Joe Ricketts, owner of local news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist, was wrong to close down the companies just one week after the site’s New York office successfully joined a union. The billionaire claims that the move was purely financial since the companies had not been profitable, but Ricketts has openly expressed his dislike for unions in the past. This known opposition to unionizing coupled with the timing of the decision to shut down the companies make it hard to believe that it’s not in retaliation to the site joining a union.
As an owner of several businesses, it is completely within his rights to open, close, expand and downsize them at will. Furthermore, if those businesses are costing him money, the next logical step would be to shut it down and or sell it. By all accounts, financially, his decision was a smart one. However, a couple of things surrounding the timing of Ricketts’ decision to dismantle these publications and the entire network, make it clearly a spiteful move.
Ricketts made a statement about DNAinfo needing to be economically successful as a business. This is true. Businesses need to be successful. However, DNAinfo had been losing money for years and Ricketts would just float his own money towards the publication with no problem. If he believed in the company enough to pay for it himself, then why wouldn’t he at least try to sell the company if finances started to become a bigger problem for him. Why couldn’t he downsize? There are many measures he could have taken to bring in more revenue for the company, especially since he has so much money at his disposal to work with.
In addition to exploring more money-making options, he could have simply waited. He made the decision to close the companies so quickly, there was no way to see how the union would affect them. Many companies work well with unions. This was an opportunity to get on the same page as his employees and open the lines of communication. This could have affected the company in a positive way, making for happier employees who’ve gained a new enthusiasm about their jobs.
The main issue we all have with Ricketts’ decision to shut down these companies is the way in which he went about it. There was no warning, no conversation, no compensation for the workers who are now suddenly without a job. There were 115 jobs lost in total. That’s a lot of families without that stream of income. As a business owner with employees, there is a moral responsibility and obligation to those people to do what you can to keep them working, or at the very least, give them proper notice should their jobs become unnecessary. Now there are a significant number of journalists without work all because he wanted to get back at them for wanting to unionize.
The bottom line is Ricketts’ decision was unethical, immoral, and just in bad taste. It makes him look bad and if you are looking for work, you may want to stay far away from any of his companies. Hopefully, those journalists are able to find work quickly, before the strains of being unemployed affect them too badly.
This editorial was written by Rukiya Stewart based on the opinion of a Media Milwaukee editorial board.