A billionaire Trump donor just shut down a chain of beloved local publications without warning

  • Joe Ricketts, a billionaire who has donated to Donald Trump and Republicans, shut down his network of local news websites without warning on Thursday.
  • He shut down the publications after two of them attempted to unionize.

Joe Ricketts, the billionaire owner of TD Ameritrade and a major Republican donor, abruptly shut down the network of local publications he owned after two of them — Gothamist and DNAinfo — attempted to unionize.

In a letter on Thursday that populated the landing pages of the websites, Ricketts cited the financial burden the network of publications were under, saying 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."

"DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure," Ricketts said.

Reaction to the shut down of Gothamist and DNAinfo
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Reaction to the shut down of Gothamist and DNAinfo

In a letter that now appears on the sites Joe Ricketts said, "I've made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist."

(Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Roadside Attractions)

DNAinfo and Gothamist are being killed. We were the best in the game and I can't put into words what a loss this is to NYC news.
I just walked back from the bathroom to find out that everyone at @Gothamist and @DNAinfoNY has been laid off
Joe Ricketts is shutting down two excellent NYC news cites, one of which has been key as NY reporting has dwindled https://t.co/ESfsumrOd7
Joe Ricketts -- who just shuttered DNAInfo and Gothamist because "businesses need to be economically successful" --… https://t.co/da7qRkbPm4
Here's the last piece of long-form journalism @gothamist published. It was about prison labor. This is what we're l… https://t.co/HjFlxjLUHJ
shutting down gothamist and DNAinfo entirely -- without even leaving up an archive -- is jaw-droppingly vindictive
A billionaire had his feelings hurt, so Gawker is dead. A billionaire's workers asserted their personhood, so Gothamist/DNA Info is dead.
This is on par with burning a library. DNAInfo and Gothamist did some of the finest local journalism https://t.co/M2uSKvcJ3E
If only Joe Ricketts could have scraped together the money to keep Gothamist and DNAinfo up long enough for writers… https://t.co/k1NMyahbpK
Spoke w/Gothamist photojournalist @scottheins. He said newsroom learned publication was being shut down via email… https://t.co/caDbhlKRTs
The loss of these beloved local news sites hurts journalists, but beyond that, it hurts communities. https://t.co/IiTjGPjMaW
It's times like these I wished I believed in hell https://t.co/Q7HTluhdVr
DNAinfo and Gothamist are (not writing were, refuse to do it) some of the best local reporting in NYC 1/3
The shutdown of @Gothamist and @DNAinfo over a union vote is class warfare in its most disgusting form. Workers of the world unite.
Among 1000 things, @gothamist & @DNAinfoNY did key reporting on bike safety. Reporters literally solved crimes. Their imprint was immense.
All of DNAinfo and Gothamist's pages redirect to the letter from Ricketts. It's like entire cities just had years of history stripped away.
Ricketts erased the DNAinfo and Gothamist archives. Imagine firing your whole workforce AND trying to render them unemployable. Monstrous.
every writer and editor and Gothamist and DNAinfo is worth 1000x their evil management
The journalists at @DNAinfo and @gothamist did great work. And great journalism should never die. https://t.co/BycPHIJGDA

Gothamist, DNAinfo, Chicagoist, DNAinfo Chicago, DCist, and LAist, were all abruptly shut down, and the archives of years of posts were inaccessible as of Thursday evening. 

Employees reacted in shock, learning about the termination of their sites in an email sent to staff around the same time Ricketts' letter was posted on the homepage of several sites.

The move came just a week after DNAinfo and Gothamist employees voted to unionize, which appeared to affect management's decision.

A spokesperson for DNAinfo told The New York Times that the "decision by the editorial team to unionize is simply another competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful."

For its part, management had voiced its opposition to a union. DNAinfo's chief operating office said the union might be the "final straw that caused the business to close," while Ricketts himself penned a blog post titled "Why I'm Against Unions At Businesses I Create."

The move immediately sparked criticism online.

Some observers argued that Ricketts, a deep-pocketed Republican donor who has thrown millions into political campaigns, was hypocritical for penny-pinching at relatively low-cost publications.

Others noted that Ricketts had not seemed as concerned about the rising costs when he bought Gothamist in early March.

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