This afternoon, former Gothamist and DNAinfo workers who were fired last Thursday after voting to unionize by billionaire boss Joe Ricketts staged a rally in City Hall park.
“This was an attack on millions of people throughout the country who depended on our reporting,” said former DNAinfo reporter Ben Fractenberg. But, he added, “It is within our power to create local journalism and support it.”
Emma Whitford, a former Gothamist reporter, said: “Don’t be afraid to organize because of what happened to us.”
About 80 people gathered in the grey of a raw, rainy fall day. Besides the fired workers, members of other unions turned out in solidarity, including members of the Writers Guild of America, NewsGuild-CWA, 32BJ, DC37 and TWU.
On Thursday, Ricketts abruptly shut down both Gothamist and DNAinfo, laying off 115 journalists and support staff workers in eight cities and temporarily erasing each site’s archive.
A week earlier, journalists at both news websites voted to unionize.
WGA, East executive director Lowell Peterson detailed the effort.
“After the news broke Thursday, we immediately met with writers and editors,” Peterson told Gothamist In Exile. “We got a lot of union leaders here. The elected officials contacted us. We think it’s important. This is a union town.”
When asked what comes next for the fired workers, Peterson said,“Frankly, the main project is to get people back to work. If that means Joe [Ricketts] reopens that’s great. If that means he hands over the operation that’s great. If that means people are made whole for their losses that’s great too.”
A meeting is scheduled tomorrow between union representatives and lawyers for Ricketts.
DNAinfo reporter Gwynne Hogan was among those who attended the rally. When the news broke last Thursday, Hogan said, “It wasn’t a total surprise. We’ve been threatened with this, but we kind of always hoped it was a bluff.”
Then, in reference to the rally, Hogan added “I don’t think there’s any clear goal of what this was going to accomplish,” she said ruefully. “I don’t think any of these politicians are going to step up and write some kind of bill that would fund local journalism. I just don’t see that happening.
“I just hope that there is a way that somebody in multiple organizations can fill the void.”