Billionaire Trump supporter Joe Ricketts, who bought Gothamist back in March (he already owned DNAinfo) abruptly shut down both sites today. In a statement posted online, Ricketts claims that the sites were not economically successful (which seems dubious in the case of heavily-trafficked Gothamist.) Ricketts suspiciously shut both sites down after the editorial staff voted to unionize. Content from the websites is no longer accessible, which feels like a bizarre and vindictive move on the part of Ricketts. Protocol when a website shuts down is to preserve an archive so the work of it’s contributors remains intact.
A week ago, reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading digital purveyors of local news, celebrated victory in their vote to join a union.
On Thursday, they lost their jobs, as Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade who owned the sites, shut them down…
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.” Around the same time, Mr. Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, wrote bluntly, “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.”
In September, Mr. Ricketts, a conservative who supported President Trump in last year’s election, raised the ante with a post on his blog titled “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create,” in which he argued that “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”
With the unannounced closure, 115 journalists and employees have lost their jobs. Gothamist editor Christopher Robbins only found out about the layoffs after returning from a bathroom break:
— Christopher Robbins (@ChristRobbins) November 2, 2017
We’ll update this post as the story unfolds. For now, we’re terribly sad to see these essential New York websites shutter. You can read Ricketts’ full statement here.
The archives for both DNAinfo and Gothamist are back. Founders Jake Dobkin and Jen Chung have released a statement.
Thank you. pic.twitter.com/ZxOLrDKUrT
— Jen Chung (@jenchung) November 3, 2017
Not everyone is pleased with their “thank you” note:
Hope the check Ricketts cut you was worth it. Millions of people supported Gothamist and the related sites and relied on them. You sold your readership out to a demagogue billionaire who shut the whole thing down, and now you’re thanking him for it.
Really disappointing, Jen.
— Stephen Bruckert (@str1cken) November 3, 2017
this is extremely tone-deaf, the last thing anybody owes Joe Ricketts is ‘many thanks’
— Jay! (@jayackley) November 3, 2017