Apparently, Joe Ricketts acted like a 2-year-old when employees at DNAinfo decided to go union. He didn’t offer to sell the business, or try to work out a solution. He just took his ball and went home (TRANSLATED: I (Joe Ricketts) want to be in control of the situation; and if I can’t, then no one is going to be allowed to be happy about the outcome … because I am a big, rich baby.
UPDATE: DNAinfo (DNAinfo Chicago, Chicagoist, DNAinfo New York, Gothamist, etc.) has now returned access to the front page, but it appears that the onpage search function to archives is not working. Google searches are resolving to find articles and tag listings within DNAinfo Chicago. Example, SEARCH Google dnainfochicago.com shooting englewood …
A week before the abrupt DNAinfo shutdown yesterday, November 2, 2017, the Gothamist and DNAinfo newsrooms in New York voted to join the Writers Guild of America East. In September 2017, Ricketts wrote an article in his blog entitled “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create” and now a shutdown puts over 100 writers/reporters out of work and results in the loss of news articles and news streams to as many as 9 million people. In March 2017, DNAinfo purchased Gothamist LLC which ran news sites in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.
We don’t know exactly what DNAinfo CEO and Cub family billionaire Joe Ricketts was thinking when he wrote the following closure letter to readers and staff. However, this translation, paragraph-by-paragraph is how it appears he was thinking.
November 2, 2017
Dear DNAinfo and Gothamist Readers:
RICKETTS: Today, I’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist. Reaching this decision wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t one I made lightly.
TRANSLATION: Today, I made the emotional and angry decision to suddenly pull the rug out from underneath staff and readers of DNAinfo and Gothamist. I couldn’t care less to have communicated that this also means the end of Chicagoist, DCist, SFist, DNAinfo New York. I really prefer the minimalist shock value of a stark letter that greeted my loyal readers, instead of the usual news articles about their respective neighborhoods that they anticipated reading. I bet it would have been really funny to see the look on staff member’s faces when they returned from the bathroom or lunch or whatever, and discovered that the article they just wrote goes directly to my fantastic closure letter. Oh yes, I wish I could have also seen the look on their faces when they secondarily realized they don’t have a job. I really love the way my Internet host manager brought every DNAinfo website and every DNAinfo article to the same page showing my letter. So exquisitely dramatic and shocking, don’t you think?
RICKETTS: 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. These were stories that weren’t getting told, and because I believe people care deeply about the things that happen where they live and work, I thought we could build a large and loyal audience that advertisers would want to reach.
TRANSLATION: I started DNAinfo in 2009 because I was genius enough and had the courage to invest in a media company when few other people with big money like me thought to try. [Of course, it wasn’t really courage because I’m so rich, I am among the top 400 wealthiest Americans; I don’t remember what it’s like to be hungry and worry about paying for my next dinner, or have enough money to fix a broken down car, or feed my family] I wanted to devour the little startup blogs — those poor people, some probably working out of their Mom’s basement that were trying to bring the news. I hoped to squash the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times with my billions and my genius idea, while suffocating any other news entrepreneurs that were interested in exercising their Freedom of Press spirit — you know, bring the important local stories (Ricketts’ eyes rolling). I know I had what it takes to “feel the people” in the neighborhoods and report unbiased neighborhood news and information. But MY staff wouldn’t play along. I thought I could get my staff to work hard and agree with me, while I put most of the profit in my pocket. However my staff wanted to actually make a decent living off MY great idea of hyperlocal news for Chicago and New York, etc. You see, it never really was about telling the stories, it was about getting rich (and absolutely controlling employees) while pretending to really care about things that happen where people live and work.
RICKETTS: A lot of what I believed would happen did, but not all of it. Today, DNAinfo and Gothamist deliver news and information each day to over half a million people’s email inboxes; we have over 2 million fans across our social channels; and each month, we have over 15 million visits to our sites by over 9 million people. But more important than large numbers of visits and fans, we’ve reported tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people. And in the process, I believe we’ve left the world a better place.
TRANSLATION [This paragraph is almost a psychotic break from reality because it reads as if DNAinfo wasn’t shut down, so it is hard to translate]: A lot of what I believed would happen did, but not all of it — even though I am a rich genius. Today (at least until 4PM … Ha, ha, LOL, ROFL), DNAinfo and Gothamist deliver [don’t you mean “delivered”] news and information each day to over half a million people’s email inboxes; we have over 2 million fans across our social channels; and each month, we have over 15 million visits to our sites by over 9 million people. Did I say have? I meant “had” … Ha, ha, LOL, ROFL. But more important than large numbers of visits and fans, we’ve reported tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people. And in the process, I believe we’ve left the world a better place. Oh wait, I forgot, did I say HAVE over 2 million fans and 9 million visitors? I meant “had” … Ha, ha, LOL, ROFL.. With one swoop, I destroyed all that, and I didn’t even recognize the number of hard-working saps that worked their poor little hearts out with pride, providing those reports. All those tens of thousands of stories that informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people? … they’re worthless now. Worthless because I have no respect for the people that wrote them, or the people that anticipated reading them. Dear poor, loyal reader … that email you sent to your Mom about an armed robbery and assault in her neighborhood is gone, just because I have the power to turn something valuable into something worthless. And I proved it, didn’t I. And dear reader, at least your Mom will see a beautifully written closure letter by ME about how great I was in thinking this hyperlocal news thingy would work.
RICKETTS: But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure. 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. I want to thank our readers for their support and loyalty through the years. And I want to thank our employees for their tireless effort and dedication.
TRANSLATED: But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, that I didn’t really care that much about because I still make money with the Cubs and my billions in investments. My employees needed to submit to me entirely in order for me to be “economically” successful. I guess this whole hyperlocal news act was not that noble of a cause for me, or I would have had the courage and endurance to stick it out, and see the continuance of the good work we do (did). 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. I, Joe Ricketts, can really pour it on, can’t I? I want to thank our readers for their support and loyalty through the years. And I want to thank our employees for their tireless effort and dedication. Yep, one sentence, that’s all you get, lowly employees — you union mongering ingrates.
I’m hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling for I believe telling those stories remains essential.
TRANSLATED: I couldn’t care less. If I really cared that the stories were essential, I would have kept the archives alive online. Who really cares about history or charity.
Chief Executive Officer
(and don’t you forget it)
+ + + + +
CARDINAL SUMMARY …
It’s one thing to fold a business that isn’t making enough money or can’t pay the bills … or to oppose a union. It’s quite another thing to be a total quitter and hurt innocent people in a manner that wasn’t necessary.
COMMENT ON MISFORTUNE …
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