Julia Wick ’07, the then-editor-in-chief of local news website LAist, was finishing her lunch when she noticed an email from billionaire Joe Ricketts in her inbox. Ricketts, the owner of news website Gothamist, LAist’s sister site, was writing to tell her that she—and all of her colleagues—had been fired.
At the same time, LAist staffers reloaded their website and found the same note.
“It was really a shock,” Wick said in an interview with NPR. “I walked back into the room and I just started to cry and told them I was so sorry that I didn’t have any more information. I felt so terrible that I hadn’t at least been able to sit them down and give these incredibly hardworking, dedicated journalists at least the courtesy of telling them nicely they had lost their jobs.”
A week before, writers at Gothamist and sister website DNAinfo voted to unionize. Ricketts’ letter was the response, claiming that the staff’s decision to unionize jeopardized the company’s finances.
“Businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” Ricketts’ letter said. “And while we made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded.”
Wick said she was ultimately concerned about the loss of a news source exclusively dedicated to local issues.
“Some of the work we did might have seemed small, but the ‘small’ local stories we covered would often end up being part of larger patterns and louder stories—stories that our coverage helped build, and flesh out with context and nuance,” Wick wrote after her firing.