Killing the news

Why would the owner of DNAinfo and Gothamist suddenly pull the plug on Nov. 2 on two news sites that were filling a huge void in local coverage?

It’s no mystery. In October, the reporters and editors at DNAinfo and Gothamist in New York voted overwhelmingly to join the Writers Guild East.

After the workers tried to organize in the spring, owner Joe Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, wrote to them, “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.”

Ricketts claimed he shut down DNAinfo and Gothamist because they were no longer economically viable. But the real reason can be found in his own words on his personal blog: Ricketts accuses unions of creating an “us-against-them dynamic” and goes on to say that “the type of company that interests me is one where ownership and the employees are truly in it together.”

It’s touching that Ricketts, who is reportedly worth $2 billion, believes solidarity is possible with people earning far less. He wiped out the archives of both DNAinfo and Gothamist, a vindictive act that made years of work inaccessible to the journalists looking for new employment. The online archive has since been restored.

Shuttering the sites affected not just the New York branch that voted to unionize. Another 115 workers, including those in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, lost their jobs, too.

Shutting down DNAinfo and Gothamist is an attack on the right of working people to unionize. And it’s an attack on the freedom of the press at a time when we need it more than ever.

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