In a move so sudden, it shocked the journalists who were working there, billionaire Joe Ricketts abruptly shut down the websites for hyper-local New York City blogs DNAinfo, Gothamist, and their sister sites across the country on Thursday, November 2. One editor at Gothamist, Christopher Robbins, tweeted: “I just walked back from the bathroom to find out that everyone at @Gothamist and @DNAinfoNY has been laid off.”
Not only that, the archives for the websites are unavailable—the websites now redirect to a letter written by Ricketts explaining why he shuttered the offices in New York and four other cities. Gee, it couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the company’s journalists and editors in New York had just joined a union a week earlier, could it?
In the letter, Ricketts explained that the sites, while popular (Gothamist alone garnered 9 million hits a month), were not sustainable financially: “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” he wrote. Ricketts, who founded DNAInfo in 2009, acquired Gothamist in March.
A DNAInfo spokesperson told the New York Times that the unionizing efforts were “simply another competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful.” The article went on to say that in April, when workers first brought up the union, DNAinfo’s chief operating officer “sent the staff an email wondering if a union might be ‘the final straw that caused the business to close.’” Well, wonder no more.
Ricketts, founder of Ameritrade, owner of the Chicago Cubs, and an avid Trump supporter, wrote a post on his blog a few months ago voicing his disdain for unions: “It is my observation that unions exert efforts that tend to destroy the Free Enterprise system.”
But for Ricketts, all it took was an instant and the push of a button to destroy the work of hundreds of journalists covering valuable local news stories in their neighborhoods, possibly forever.