Billionaire Joe Ricketts Shuts Down Gothamist And DNAinfo, Deletes Their Archives After Writers Unionize

The New York Times reports:

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.

At 5 p.m., a post went up on the sites from Mr. Ricketts announcing the decision. He praised them for reporting “tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted and inspired millions of people.” But he added, “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.”

The New York Daily News reports:

Ricketts said he pulled the plug because the DNA brand — which was melded with Gothamist sites earlier this year — failed to turn a profit.

“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,” Ricketts wrote.

But Ricketts, an outspoken opponent of unions, had signaled he might bail on the business if WGAE’s vote was successful. Staffers will get full pay and benefits until Feb. 2, the company said in its email.

The shuttered sites include DNAinfo, Gothamist, DCist, Chicagoist, and SFist. At this writing only Ricketts’ letter is posted on each site and archives are unreachable.