Gothamist and DNAInfo.Com Hyperlocal News Websites Shuttered
November 2, 2017 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Owner Joe Ricketts closes down the Gothamist and DNAInfo network of hyperlocal news websites, one week after the newsrooms vote to unionize. (h/t The Whelk)

Ricketts stated "businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure [...] 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."
posted by WCityMike (127 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
NY Times Article on the closing.
posted by NormieP at 3:10 PM on November 2, 2017


if ricketts hadn't wiped the archives, his economic argument could perhaps have been even kinda slightly remotely plausible, but taking out all 115 journalists' jobs and simultaneously nuking everyone's published bodies of work so they have no portfolios when scrambling for new gigs is just low-down petty and vicious.
posted by halation at 3:11 PM on November 2, 2017 [124 favorites]


Such petty bullshit. If Ricketts meant even 1% of the bullshit he spewed, he wouldn't have wiped all the sites. This is pure spite and pettiness from a billionaire.
posted by kmz at 3:11 PM on November 2, 2017 [15 favorites]


At no time in history have so many journalists with so much time on their hands ever investigated the sex crimes of one person so enthusiastically.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:11 PM on November 2, 2017 [60 favorites]


Fucking depressing.
posted by penduluum at 3:11 PM on November 2, 2017


.
posted by limeonaire at 3:12 PM on November 2, 2017


Maybe the economics couldn't work, but the way this played out looks like a spiteful, dickish move.

Condolences to Jen and Jake. Gothamist was great Web 1.0.
posted by gwint at 3:14 PM on November 2, 2017 [5 favorites]




Yeah, as a writer, I can almost guarantee that every writer has archives of what they've written. I've been known to point to way back machine to prove parts of my portfolio because sites come and go. But this sucks, none the less. Until ricketts bought it, the ...ists paid well, and we're open to pitches. They were very Time Out in their willingness to consider off beat stories. I'm sorry to see the teams who worked there get fucked by yet another republican asshole. Although, I suppose those two words are redundant.

God speed my fellow word wranglers, may you find a good new home soon.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:18 PM on November 2, 2017 [15 favorites]


Ricketts, 9/12/17: "Why I'm Against Unions At Businesses I Create"
posted by WCityMike at 3:20 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.

Glad to see Torontoist wasn't affected by this, having been sold off to a different media baron a while ago.
posted by rodlymight at 3:22 PM on November 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


This is some robber-baron shit. The ad revenue from archive links would have probably covered the hosting costs. It may not be as physically damaging as sending in the Pinkertons to beat up a few union organisers, but the sentiment is no different.

Somebody quoted Tom Scocca on the killing of Gawker:
Gawker always said it was in the business of publishing true stories. Here is one last true story: You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection.

If you want to write stories that might anger a billionaire, you need to work for another billionaire yourself, or for a billion-dollar corporation. The law will not protect you. There is no freedom in this world but power and money.
Ricketts might not have taken the Thiel route here, but he took writers forming a union as a personal chafe to his fat rich rear end. Fuck him and his billions.
posted by holgate at 3:22 PM on November 2, 2017 [86 favorites]


This is some robber-baron shit.

Well, we are in the new Gilded Age after all. Only this time they've learned to keep an eye on those pesky progressives and reformers that tried to slow down the last bunch.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:24 PM on November 2, 2017 [11 favorites]


this is 100% retaliation against employees for unionizing, and other publishers/businesses are 100% going to use this as a reason to try and block their employees from unionizing as well. fucking disgusting.
posted by burgerrr at 3:24 PM on November 2, 2017 [31 favorites]


"I’m not interested in any agenda at any company I start, other than working together to deliver something exceptional to consumers and doing it as everyone pulls shoulder-to-shoulder tackling whatever the marketplace throws at us."

Which is why you share profits equally with your employees, treat them well and protect them in return for their loyalty! Oh. No? You just fuck them over and sack them?

Die in a fucking fire.
posted by howfar at 3:24 PM on November 2, 2017 [58 favorites]


I see Joe Ricketts's Wikipedia page has already been updated to reflect the change in his business empire.

Screenshot of the update, which will likely be short lived.
posted by standardasparagus at 3:28 PM on November 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


[Folks, maybe a little less "I hope he dies horribly HERE'S HOW."?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:30 PM on November 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


Ricketts, 9/12/17: "Why I'm Against Unions At Businesses I Create"

He bought TD Ameritrade (First Omaha Securities back then) and grew it through more acquisitions and mergers. He bought Gothamist.

The only business he really created himself was DNAinfo. The one that turned out not to be profitable.

But please do go on with your job creator insight.
posted by srboisvert at 3:32 PM on November 2, 2017 [11 favorites]


Another well deserved, and rather poetic, edit to his Wikipedia page.
posted by standardasparagus at 3:33 PM on November 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


fire

Curious coincidence: that's how I discovered the ist-iverse was gone. There was a three-alarm fire in a building in Brooklyn this afternoon, a former shelter that had been converted into luxury apartments. People tweeting about the fire were linking to writing on gothamist about the shelter (and the buyout) but the links, when clicked, led to nothing :/
posted by halation at 3:37 PM on November 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


I know that this is going to come across as naive, but I guess I still have some modicum of incredulity left in me, because how in the fuck is it legal to shut down a business entirely in retaliation for unionization?
posted by Automocar at 3:38 PM on November 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


jessamyn pls fantasy murders are all we have left
posted by poffin boffin at 3:40 PM on November 2, 2017 [56 favorites]


The loss of Gothamist... ugh. Gothamist WAS NYC! How many events, how many news stories, how many wonderful things did I learn from Gothamist? Couldn't even count. This is terrible.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:41 PM on November 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


Fuck. Gothamist was such a great place to find really good stories that felt very personal. Torontoist followed in that model, but as someone mentioned up above, it too was bought out by various media moguls. Fuck. Everything is a garbage fire these days.
posted by Fizz at 3:47 PM on November 2, 2017


Classic union busting bullshit, fuck. It's so blatant Ricketts might as well have had Pinkertons come in and knock some heads. It's frightening how our current corporate overlords want to take us back to the 19th century in terms of workers rights, and how successful they've been at getting regular people to swallow their anti-worker propaganda.
posted by supercrayon at 3:48 PM on November 2, 2017 [14 favorites]


DCist, just today, posted "The best ways to get local news in D.C. (other than from us, of course!)" (link to the Twitter post because, obviously the link itself no longer exists). I assume this was just some random coincidence because I follow a lot of the writers from DCist on Twitter and they seemed as incredibly blindsided as everyone else.

With the Washington City Paper up for sale, I think it's quite possible there will be no major local, independent coverage of the DC area here pretty soon.

This was just an act of unnecessary cruelty. It was pure spite.
posted by darksong at 3:49 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


I relied on LAist a lot for local news and events. The local news station websites are not an adequate substitute. I guess I could switch to the LA Times, but I feel like that goes broader than I want, and it won't have the weird, niche articles, or the more personal tone, the stuff I liked about LAist. Anyone have suggestions for a replacement?

What a fucking asshole, and I feel so terrible for the employees.
posted by yasaman at 3:52 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Haven't the media (and especially newspapers, in the last decades) always been controlled by rich people with an agenda? This is just more of it.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:55 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Haven't the media (and especially newspapers, in the last decades) always been controlled by rich people with an agenda?

To some extent, but media consolidation has gotten much worse in recent decades, and at this point, local TV/newspapers/radio are essentially being wiped out. Internet resources were filling that niche, to a small extent, but now they're also going extinct.
posted by halation at 4:00 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


(so as not to abuse edit: it's mostly been (relatively) "rich people with an agenda," but at least if you have lots of rich people, there might be a variety of agendas. now there is just the one agenda, basically.)
posted by halation at 4:00 PM on November 2, 2017


Haven't the media (and especially newspapers, in the last decades) always been controlled by rich people with an agenda?

Yes, but when papers had large newsrooms and printing presses, they also had unions. And yes, those unions meant closed-shops and resistance to technology and hacks getting paid for spending their days on the piss, but they also had the capacity to show up the boss. The Murdoch treatment set the path towards a distribution of labour in news media that lets Bill O'Reilly earn enough money to pay off a $32m sexual harassment settlement.
posted by holgate at 4:08 PM on November 2, 2017 [16 favorites]


Remeber when the dream of the Internet was more local decentralized journalism and the elimaination of middle men from business?
posted by The Whelk at 4:09 PM on November 2, 2017 [40 favorites]


That blog post about how he hates unions is so utterly cringe-inducing. It's drenched with condescension, very much "father knows best".
posted by lilies.lilies at 4:13 PM on November 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


I read dnainfo and chicagoist/gothamist almost every day. Some great writing (game of thrones power rankings), some mediocre writing. They were covering stories no one else covered, and I read them for that more than anything.
posted by mai at 4:15 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Which is to say I'll miss these news sources and I hope someone who's not such a dick tries to get a replacement started.
posted by mai at 4:19 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I know that this is going to come across as naive, but I guess I still have some modicum of incredulity left in me, because how in the fuck is it legal to shut down a business entirely in retaliation for unionization?
I don't know the legal stuff, but I'm assuming that even if it is illegal, it's probably easy for the rich guy to say "no I didn't, that was just a coincidence, go away".
posted by inconstant at 4:24 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I am too crabby this evening. Journalism just seems to be slowly being strangled, and I can't help but think it isn't an accident.
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:25 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


It was just a few weeks ago that I was having a conversation with a union guy at a journalism conference, discussing how I'd once considered attempting to unionize a past workplace, but I never thought I'd get the votes—and how the publication's owner was an outspoken union proponent who was nonetheless likely to vehemently fight any attempt at unionization of his shop.

Then there's this. Sigh. I hate that I'm remembering a colleague's advice to me at that past publication: "Keep your head down." I hate that I'm feeling rather paranoid about even stating the above opinion about something I didn't do at a place I haven't worked for several years. I also hate that I have no better advice than always save your own copies of your clips. I hate everything about this.
posted by limeonaire at 4:33 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


So, honest question: what is there to stop all the employees to band together and create an employee owned business that does exactly what Gothamist does, but under another name. Presumably they have all the skills (IT, writing, editing, even ad sales) they need to get off the ground with just a modest amount of capital. Would they have all signed something that would keep them from being able to do this?
posted by anastasiav at 4:38 PM on November 2, 2017 [9 favorites]


So, honest question: what is there to stop all the employees to band together and create an employee owned business that does exactly what Gothamist does, but under another name.

The Chicago Sun Times recent ownership change is close. They really should jump all over the gap created by the Chicagoist and DNAinfo going away. To be honest DNAinfo had been really hurt by layoffs a few months ago - their neighbourhood related stories dropped from several a day to one or two a week wtih a lot of cross posted stuff as filler. Chicagoist had also dropped down to almost nothing already.

That space is now wide open for the Sun-Times thanks to the Tribune's awful web presence and paywall.

The problem is that the Sun-Times for the longest time was the most ad-ridden terrible to use and read news website you could possibly imagine. If you could get it to load. If you get to popovers to close. It's better now but I still have a learned-aversion hesitation to click on one of their links.
posted by srboisvert at 4:50 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


I know that this is going to come across as naive, but I guess I still have some modicum of incredulity left in me, because how in the fuck is it legal to shut down a business entirely in retaliation for unionization?

I don't know how it would be legal to force someone to continue running a business.

Usually, even with a union, a business is still viable enough that the owner/management has incentive to keep the shop a going concern. Because money. Duh. This kind of scorched earth policy seems pretty rare. It must be good to be in a position to be able to kiss off an ongoing business venture just because you don't like the business model anymore. When you can't even be bothered to sell it off for pennies on the dollar, I guess your point is made. I have to think, though, this will hurt his future business prospects. I mean, who wants to deal with someone who will drop the ball just because he feels like it?
posted by 2N2222 at 4:52 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


extremely good and normal society where one guy can obliterate 15 years worth of news and writing by throwing a temper tantrum
posted by The Horse You Rode In On at 4:59 PM on November 2, 2017 [24 favorites]


I know that this is going to come across as naive, but I guess I still have some modicum of incredulity left in me, because how in the fuck is it legal to shut down a business entirely in retaliation for unionization?

Wal-mart did just that for years. If there is so much as a whisper of a union drive, Bentonville dispatches a squad of labor lawyers to try to ferret out the organizers and squash the drive. If that fails, the store will be closed. Scorched earth tactics, but it's seems to be effective; no union Wal-Mart stores. As an added bonus, the union gets blamed for closing the store and everyone losing their jobs.
posted by dr_dank at 5:02 PM on November 2, 2017 [8 favorites]


I have to think, though, this will hurt his future business prospects. I mean, who wants to deal with someone who will drop the ball just because he feels like it?

Joe Rickett's net worth is 2.1 billion dollars.

His family has net worth of 4.5 billion and one of the boys is governor of nebraska. His other soon would have been Trump's secretary of commerce if it were not for financial complications (and probably a minimum of sense).

They own the Chicago Cubs and probably about a quarter of the commercial businesses in Wrigleyville.

They will have no shortage of willing business partners and no real need for any.
posted by srboisvert at 5:02 PM on November 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


I don't know how it would be legal to force someone to continue running a business.

I'm genuinely not sure what the law here is, but an action can be a crime or not a crime depending on the intent behind it, can't it? Of course it's not illegal to close a paper - just like it's not illegal to fire someone - but it might still be illegal to do either in retaliation for unionizing.

I'm sure the ACLU and others are looking into this very question right now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:10 PM on November 2, 2017


It's drenched with condescension, very much "father knows best".

As I’ve said on twitter before, the problem with every paternalistic enterprise is that sooner or later you find out that daddy is a mean drunk.
posted by wotsac at 5:12 PM on November 2, 2017 [9 favorites]


If you want to feel truly heartbroken:
"One DCist employee tells Washingtonian she found out about the closure by refreshing the homepage and seeing Ricketts’ letter."
posted by General Malaise at 5:17 PM on November 2, 2017 [10 favorites]




This is going to sound weird, but the DNA Chicago murder timeline was rather important to me in the way it visualized the crime data and humanized some of the victims.

I'm also going to miss it for a lot of normal reasons as well.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:20 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


> I see Joe Ricketts's Wikipedia page has already been updated to reflect the change in his business empire.

Here's an edit that says, "He is best known as the founder, former CEO and former chairman of TD Ameritrade, one of the largest online discount brokerages in the world, based in Omaha, Nebraska and as a greedy old bastard who wouldn’t know the value of good journalism if he was bilking it from old ladies’ retirement funds."

And here's another: "...is a talking wall of feces and fat merged together in iceberg form. Supposedly, he's also an American businessman." And another: "...is a legitimately horrible person who is going to hell, if it exists. He is a horrible union buster and worth over a billion dollars himself."

Amusingly, "John Joseph 'Joe' Ricketts (born July 16, 1941) is an awful American businessman." managed to survive a couple rounds of vandalism reversions before somebody noticed it.

I'm kind of surprised they haven't bothered locking the page down yet.
posted by ardgedee at 5:31 PM on November 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


godfuckingdammit. as if everything else wasn't already just piles of flaming garbage. I actually liked DCist, and used them to actually learn shit about my city.

ALL THE FUCKING RAGE
posted by numaner at 5:36 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm taking a course in labor law right now,* and the rule we just recently learned is that a business owner can legally entirely close their business in response to unionization. Like 2N2222 said, you can't legally force someone to keep operating their business if they want to cease to do so. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is, in theory, in a constant dance of balancing employers' interests and employees' rights to collectively organize (though, in recent years, Board decisions are predictably partisan: Republican presidents elect employer-side Boards and Democratic presidents elect employee-side Boards).

What is illegal is closing only part of an employer's business, such that an employer uses the closing of one part of their business (say, one store in a franchise) to threaten their employees at another store. (This rule contradicts the Wal-Mart example cited above, so I'm not sure how those bastards are getting away with it.) The Board is more concerned with employers chilling their employees' unionization efforts than anything else.

I think there are other rationales for allowing business owners to close their businesses entirely, even in retaliation for union activity. Again, if a business is closed, it no longer exists, and so it no longer has to comply with the law. Also, closing a business entirely is presumably bad for the employer, who stops making money from their business, so the employer and employee share in the adverse affects. However, here in the real world, where the employer is a billionaire . . .

Here's a link to the case that established the rule: Textile Workers Union v. Darlington Mfg. Co.

*Please correct me, real lawyers!
posted by materialgirl at 5:45 PM on November 2, 2017 [8 favorites]


The business was burning cash and didn’t t have assets.
posted by JPD at 5:51 PM on November 2, 2017


Maybe the economics couldn't work, but the way this played out looks like a spiteful, dickish move.

Yeah. Maybe a guy with billions could spare some money to pay people a living wage and not just shut down his entire operation out of spite.

I've had it with these assholes. I'm nowhere near their kind of wealth, not even close. Judged by salary alone (because I have no savings and no assets beyond that), I might be one of those up against the wall. I say bring it.
posted by kokaku at 6:02 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Why is he obligated to keep funding a loss making operation?
posted by JPD at 6:09 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Shit :( I read both Gothamist and SFist daily. The death of content continues. Still miss Grantland and it's depressing how the avclub and very smart brothas both got absorbed into the gizmodo borg and lost a lot of their charm and community in the process. And gawker's gone. Hate how sites just keep disappearing. Why can't anyone find a working biz model for content? So depressing.

First I've heard of Joe Ricketts. Sounds like a real piece of work. Nobody's obligated to keep a money losing operation going but to end it like this is just low. Spiteful and low.
posted by jcruelty at 6:18 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think it's quite possible there will be no major local, independent coverage of the DC area here pretty soon.

Uhhhhhh Washington Times!
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:20 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


only dnainfo was losing money, not gothamist. but the whiny diaper baby decided to smash all his toys bc he was told he might have to let other people have nice toys too.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:20 PM on November 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


Why is he obligated to keep funding a loss making operation?

If he only gave them less than a year to make money, why they hell did he buy them in the first place?
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:23 PM on November 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


It will be interesting to see just how much goodwill this burns in Chicago.

The Ricketts have been making a lot of moves in Wrigleyville - some popular like building the Cubs into a winning team others less popular like turning Wrigley Stadium and the surrounding area in a ThemePark shopping mall hybrid that feels like a Vegas knockoff of what Wrigley Stadium used to be.

The transition from Lovable Losers to Billionaire's Playthings was already awkward. Obnoxiously anti-union Billionaire's Playthings might not sit well in town with the level of Union support that Chicago has. Also the local alderman gets to wield a surprising amount of power over zoning and construction permits.

Plus the Cubs were pretty fucking awful this post-season.
posted by srboisvert at 6:24 PM on November 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


Why is he obligated to keep funding a loss making operation?

Why would he shut down a company out of clench-fisted toddler spite after writing an essay on how he hates unions and the staff voting to unionize?
posted by zippy at 6:27 PM on November 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


Obnoxiously anti-union Billionaire's Playthings might not sit well in town with the level of Union support that Chicago has. Also the local alderman gets to wield a surprising amount of power over zoning and construction permits.

We've been talking about this a lot in our house tonight. As avid readers of DNAinfo and Chicagoist, we're seriously pissed. From now on, we call up various aldermen every time they're about to hand the Ricketts family another sweetheart deal. We don't do deals with union busters in Chicago.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:30 PM on November 2, 2017 [9 favorites]


Wow. Just heard. Wow.
posted by double bubble at 6:36 PM on November 2, 2017


Journalist Emily Crockett posts a way for the writers to archive their writing from these deleted sites.
posted by HeroZero at 6:40 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


There is no reason a private owner has to keep a losing business running. For that matter there is no reason why one would have have to keep a profitable business running. You own the business, you want to shut it down, that’s your right.

But

You might still be a jerk.
posted by double bubble at 6:51 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


One of the AV Clubs new sibling publications put it best: Scummy Fuck Joe Ricketts Shuts Down DNAinfo, Gothamist After Writers Unionize
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:54 PM on November 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


Why is he obligated to keep funding a loss making operation?

Gothamist was a viable business for 15 years, then Ricketts buys it, and runs it into the ground in less than six months? He must be ashamed at what a shitty businessman he is.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:06 PM on November 2, 2017 [37 favorites]


Like dr_dank I thought of Walmart and their gross union busting tactics. Time for a general strike...but who is even left in a position to hold a general strike
posted by biggreenplant at 7:13 PM on November 2, 2017


I wondered why I didn't get Gothamist's daily digest email this evening, and am so upset to learn the answer. I think of Gothamist almost like Mefi for local issues--the place I want to go to hear what smart people think about everything from contentious community board meetings to national politics to mass transit to restaurant reviews. Heck, I even enjoyed reading the comments, more often than not! Can't believe it's all gone.
posted by ferret branca at 7:22 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm going to be a total jerk about this and wish the cubs never win anything ever again while they own the team.

It has nothing to do with the nats at all. None.
posted by numaner at 7:22 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Unless they decide to just leave journalism altogether, the DNAinfo/ist folks could do what a lot of Patch people did when that venture imploded: start their own sites - although it'll be kind of critical for the reporter/editor types to make sure they sign up some of the ad folks - or vice-versa (conflict of interest disclosure: I'm a member of the group that posted that, although I had nothing to do with the posting).
posted by adamg at 7:32 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Flat-out union-busting.

As I've seen it, small shops in the private sector, if they unionize, simply don't have the leverage to force massive concessions. Gains are more in the areas of job security and working conditions, and pay increases tied to COLA, if they're lucky.

Unionizing this shop wasn't going to cost Ricketts *that* much, I expect. But pour encourager les autres, this move is worth a lot more to this scumbag.

Flat-out union busting.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:34 PM on November 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


Why is he obligated to keep funding a loss making operation?

Gothamist was a viable business for 15 years, then Ricketts buys it, and runs it into the ground in less than six months? He must be ashamed at what a shitty businessman he is.


Dumb question: these losses, are they independently verifiable, or are we ultimately just taking his word for it? Were they a) legit losing money, b) making money, or c) losing money through creative accounting?
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:37 PM on November 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


Shanghaiist, one of the few distinctive long-running English-language sites running local news out of China, got shut down overnight local time.

Why is he obligated to keep funding a loss making operation?

Would you be sad if cortex wiped MeFi blank (and thus your entire commenting history) if he couldn't pay the bills one month? Or would you not really give a shit?

If you acquire a long-running web property, you have an obligation to its archives no less than if you acquire a hundred-year-old baseball stadium with architectural quirks, you have a responsibility for the ivy.
posted by holgate at 7:59 PM on November 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


Don’t make excuses for billionaires. Theyre not on your side and you’ll never be one.
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 PM on November 2, 2017 [68 favorites]


Unionizing this shop wasn't going to cost Ricketts *that* much, I expect. But pour encourager les autres, this move is worth a lot more to this scumbag.

It's not just that. The combination of gothamist/dnaInfo wasn't profitable. And in fact most business ventures are a losing deal. And most of the rest aren't really worth running if you could make steady wages doing something else. The incentive is to have something you control yourself. The objection to the union isn't about money -- because if your focus was about money, you wouldn't be running a business, and definitely not that business -- the objection is about having to listen to someone else make decisions that you felt entitled to make. Ricketts wanted an entity he was in sole control of. Without that, he felt there was no reason to keep the entity around.
posted by deanc at 8:04 PM on November 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


As a New Yorker, I went to Gothamist daily for local news, random events, new restaurant notices, etc. Read Gawker for largely similar reasons. I know both of these sites had their issues, but it was great for easily digestible scrollable local content while I scarfed down lunch at my desk for 10 minutes. Are there any similar options out there I don't know about?
posted by greta simone at 8:17 PM on November 2, 2017


The objection to the union isn't about money . . . the objection is about having to listen to someone else make decisions that you felt entitled to make.

I am in a union (in a "progressive" non-profit) and this describes management so well I want to needle point it and hang it in my office.
posted by Mavri at 8:18 PM on November 2, 2017 [17 favorites]


WCityMike: "NYT on the newsrooms' vote to join the Writers' Guild."

Man I don't know why I ever click on these capitalist rants against employee organization; it's always variations on a theme of not being able to exploit workers.
posted by Mitheral at 8:31 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


it's always variations on a theme of not being able to exploit workers.

The mass-market version is "why should X get to be in a union when I haven't had a paid holiday at my sucky job in 20 years?"
posted by holgate at 8:36 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


With the Washington City Paper up for sale, I think it's quite possible there will be no major local, independent coverage of the DC area here pretty soon.

Some DC news sources to look into + consider supporting:

The Current Newspapers
The Intowner
The Southwester
El Tiempo Latino
Washington Blade
Capital Community News
Washington Informer
The Georgetowner
Washington Afro-American
El Pregonero
Washington Jewish Week
Asian Fortune News
The Washington Sun

I liked DCist + read it regularly, but lost in a lot of the mourning for it going on today is a recognition that Washington still has a pretty rich, independent, and useful group of community news sources doing good work.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:37 PM on November 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


"Why I'm Against Unions At Businesses I Create"

You see those first-person pronouns? That's entirely what this is about. A childish billionare looked at a union vote, and instead of seeing writers seeking a living wage, he saw people questioning him and his decisions and his largesse.

Never mind that Gothamist wasn't, in any way, a business that he created.

Joe Rickett's took away one of New York's primary news sources in the days after a terrorist attack because he's a petty fuck who doesn't like being second guessed.

What a shitstain of a little man.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:48 PM on November 2, 2017 [18 favorites]


Metafilter: fantasy murders are all we have left

I'd suggest we eat the rich, but I'm sure they taste awful. Oily and full of shit.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:15 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


thanks for the list ryanshepard. I also subscribe to 730DC and BYThings. The Washingtonian is also alright.
posted by numaner at 10:14 PM on November 2, 2017


Man, DCist helped me get to know the city when I was new here, and even when I wasn't, I got exposed to so many things about my town I'd never have known about otherwise. Best of luck to the employees there, and the other outfits.
posted by jameaterblues at 10:22 PM on November 2, 2017


DNA (Gothamist and other *ists I'm not so sure) was well known in NYC media for offering very good pay and benefits. I don't think their unionizing was about asking for more, so much as protecting what they had and gaining a modicum of control over things going forward. There'd been internal changes with the merge and staff at both outlets felt uneasy about the future and wanted to protect the news organizations they loved.

Likewise, I doubt this was mostly about money for Ricketts. He's very wealthy, DNA had never made money and he'd bought Gothamist (which did make money) not very long ago precisely to help DNA become more profitable. My guess it that, as deanc said, this was also about control for him.
posted by retrograde at 10:35 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I love the takes where people are like "uh why would he be obligated to throw money at a money-losing company" as if there wasn't millions of of VC dollars being burned at uber daily in the hope that regulatory capture might result in big investor paydays "someday in the future."
posted by Hiding From Goro at 11:15 PM on November 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


Why is he obligated to keep funding a loss making operation?

He's not, but what he did was pure spite. There are ways to make the sites make more money, but they would probably involve spending more money, or cutting staff. He wasn't willing or able to make it work.

But you know he's just a giant asshole because he completely shut the sites down. Flushed a ton of NY, LA, DC and other city's history down the toilet, even though just leaving it up as an archive would be quite profitable, at least for a couple of years. The decision to just nuke it all is an asshole telling the world how big an asshole he really is.

I'm especially bitter because after some boring years (in my opinion) Laist was getting good again. It was also getting more political in the era of Trump, which I imagine may also have been true of the other -ists, which could possibly be another reason for this.
posted by cell divide at 11:53 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


> ...he'd bought Gothamist (which did make money) not very long ago precisely to help DNA become more profitable.

And to scrub a bunch of negative articles they had up about him. [Jezebel - contains links to cached versions of articles, the first is now dead but the rest are working].
posted by Buntix at 4:09 AM on November 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


Have the Gothamist co-founders commented on the shutdown yet? I'm not seeing a peep on Jake Dobkin or Jen Chung's twitters yet.

I cried about this last night and I'm still feeling pretty despondent this morning. My one consolation when the news about the FCC killing the 'main studio rule' hit was that I'd at least still be able to go to Gothamist for my local news fixes.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:44 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh no - I just realized - no more coverage of the crazy shit people do on the subway. Nothing made me miss NY more.
posted by double bubble at 5:53 AM on November 3, 2017


I love the takes where people are like "uh why would he be obligated to throw money at a money-losing company" as if there wasn't millions of of VC dollars being burned at uber daily in the hope that regulatory capture might result in big investor paydays "someday in the future." the reason why you theoretically burn cash on something like Uber is that in theory you create some kind of economic intangible from the network effect. That might or might not be bullshit, but that's why you are willing to fund losses. Because ultimately the returns are greater than just pure labor outsourcing (which is essentially what a tradition car service company is.

The other villains here are the WGA organizers who tried to call a bluff with 2-7 offsuit hand.

Seriously. I'm sure this guy is a flaming asshole, but
1) It is a variable cost business with no exit barrier- so shutting it down doesn't actually cost him anymore than his labor severance costs.
2) It was a loss making business whose only expense was variable labor - and had virtually no fixed costs, so the threat of lost production basically was non-viable.
3) Its labor needs were met by a massive excess supply of skilled labor. For the most part its journalists were fungible.

I mean its a case study in a bad business to try to unionize. Even if it were marginally profitable its a bad candidate. Only if he were minting cash would you have a shot at making it work.
posted by JPD at 6:13 AM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


With the Washington City Paper up for sale, I think it's quite possible there will be no major local, independent coverage of the DC area here pretty soon.

oh jeez all we have left is PoPVille and the guy doesn't even live in Petworth anymore
posted by capricorn at 6:20 AM on November 3, 2017



I mean its a case study in a bad business to try to unionize.


uh, no? they were profitable before ricketts bought them. he bought them to get rid of bad press, kept them because they were making more money than his previous media effort (DNA Info), and then punitively nuked them because he hates unions. his punishment, of axing the archives, actually costs him revenue because they'd likely be a passive income source for a while even after the shutdown. he's indefensible and mean and dumb and defending him is dumb.
posted by halation at 6:28 AM on November 3, 2017 [20 favorites]


it IS a case study in union-busting, tho
posted by halation at 6:30 AM on November 3, 2017 [9 favorites]




the objection is about having to listen to someone else make decisions that you felt entitled to make.

when those decisions involve the working conditions of HUMAN BEINGS - you don't get to make those decisions freely in a civilized society. AT ALL.

"Oh, I feel like making mandatory 18 hour workdays" "oh I feel like ignoring safety standards" "Oh I feel like not hiring black people" "oh I feel like unilaterally defining how these people exist in their time in my employ"

NOPE

FOAD.
posted by lalochezia at 7:02 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


First Gawker, now Gothamist, and then we're left with zombie Time Out.

For NYC events, folks may be interested in https://theskint.com/, but it is no substitute for the reporting that I looked to daily. (DCist and LAist were great when I was visiting there)
posted by armacy at 7:03 AM on November 3, 2017


Honestly, I feel damn near morally obligated to go out and start a local news site.
posted by thecaddy at 7:47 AM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


In other business-vs-press news: The LA Times is being blacklisted by Disney over this story about their dealings with the city of Anaheim.

People on MeFi complain all the time, especially in the politics threads, about reporters not doing enough to fight access journalism. Here’s an example. What’s the best thing to do? Write letters? Buy an LA Times sub? Avoid Disney products? All of the above? If you’ve said something in the past to that effect, here’s a chance to take action.
posted by rewil at 8:37 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Looks like Gothamist writers will try to start a replacement.
posted by adamg at 9:19 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


That account is widely believed to be a right wing troll
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 AM on November 3, 2017


yeah that tone doesn't match gothamist's tone at all; i'd be shocked if that account is real (for one thing i don't think they'd capitalise the C in 'City' like that)
posted by halation at 9:24 AM on November 3, 2017


Gothamist Archive Retrieval Tool (first use of AMP I approve of)
posted by gwint at 9:43 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Apologies; I guess I've been out of the city too long.
posted by adamg at 9:45 AM on November 3, 2017


Huh. Looks like the archived site is back up. Good on... somebody.
posted by phooky at 11:09 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yes, Jake just tweeted that Gothamist is back up and they are working to find a permanent home for the archives (~700K articles).

Disclosure: I freelanced for Gothamist.
posted by plastic_animals at 11:18 AM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]




via Brooklyn Vegan: Gothamist & DNAInfo back online; Jen & Jake post ‘Thank You’ letter: "We also owe Joe Ricketts and the management team many thanks for giving us this opportunity and their strong support of journalism." -- groveling or sarcasm?
posted by larrybob at 1:48 PM on November 3, 2017


In other business-vs-press news: The LA Times is being blacklisted by Disney over this story about their dealings with the city of Anaheim.

Speaking of unions and the LATimes: “I’ve Got Your Back, and You’ve Got Mine.” Workers at the Los Angeles Times are unionizing not just to improve their working conditions but to ensure the future of the paper.
posted by homunculus at 2:02 PM on November 3, 2017


Columbia Journalism Review: The decimation of local news in New York City. Worth reading. Shrinking newspaper coverage outiside of Manhattan has meant weekly papers are stepping up to fill a reporting void. But the weeklies don't have the staff to do investigative work, and they are at the mercy of their few advertisers. An editor in Brooklyn notes that six incumbents won local elections in 2016 -- but probably wouldn't have if the larger newspapers had been focusing on their races.
posted by zarq at 2:40 PM on November 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


Liena Zagare at BKLYNER: Want More Local News? Become A Paying Subscriber.
posted by zarq at 2:42 PM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


wow so aside from the first post (tv intros) and the rupaul passover one, every single fpp i have made with this account has been sourced from or is directly from gothamist.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:25 PM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


I mean its a case study in a bad business to try to unionize.

uh, no? they were profitable before ricketts bought them. he bought them to get rid of bad press, kept them because they were making more money than his previous media effort (DNA Info), and then punitively nuked them because he hates unions. his punishment, of axing the archives, actually costs him revenue because they'd likely be a passive income source for a while even after the shutdown. he's indefensible and mean and dumb and defending him is dumb.


I don't see anyone actually defending him. I do see a lot of gnashing of teeth. The sad fact is that the business was Ricketts' toy to play with or destroy as he pleased. Maybe he never intended to do anything with the business. Maybe he's just a poor businessman. Doesn't really matter anymore. Ricketts got a convenient scapegoat handed to him on a gold platter, and he's milking it.

it IS a case study in union-busting, tho

And...? Several declarations have been made to this effect, as if it means something.

The way I see it, it's so far beyond union busting, calling it that is almost laughable. Unionizing is a gambit that always carries risk. Management/owners always claim organizing will end the business. When the shop goes union, they're calling the bluff. This time, it wasn't a bluff. Perhaps they should have organized before Ricketts bought the business, when it was presumably profitable. Sadly, the circumstances were not as favorable this time.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:21 PM on November 3, 2017


if you're not interested in reading "gnashing of teeth" i have to wonder what you're doing reading comments on metafilter. people are, like, allowed and encourage to express their opinions about things by nature of this very comment box.
posted by misskaz at 6:40 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


http://www.rickettsist.com

On a personal note, fuck the Ricketts family. The only thing holding me to Cubs fandom is Pat Hughes, the play by play radio announcer. I may switch allegiance to the Reds next season. Not that my drop of protest will matter, but a [man] has to have a code.
posted by travertina at 9:04 PM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


Perhaps they should have organized before Ricketts bought the business,

perhaps the workers didn't feel the need to protect themselves from prior management to the same extent. the ricketts buyout was, at the time, perceived as a serious threat to employee job security and even the continued existence of the business, since he was, again, literally buying them out to stop them reporting on him in ways he didn't like.
posted by halation at 6:09 AM on November 4, 2017 [6 favorites]


Nobody thinks about forming a union at a company with decent management even though they should.

When the shop goes union, they're calling the bluff.

The learned helplessness of Americans who cower at billionaire bosses is something to behold, even as those bosses dictate tax laws that steal from their workers while setting up their great-grandchildren to be billionaires.
posted by holgate at 9:03 AM on November 4, 2017 [5 favorites]


What kind of a business owner shuts down a business rather than sell it off? Yeah, he probably couldn't have gotten what he paid for it, but he would've gotten something, and the business would've gone on. Unless his whole reason for buying the business in the first place was to shut it down...
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:21 AM on November 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


A good percentage of the news on gothamist was reposted from the local tabloids about the alleged crimes of (mostly )POC.
posted by brujita at 10:09 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


The time to unionize is now, no matter how well you have it.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 11:26 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]




Just in case anyone is interested, this Jezebel article has a list of the negative articles about Ricketts that were deleted when he bought Gothamist.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


When the shop goes union, they're calling the bluff. This time, it wasn't a bluff. Perhaps they should have organized before Ricketts bought the business, when it was presumably profitable. Sadly, the circumstances were not as favorable this time.

What had the union had demanded? Nothing.

It was just the mere idea of union that got the businesses shut down.

There is no way this can be attributed to any circumstance other than Ricketts.
posted by srboisvert at 2:03 PM on November 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Rally
posted by The Whelk at 12:53 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


The whole sordid affair got a write-up in The New Yorker this week.
posted by Copronymus at 1:20 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Two weeks later, this story got new journalism, but marked as dupe of this thread from before. Appending here for those still checking comments on weeks old threads.

The Story Behind the Unjust Shutdown of Gothamist and DNAinfo

Death of local journalism, union busting, right wing politics, or just bad business? In early 2017, Joe Ricketts, the billionaire owner of Gothamist and DNAinfo said Gothamist — a franchise of eight city-centric Web sites that did local reporting as well as blog-style editorials, opinions, cultural coverage, and snark — “fits right in with our vision for future expansion,” adding, “We think the result will be the most potent online source of neighborhood news and information available anywhere.” Ultimately, the newsrooms operated jointly for only eight months.
posted by Skeuomorph at 8:11 PM on November 15, 2017


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