’ notice or pay in lieu” when it comes to layoffs. Several ex-staffers have already taken to X regarding being laid off such as Héctor Alejandro Arzate, who covered immigrant communities, Jenny Gathright, who covered criminal justice and Abbey Monsour, an audience editor. 

Staffers received an email Thursday evening announcing an all-staff meeting at 9 a.m. Friday morning and that all WAMU offices would be closed to provide “time and space to have these conversations.” Additionally, all social and digital platforms stopped publishing and WAMU radio began automating starting at 8 p.m. Thursday. 

WAMU acquired DCist in 2018, saying that the addition of the news site would help “bring the quality journalism we’ve been producing for decades to the neighborhood level.” They acquired DCist after it was shut down in 2017 following employees voting to unionize.

“Too many media companies fail by trying to be all things to all people, leaving their value proposition diluted and weakened,” said Peter Cherukuri, vice chair WAMU board of advisors and former Politico executive in the press release. “This concentrated direction not

only enhances the integrity of its journalism but also sharpens the value WAMU offers to its

community and stakeholders.”

As for now, DCist’s website is inaccessible and automatically redirects viewers to the WAMU frontpage, with the message “as of February 23, the site will no longer publish new content.” 

Corrections: A previous version of this article stated that WAMU added 10 positions in audio production, but this determination has not been finalized. This article has been updated to reflect that this is not the case, pending a decision. 

This article was edited by Abigail Hatting, Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.

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