Gothamist shut down a week after its writers unionized

Last Friday, Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of Ameritrade, announced he was shutting down his popular local news sites, Gothamist and DNAinfo.

Last Friday, Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of Ameritrade, announced he was shutting down his popular local news sites, Gothamist and DNAinfo.

The announcement came just a week after 25 Gothamist employees decided to form a union, sparking debate over whether the decision was driven by financials or politics.

The answer: partly financials…

DNAinfo and Gothamist, both owned by Ricketts, collectively covered stories in 5 US cities, through a local lens.

But local journalism has long struggled to find a sustainable business model in the digital age — and despite pulling in 9m visitors per month, the two sites never turned a profit for Ricketts.

… But mostly, politics

Ricketts has long been anti-union, going so far as to post a tirade on his personal blog, claiming that “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”

So, when (likely underpaid) Gothamist writers formed one at the tail end of October, a stubborn Ricketts decided it was better to shutter the entire operation rather than work out a deal.

The companies’ 115 writers and editors will be paid 3 months’ full salary, plus 4 weeks of severance pay — a pithy gesture considering that they essentially lost their jobs over a power move.

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