DNAinfo, Gothamist shut down a week after employees unionize


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A week after they voted to unionize, journalists at DNAinfo and Gothamist learned that their websites have shut down.

On Thursday evening, visitors to the sites — two leading suppliers of local news in New York City — were met with a message from billionaire owner Joe Ricketts.

“Today, I’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist. Reaching this decision wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t one I made lightly,” said Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade and is worth a little more than $2 billion according to Forbes.

He added that DNAinfo, which was founded in 2009, “is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.”

“And while we made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, 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. I want to thank our readers for their support and loyalty through the years. And I want to thank our employees for their tireless effort and dedication.”

The announcement marks a dramatic change of fortune for staffers at the two websites. Last week, reporters and editors there were celebrating a successful vote to form a union. The efforts to organize began in the spring after DNAinfo bought Gothamist.

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But Ricketts refused to recognize the union, which meant that the National Labor Relations Board had to conduct an official vote. Workers overwhelmingly voted to join the Writers Guild, which meant that Ricketts and management would have to bargain with the union going forward.

Ricketts’ message was posted on the websites around 5:00 on Thursday, the same time staff members were informed of his decision.

Staff members at the two sites were apparently floored by the announcement.

“It was literally like the daily flow of the newsroom came to a screeching halt,” said Scott Heins, a photojournalist at Gothamist. “It was just an absolutely normal day at the office and then someone said ‘oh my god the email’ and then everyone checked their work email. Some of my colleagues burst into tears really quickly, others shouted. It was immediate shock when we got the email.”

In the email to employees, which was provided to CNNMoney by a staffer, Ricketts said they will be placed on paid administrative leave beginning Friday and ending on February 2. They’ll receive their full salary and benefits until then unless they start working full-time elsewhere.

He said that management plans to reach out to the Writers Guild on Friday “to engage promptly in a good faith negotiation about the effects of the DNAinfo/Gothamist February 2, 2018 shutdown.”

“As I am sure is true for all of you, this is a sad and disappointing day, but I would like us to wind down things in the way we have always operated: with integrity and professionalism,” Ricketts said.

–Oliver Darcy contributed to this story.

CNNMoney (New York) First published November 2, 2017: 6:16 PM ET


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