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Washington Independent folds; most state sites to keep running

The Cutline

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Washington Independent folds

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The Washington Independent, a three-year-old online site offering "national news in context," announced Wednesday that it's shutting down.

Editor Aaron Weiner wrote that TWI's "reporting made a difference, whether by bringing flawed legislation and programs to the attention of people in power or by bringing critical overlooked issues to the attention of a broader public."

As a business, however, Weiner noted that the site "fell prey to the recession just like everyone else."

The Washington Independent is one of 10 sites within the American Independent News Network. The nonprofit organization also boasts eight state-specific sites and The American Independent, a national site that pulls content from all of them. [See update]

David S. Bennahum, president and chief executive of the organization, told The Cutline that the other nine sites will continue operating. The state sites, he said, are supported significantly through financial donations from within each state. Many newspapers across the country have scaled back staff in covering state government and local politics, and therefore the state sites clearly provided a service that's lacking.

But it was tougher to bring in donations to support the Washington site. Bennahum acknowledged that the nation's capital "does not have the same shortage of reporters covering politics" as many individual states do.

Bennahum praised the staff's efforts and "seriousness of purpose" in covering Washington for the past three years. Indeed, TWI gained a strong reputation in that short time period and already boasts an impressive alumni network.

Former TWI editor Laura McGann headed to Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab, with reporters Spencer Ackerman and Annie Lowrey now working for Wired and Slate, respectively. Yahoo's own Rachel Rose Hartman, covering politics for our sister-blog, The Ticket, was also a reporter for the site.

And David Weigel, who left TWI for the Washington Post — and later Slate — reflected on his experience Wednesday and wrote that "the TWI model produced a smart and rewarding publication that didn't pander."

UPDATE: The New Mexico Independent is largely shutting down. (h/t Andrew Donahue)

However, it may reopen down the line. "We think we can constitute the funding longer term," Bennahum told The Cutline Wednesday night. The site is expected to employ a part-time blogger and keep its archive open. The current staff was let go Wednesday.

[The headline was changed to reflect the news that not all the state sites will remain open]

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