Billionaire Joe Ricketts decided to shut down DNAinfo and the Gothamist network of local news sites (including our local LAist) earlier this week in retaliation for the successful union drive by workers at those publications. This is a blatant and disgusting example of union busting, and a stark reminder that bosses will do whatever it takes to crush workers, independent of any regard for the social or economic value of their work.
The DSA-LA Labor Committee stands in solidarity with the writers at DNAinfo and Gothamist who had the courage to assert their right to form a union, and extend our thanks to those journalists who saw DSA’s continuing historic rise as the important story that it is, and covered the work of our chapter and our sister chapters nationwide accordingly. It is through their hard work that these sites were able to reach, in Ricketts’ own words, more than 9 million people per month. It was their hard work that led Ricketts to spend “low seven figures” on acquiring the sites in the first place.
Ricketts’ spiteful shuttering of the sites proves once again that nothing scares a capitalist more than the workers united. In Ricketts’ own words, “as long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business.” It’s clear the idea of workers having a say in what they produce was unfathomable to him. Beyond terminating more than 100 jobs, Ricketts also ordered that all site links redirect to a letter explaining his decision, temporarily rendering all of the staff’s previous work inaccessible. These actions appeared especially vindictive given that journalists rely heavily upon clips of published articles to find work. Though those stories have since been restored, this illustrates just how easily years of work can be erased by capitalist ire—even editorial control is a far cry from ownership of the means of production.
On the same day that Ricketts decided to burn down his network of local news publications, Teen Vogue shuttered its print media operation, leading to the loss of 80 jobs. Teen Vogue and its increasingly political content still lives online, but its wasting away is a symptom of the same disease that killed Gothamist and DNAInfo and which threatens journalism at large. A Fourth Estate funded and controlled by venture capitalists—overwhelmingly white and male, and rarely journalists themselves—is fundamentally compromised in its ability to hold accountable the institutions that uphold white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. More often than not, it also leads to a decline in quality—as in any industry, the workers themselves, not the bosses, best understand how to get the job done, and should not be bound to the narrow interests of the capitalist class.
The Los Angeles Times is currently in the midst of an organizing campaign to join the NewsGuild. The writers at the Times have our full support in their fight for democratic control over their workplace and the writing they produce. We hope that this bout of union busting does not deter them from fighting for a better quality of life, and that this craven attempt to stamp out worker power only validates the necessity to wrench control of the media from a select few. It is only through solidarity, united against the rich individuals and institutions that prefer to work in darkness, that we can fight to keep the light of truth alive.