Until a few hours ago, Gothamist and DNAinfo were online news outlets reporting locally-based stories with branches in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington. Then, at 5 p.m. ET, the sites’ combined content was replaced with a letter from CEO Joe Ricketts that begins, “Today, I’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist.” The post went on to say that, despite the sites’ growth since the founding of DNAinfo in 2009, “that progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded.”(Ricketts bought Gothamist in the spring of this year.)
Just like that, 115 people were put on “administrative leave,” one week after the New York branches of the combined publications voted to join the Writers’ Guild of America East. The move, which the New York Times reports was first put into motion in the spring, was not popular among the sites’ upper management: In an email to staff, Ricketts wrote, “As long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business,” and in a blog post called “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create,” he wrote: “I believe unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”
Ricketts, a prominent supporter of President Trump whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, has a net worth of $2.1 billion, according to Forbes. His now-suddenly-former employees, meanwhile, are resorting to complicated cache techniques to preserve clips that they can use to look for other work, since Ricketts removed the sites’ archives while posting his letter as an extra little “fuck you.” Espirit de corps, indeed.
Update: The Writers Guild Of America, East, has responded to the closing of the Ricketts-owned sites with the following statement:
We are deeply concerned by Joe Ricketts’ decision to shut down DNAinfo New York and Gothamist, along with all their respective local outlets. The New York offices of DNAinfo and Gothamist recently voted to unionize and it is no secret that threats were made to these workers during the organizing drive. The Guild will be looking at all of our potential areas of recourse and we will aggressively pursue our new members rights. We will meet with management in the near future to address all of these issues. We are currently working with the staff at DNAinfo and Gothamist to support them in this difficult time.