NYC mayor tears into billionaire who shut down news sites

NYC mayor tears into billionaire who shut down news sites
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday blasted Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade, for abruptly shutting down two local news brands a day earlier.

"Joe Ricketts is a coward," de Blasio wrote on Twitter. "He wouldn't last a minute under the intrepid scrutiny of the reporters he employed. What a loss for our city."

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The broadside came a day after Ricketts announced that he had shut down DNAInfo and Gothamist, as well as newsrooms across the country in cities including New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

In a letter posted on the websites Thursday afternoon, Ricketts applauded the company's "tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people."

"But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure," he wrote. 

The shuttering of DNAInfo and Gothamist marked another blow to the already embattled local news industry, which has suffered in recent years as print advertising revenue has declined and digital advertising has failed to replace it.

DNAInfo was started in 2009 to fill a growing gap in local news coverage, Ricketts wrote, saying that he had hoped he could develop a workable business model for local news in a media environment increasingly dominated by the Web.

Ricketts's decision to close the company followed a vote among employees in New York last week to unionize. A spokeswoman for DNAInfo told The New York Times in a statement on Thursday that the decision to unionize was "simply another competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful.”

The move to shut the sites drew criticism from journalists and press organizations, including the New York Press Club, whose president called the decision "a gut punch for journalism in New York City."

"The journalists at DNAInfo and Gothamist told good stories. They told important stories," said Steve Scott, the New York Press Club president. "They won multiple New York Press Club awards for their work. Sadly, those stories may now go untold. Our city will be poorer for that." 

"The loss of good journalism is a loss for our democracy," he said.