The Daily Download, the much-scrutinized project of media personalities Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz, appears to be no more.
The website for the media commentary project hasn’t been online in more than a month according to the Internet Web Archive.
The Daily Download’s YouTube account was also taken down. That account was online earlier Tuesday but disappeared during the day. Prior to the YouTube account’s removal, BuzzFeed emailed and called Ashburn to inquire about what had happened to the site. After publication of this article, the Daily Download’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were removed from the web as well.
Neither Ashburn nor Kurtz returned requests for comment.
The Knight Foundation, a group that provided $230,000 to help support the launch of the website, told BuzzFeed after publication that it was aware the Daily Download was closed and that its grant with the organization ended at the end of November.
“The grant period ended Nov. 30, which is when we received a final report from MPT. The grant to MPT was intended to create a series of digital reviews to help users determine which websites and online tools for covering news are effective and credible. The intent was to experiment with new ways to help people find information and to to test tech journalism on PBS. This fits in with Knight’s goal of constantly testing new innovations in media, data and information toward more informed communities. We do know from MPT that Daily Download is now closed.
The website has not been updated since September and two writers who freelanced for the site before it stopped posting articles did not know what had happened to the site.
“Don’t know,” said Alicia Cohn, who wrote the last article the website published in September.
“I haven’t written for them since summer, but I do know they were grant-funded and the grant was due to run out at the end of 2013,” said Nikki Schwab, who wrote for the site a month before it stopped posting. “Since Lauren ended up at Fox News I assume she just pulled the plug early? Weird that she wouldn’t keep the archive, but it didn’t really have the greatest reputation after that quasi-homophobic video they put out.”
Kurtz was fired from his position as the Daily Beast Washington bureau chief in May after an embarrassing error regarding out NBA player Jason Collins and questions about time Kurtz was spending at the Daily Download. The Daily Download also apologized for the Collins incident after Kurtz and Ashburn made a video in which they seemed to mock Collins.
Kurtz joined the Fox News Channel in June of this year after it became known CNN was not interested in renewing his contract. Ashburn joined him at Fox in August, a month before the website stopped posting articles.
Three members listed on the site’s “board of advisers” said they didn’t know why the site was gone. Two members of the board of advisers, Sharon Waxman, the editor-in-chief of the website The Wrap, and Teagan Goddard, who runs the political site Political Wire, did not seem to understand why they were listed as advisers to the website.
“Amusing. I’ve never had anything to do with Daily Download,” Waxman told BuzzFeed.
“Howie was a longtime friend of mine and asked me to advise them,” she later added when asked if she was clear she was listed as an adviser.
“I have no idea what happened to the site,” Goddard said. “It’s probably not appropriate to call me ‘an adviser.’ I had lunch with Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz once and spoke to them on the phone once.”
“Not a clue. My role was only to give Lauren and Howie some informal
advice at the start,” said Jim Brady, the editor-in-chief of Digital First Media. “I have no formal role, no financial stake or anything lilt [sic] that.”
This article has been updated to reflect the latest developments. (12/3/13)