WIUM Tristates Public Radio

News Site Shut Down after Union Vote

Nov 14, 2017

When reporters and editors at DNAinfo-Gothamist voted to join a union, owner Joe Ricketts shut down the operation, which had newsrooms in New York City and Chicago.  All of the organization's content was removed from the web initially, though it was later restored.

Shop Talk panelist Will Buss said profits matter -- and so does good journalism. He said Ricketts’ actions thwart quality journalism.  He finds the situation disconcerting.

Buss also said union busting tactics have not always worked out well in the news industry.  He cited the example of the Detroit newspaper strike of the 1990s, which lasted several years. 

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said other news organizations have also recently seen battles between management and unions.  She described Ricketts’ actions as a “toddler-like temper tantrum.” 

Crighton also said quality journalism costs money.  She said it’s tempting to seek easy profits through click bait and biased reporting rather than spending the money on good reporters who produce objective, meaningful stories.

Panelist Rich Egger said the operation was break-even at best so it wasn’t considered a money-maker for Ricketts, who had praised the quality of the content.  It seemed he was willing to run the news sites as a public service until the idea of unionizing came up.  Egger believes staff members were simply trying to ensure they were paid living wages in a field generally known for low salaries.

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.

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