CEO Joe Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team, pulled the plug on the sites a week after reporters and editors from DNAinfo and Gothamist won a contentious fight to join a union.
Ricketts’ decision to terminate the media organization puts 115 journalists suddenly out of a job, the New York Times reported. The journalists will receive three months of paid “administrative leave” at their full salaries, as well as four weeks of severance, DNAinfo told the Times.
The Writers Guild of America East announced on Oct. 26 that the editorial staffs of Gothamist and DNAinfo had voted to unionize.
“We support the editorial staff of DNAinfo and Gothamist as they exercise their right to unionize,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the time. “The work of these reporters and editors is crucial for NYC. We call on management to respect their democratic right to organize.”
In the letter, Ricketts, who founded DNAinfo in 2009 and purchased Gothamist in March, lauded the sites’ reporting and reach, noting they “deliver news and information each day to over half a million people’s email inboxes” and have “over 15 million visits to our sites by over 9 million people.”
But the CEO said that “at the end of the day,” the media organization is “a business and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.”
“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,” he continued.
Writers from the sites called the swift termination a “direct retaliation” to their fight to unionize.
Reporters at the local news sites, which were still churning out scheduled social media content Thursday afternoon linking to the now-defunct sites, did not appear to have been informed of the decision ahead of the closure.