At 5 p.m. EST, DNAinfo/Gothamist owner Joe Ricketts announced that he was shutting down all of the company’s sites, effective immediately, because “businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.”
Or, as former Village Voice news editor (and now-former Gothamist news editor) Chris Robbins put it:
I just walked back from the bathroom to find out that everyone at @Gothamist and @DNAinfoNY has been laid off
— Christopher Robbins (@ChristRobbins) November 2, 2017
Ricketts, the patriarch of a billionaire family that also owns TD Ameritrade and the Chicago Cubs, launched DNAinfo in 2009 to provide “hyperlocal” news coverage in Chicago and New York. In March of this year, the company bought Gothamist from its founders, Jake Dobkin and Jen Chung, keeping them on to help run the new, merged entity. Ricketts, a major Trump donor, is an outspoken opponent of unions, and in April, the Daily News reported that DNAinfo COO Dan Swartz indicated that if the staffs voted to unionize, the sites might be shut down. DNAinfo and Gothamist staffers voted to be represented by the Writers Guild of America East last week; today, Ricketts issued his shutdown letter, which every address at both sites now redirects to.
Whatever other fallout comes from this, and there is bound to be plenty, the loss of two major news sites is a devastating blow to journalism in New York — particularly since the New York Times scaled back its own local news coverage last year — as well as in Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco, whose Gothamist-owned sites are now also shut down. As both fellow news reporters and readers of all these sites, we’re going to go sit some serious shiva now.