DNAinfo, a U.S. media company that includes local news websites such as Gothamist and LAist, was abruptly closed Thursday over a lack of revenue, just days after some of its newsrooms voted to join a union.
Joe Ricketts, the billionaire who launched DNAinfo in 2009 and bought Gothamist earlier this year, said the company failed to make sufficient progress to become economically successful. He had previously warned employees that joining a union would have a negative impact.
“Reaching this decision wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t one I made lightly,” Ricketts said. “I started DNAinfo in 2009 at a time when few people were investing in media companies. But I believed an opportunity existed to build a successful company that would report unbiased neighborhood news and information.”
Ricketts said the websites received more than 15 million visitors a month, while its newsletters reached more than 500,000 people a day. It also has a vast reach on social media, where its accounts are followed by more than 2 million people combined.
“But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” Ricketts said. “And 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.”
The decision to close DNAinfo, which also includes LAist, DCist, Chicagoist, SFist, and Shanghaiist, leaves about 115 journalists without work. The company’s websites, including its archive, were taken down on Thursday. Workers will continue to be paid for 3 months, plus 4 weeks of severance.
The news came just a week after the company’s newsroom in New York voted to join a union. Ricketts had warned in September that he was opposed to such a move, writing in a post on his personal blog that unions promote a “corrosive us-against-them dynamic.”
“That’s why the type of company that interests me is one where ownership and the employees are truly in it together, without interference from a third-party union that has its own agenda and priorities,” said Ricketts, who lost money on the company every month.
“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,” Ricketts said in the post.
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