April 14, 2017
After merger, the staffs of Gothamist and DNAinfo are seeking union protections
by Kait Howard
Last month, we noted that staffers at Gothamist seemed to be facing the same concerns about editorial independence that their counterparts at Gawker Media had dealt with as they adjusted to new ownership. As Jezebel’s Brendan O’Connor reported, shortly after being bought out by competing NYC news site DNAinfo, left-leaning Gothamist apparently deleted several posts critical of Joe Ricketts, the conservative billionaire owner of DNAinfo.
Now, Gothamist seems to be following the same steps as Gawker by moving to unionize its editors and reporters. The New York Times’ Eli Rosenberg reports that Gothamist has banded together with DNAinfo employees to seek basic employment and benefit protections, but also certain measures that would allow them to “have a voice” in editorial decisions.
According to Rosenberg, “an ‘overwhelming’ majority of the 26 members of the newsroom staffs of the two websites signed cards agreeing to be represented by the Writers Guild of America East,” the same guild that Gawker Media employees joined back in June 2015. Rosenberg writes that “the union push comes at a time of uncertainty caused by the purchase of Gothamist by DNAinfo last month and the layoffs at DNAinfo, which has cut about a quarter of its editorial staff since February.”
While a fear of layoffs was likely the main motivating factor, DNAinfo reporter Katie Honan also pointed to questions that have been raised about the merging of two sites that have quite distinct voices. “We both care about covering New York City and we do it differently, and that’s something we’re hoping to figure out going forward,” Honan told the Times. The removal of Gothamist posts critical of Ricketts—much like Univision’s removal of Gawker content—has lead to widespread speculation that Gothamist writers will be forced to muzzle their political perspectives under the new ownership.
On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted his support for the move to unionize, describing the reporting at both sites as “vital to NYC.”
The reporting @DNAinfo and @Gothamist provide is vital to NYC. I hope management will allow a vote for staff to decide on joining @WGAEast. https://t.co/9QY7Pu2vCU
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 12, 2017
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.