Gothamist Purges Stories About The Ricketts Family While Joe Ricketts Was Negotiating To Buy Site
from the nice-try dept
There has been a great deal of conversation recently about the news media and its ability to do both its job and rebuild trust amongst the public. Trust is the key word there, as that's really all a news organization has to sell its readers. If there is no trust, deserved or otherwise, then the news has no product to sell the public.
With that in mind, I can't even begin to imagine why several Gothamist websites began purging stories about the Ricketts family after, or just before, the Ricketts-owned DNAinfo organization acquired it.
DNAinfo, the local-news organization owned by right-wing billionaire Joe Ricketts, announced today that it has purchased Gothamist LLC, a network of web sites covering cities from New York to Los Angeles. (In advance of the acquisition, DNAinfo laid off a slew of experienced editors and reporters.) At some point either before or after the acquisition, Jezebel has learned, Gothamist deleted critical coverage of Ricketts from its New York and Chicago sites.
As the tally currently stands, at least five posts about the Ricketts' have disappeared from Gothamist sites, all of them fairly scathing about the family's political and business interests. Much of the early conversation centered on whether DNAinfo had demanded those posts be taken down after the acquisition, but the Jezebel post includes an update with a response from Gothamist co-founder Jake Dobkin.
Dobkin responded to a follow-up question from Jezebel about when they deleted the Ricketts posts: “Jen and I made the decision when our discussions with Mr. Ricketts were starting to get more serious; about a month ago.”
That indicates the site proactively purged the stories during the acquisition negotiations. Dobkin has previously commented on the reason for the takedowns.
“Just as Bloomberg doesn’t cover Bloomberg, we don’t plan to cover Joe Ricketts and so we decided to take down our coverage of him. No one asked us to do it,” Gothamist co-founder Jake Dobkin told Jezebel. “It was a decision made solely by Jen [Chung] and me.” (In fact, Bloomberg frequently covers Bloomberg.)
Put together, here's what we're left with: Gothamist proactively took down posts critical of the family that owns the company in discussions about acquiring it and attempted to explain it by stating something that isn't true. How is that not worse than if Joe Ricketts himself had demanded the takedown of the articles?
This all puts Gothamist readers in the unfortunate position of having a site they like show its business belly for money at the detriment of any trust it had built up with its readers. And that's dumb. Not just dumb for Gothamist, but you'd have to think that someone with the business acumen of Joe Ricketts would be furious that the property he's acquiring would make itself less valuable in this way. If Gothamist sites nakedly make editorial decisions based on business interests in this way, what good are they?
And, of course, the deleted articles are still available in the Internet Archive. Much of the coverage of this includes links to those archived stories. So Gothamist torpedoed its trust bank to accomplish little, if anything.