Speed Reads


DNAinfo cites vote to unionize among reasons billionaire owner Joe Ricketts shuttered it and Gothamist sites

On Thursday evening, Joe Ricketts posted a notice on DNAinfo, a local-news organization he founded in 2009, explaining that he had shuttered it and the other sites under the DNAinfo umbrella — Gothamist, SFist, Chicagoist, SFist, Shanghaiist — because they were not "economically successful" enough "to endure." All their articles disappeared, and every site currently displays Ricketts' statement:

A week ago, DNAinfo and Gothamist staff voted to join the Writers Guild of America East union. Ricketts, a politically active conservative billionaire, and DNAinfo's chief operating officer had warned the New York office against unionizing when discussions started in April, and in September Ricketts wrote a post on his personal blog explaining: "Why I'm Against Unions At Businesses I Create." A DNAinfo spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday that "the decision by the editorial team to unionize is simply another competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful."

It was just one of the reasons. "In the financially daunting era of digital journalism, there has been no tougher nut to crack than making local news profitable, a lesson Mr. Ricketts, who lost money every month of DNAinfo's existence, is just the latest to learn," note Andy Newman and John Leland The New York Times. (Newman used to work at the Times' now-shuttered Brooklyn bureau.) But closing a business due to unionizing is legally problematic, and the Writers Guild of America East said "it will be looking at all of our potential areas of recourse and we will aggressively pursue our new members' rights."

In any case, 115 employees were laid off, with severance, including at offices that did not unionize. Ricketts purchased Gothamist LLC in March. Around the time of the purchase, all negative articles about Ricketts on those sites disappeared, Jezebel noticed. You can still read some of Gothamist's articles at the Internet Archive.