ThinkProgress, the Progressive News Site, Shuts Down

108

The progressive site ThinkProgress shut down on Friday in yet another sign of how much the news media landscape has changed in the past decade.

The development was not much of a surprise to current or former employees. In July, the Center for American Progress, the progressive think tank behind the editorial venture, put the site up for sale.

In a statement on Friday, the think tank blamed the lack of a buyer on its decision to close the site. The shutdown, which led to the layoffs of a dozen remaining staff members, was first reported by The Daily Beast.

“We are very sad to announce that after more than two months of searching, we have been unable to identify a new publisher for ThinkProgress, and we are left with no choice but to close ThinkProgress as an independent enterprise focused on original reporting,” the statement said.

Judd Legum, the founder of the site who left in July 2018, said he would not have expected anyone to have come forward to buy it. “It wasn’t built to be a profit center,” he said in a phone interview.

Luke Barnes, who was a reporter at the site since August 2017, said he knew this moment would come sooner or later.

Amid packing up his possessions at the site’s office in Washington, he said that he was proud of his work but that the closing was “a relief in some ways.”

“Things have been kind of dragging on for quite some time,” he said.

ThinkProgress was founded in 2005 and had emerged from a newsletter that Mr. Legum was writing for the progressive think tank.

“It basically just spun out of my interests in the emerging blogosphere,” he said in 2018, when he left the site to start a newsletter that allowed him to write more and manage less.

ThinkProgress became known as a reliable critic of the George W. Bush administration. With the emergence of social media, the site’s pointed progressive reporting soared and the staff grew.

Highlights for Mr. Legum include a piece on the Kuwait embassy’s decision to move its scheduled annual celebration to the Trump Hotel after the 2016 election and a 2017 investigation into the connection between white nationalism and wealthy institutions. The list of alumni includes a number of prominent writers and Faiz Shakir, who is now Bernie Sanders’s campaign manager.

Matthew Yglesias, another alumnus, was critical of the decision by the Center for American Progress to pull funding from the site.

“‘I want you to do accurate, well-reported, well-written stories about Republican Party politicians doing bad things’ would be a perfectly reasonable thing to spend money on,” he wrote Friday on Twitter in response to a thread about Democratic donors’ lack of commitment to the independent but left-leaning news media.

Like most news media outlets from that era, the site struggled to stay ahead as social media algorithms and industry trends evolved. By March 2017, Facebook was no longer the driver of traffic for the site as it had been a year earlier.

The site will live on, without any journalists, as a place for academic writing. ClimateProgress, a section of the site that started as a separate blog, will continue under the guidance of its founder, according to the statement.

On Friday, the ThinkProgress Twitter account did not mention its impending closing and instead posted links to articles from Thursday.