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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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From the Newsroom: Pivoting how we report on local news

DCist shutdown leaves gap in coverage

Most of my mornings start with checking the news online. Among the outlets I read are the major publications such as the Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post, but when it comes to local news, DCist has always been the first place I look. Imagine my surprise when I woke up on Feb. 23 to see that DCist had been permanently shut down

The Eagle staff was shocked and disappointed upon hearing this news. DCist is owned by WAMU, NPR’s D.C. affiliate licensed under American University. For about a week after the shutdown, the DCist website was inaccessible and rerouted viewers to the WAMU website, hiding two decades’ worth of critical reporting. After pushback from the WAMU union and other community members, the archived website is now accessible again for at least one year. 

How The Eagle covers local news

As The Eagle’s local news editor, it’s my job to pitch out newsworthy, timely and interesting stories that are relevant to the AU community. In the past, this has included the surrounding neighborhood of Tenleytown, and occasionally others nearby like Friendship Heights and Van Ness. Our goal is for local stories to have a connection to the University in some way. Additionally, we have covered large D.C. events such as festivals and protests in D.C. that AU students attend. 

After WAMU announced the shutdown and that the station will focus more on audio projects, it became clear that there will be a gap in D.C. local news articles. Fortunately, other publications are still up and running, including Washingtonian and NBC 4, as well as community-focused papers such as the Washington Blade, which reports on LGBTQ+ issues and the Washington Informer, a Black, women-owned news organization. Still, the closure of DCist is a major blow, as it was one of the most prominent digital outlets focused exclusively on local D.C. news. Specifically, their extensive coverage of the D.C. Council and other local governments will be missed. This coverage has been crucial to residents staying informed and holding elected officials accountable.

The shutdown is not unique to DCist. Local and national papers across the country are facing mass layoffs and with it, their coverage is disappearing or shrinking. Going forward, The Eagle is changing the parameters for how we cover local news. We recognize the deficit of coverage losing DCist has created and feel it is our responsibility as a D.C. university newspaper with a monthly reach of 30,000 to inform our readers of not just campus news, but local news too. 

If there is a newsworthy story happening in D.C. in the areas that are important to the AU community, such as Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Georgetown and downtown, we will report on it. 

For example, reporting on prominent bills going through the D.C. Council is essential to informing residents – and by extension AU students. Journalism is more important than ever in our changing world and a lack of local news negatively affects democracy. The Eagle will turn 100 years old next year and remains committed to being an accurate and fair news source for the University and for the nation’s capital. 

Contributors are always welcome to send pitches for stories and tips to localnews@theeagleonline.com

This article was edited by Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks. 

ahatting@theeagleonline.com


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