After union vote, CEO abruptly shutters DCist, other news networks

WASHINGTON — This time, the news business is the news.

Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade and DNAinfo, who acquired Gothamist mere months ago — of which DCist was a part — announced Thursday that he was shutting down both locally focused outlets, effective immediately.

The entire network of websites and all their past stories were suddenly taken offline. Addresses within those domains redirected to a letter from Ricketts to readers.

The move comes a week after the editorial staff voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America.

In his announcement, owner and CEO Ricketts called the decision “difficult.”

“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.”

Staffers don’t seem to agree with Ricketts’ reasoning.

Former DNAinfo reporter Noah Hurowitz called the decision to discontinue publication an act of “direct retaliation” on Twitter.

“This is an act of direct retaliation for our successful union effort. I have no regrets. We did the right thing, stood tall. I am proud,” he wrote.

The New York Times reported that Ricketts’ decision put 115 staff members out of work.

Ricketts was known to oppose unions. He recently argued on his blog that they “promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”

The union vote is not mentioned in Ricketts’ statement.

DNAinfo was launched in 2009 in an effort to make neighborhood news more hyper-local.

Ricketts acquired Gothamist this past March. The outlet provided Ricketts with a network of local sites stretching from Washington to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The closures shine a spotlight on the function and importance of local media coverage.

The FCC recently rolled back regulations from 1939 requiring TV and radio broadcasters to have a local studio.

It was a move praised by media titans like the Sinclair Broadcast Group and eyed with alarm by advocacy groups like Free Press.

In the interest of transparency, many WTOP employees are members of the labor union SAG-AFTRA.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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