When Aaron Myers heard the news DCist had shut down abruptly Thursday, he was driving to a rehearsal but nonetheless managed to swing into action. The local jazz musician and entertainer called a friend, gave him his credit card information, and asked him to register DCistNOW.com on GoDaddy. Then he called his webmaster, who was walking her dog, and instructed her to go home to get to work. The fate of the city’s creatives, Myers decided, was at risk. “Instead of me bellyaching about it, I decided to do something,” Myers tells Washingtonian in a phone call from his car, where he was setting out to meet with advertising prospects.
Myers’s plans for DCistNOW are still evolving–he had no idea Thursday morning that he’d be entering the media business, after all. Right now he envisions it as a somewhat souped-up local news site with a “video component” as well as the local reporting and arts news in which the site specialized. All writers for DCistNOW will be paid, he says: “I’m doing my level best to provide a platform that will support them, continue their work, and compensate them fairly,” he says. DCist had three full-time staffers in addition to a stable of freelancers; Myers says he plans to reach out to them in hopes of employing them as well. (Washingtonian contacted all three employees but has yet to find one who’s heard from Myers.)
Myers has set a tight deadline for himself: DCistNOW is currently a countdown clock to 12 a.m. Monday. He says he’s emailed a representative of Joe Ricketts, the billionaire who owns DCist as well as its parent organizations, Gothamist and DNAinfo, asking whether he could put up the archives, but hasn’t heard back. A spokesperson for DNAinfo tells Washingtonian “DNAinfo will be preserving and archiving all DNAinfo and Gothamist stories. The details of that are among the issues the company will address in the coming weeks.” The spokesperson has not yet replied to a question about whether they had any concerns about Myers’s chosen name for the new site.
Myers, who says he has worked as a comedian, internet radio host, and blogger as well as a musician, says his interest in reviving DCist comes from his deep appreciation of what the publication did for the local arts scene, as well as his outrage that a billionaire in another city could shut it down. “I had no intention saying of losing another voice,” he says. “That could not happen. That is not an option any longer.” He expressed concern that DCist has closed at the same time another champion of local arts, Washington City Paper, is for sale. I asked him whether he might be interested in owning the alt-weekly. “If I could afford to buy the Washington City Paper, I would, but again, I am a jazz musician,” he says, laughing. “I have a problem affording lunch!”