Staffers of the now-defunct DNAinfo and Gothamist news sites joined union members, elected officials and others at City Hall Park Monday to call out their owner for the company’s sudden shuttering.
The 30 reporters and editors chastised billionaire and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts for scrapping both news sites Thursday, less than a week after reporters voted to join the Writers Guild of America East. Longtime DNAinfo staff member Ben Fractenberg joined his colleagues in proudly wearing their NYPD press badges, and said the move was devastating to the New York City communities they covered.
“We should be clear, this is not an attack on us,” he said. “This is an attack on the millions of people who depend on our reporting.”
A spokeswoman for DNAinfo and Gothamist did not return a request for comment about the rally. DNAinfo and amNewYork have had a content sharing agreement for several years.
Gothamist was launched in 2003 while DNAinfo went online six years later. Ricketts purchased Gothamist earlier this year.
Last week, Ricketts shut down both news outlets — costing 116 reporters and editors around the country their jobs — and removed the sites’ entire archive, replacing it with a message explaining his decision.
“DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” he wrote.
The archives were eventually restored.
Several City Council members, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Public Advocate Letitia James criticized Ricketts for closing the website so soon after the union vote.
Union members said the move was especially concerning because it is part of a growing trend of big businesses busting unions.
“We will not stand for this,” said Lowell Peterson the Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America East. “This is a clear ideological gambit on the part of Joe Ricketts.”
Fractenberg said the DNAinfo staff is still working on their next move, including the ongoing negotiations between the union and Ricketts, but he stressed that the reporters are still passionate about covering their neighborhoods.
Many rally attendees said they would give the reporters’ their full support.
“You are not going to go away. You have allies here and across the five boroughs who respect what you are doing. Whether it is DNA or in some other form, we need you,” Brewer said.