November 3, 2017 Last Updated 9:27 am

Exiting Twitter employee pulls plug on Trump account; Ricketts hates unions so much he’ll close own business to avoid them

Morning Brief: Weeks after staff votes in a union, the new owner of DNAinfo and Gothamist websites shuts them down, claiming there is no business model today for ‘exceptional neighborhood storytelling’

This cant’t continue, at least one would assume so. A crazy person, who calls his opponents by juvenile names, lashes out on Twitter. At some point one would assume the account would be taken offline.

Well, that happened to the president last night,.. for about 11 minutes anyway. A Twitter employee, on their way out the door, took down Donald Trump’s account. When Twitter acknowledged the act of their ‘rogue’ employee, Twitter users had found a new hero.

BuzzFeed, Claudia Koerner and Charlie Warzel:

A Twitter Employee Shut Down Trump’s Account On Their Last Day Of Work

The suspension of Trump’s account suggests Twitter employees have access to the company’s most prominent accounts.

A former senior employee told BuzzFeed News that “a lot” of employees have the ability to suspend a user’s account and that fewer, in the hundreds, can deactivate one. The former employee described the system like a dashboard, meaning employees might not need engineering skills to suspend or deactivate an account.

“It’s one click if you have the rights to access the tool,” the person said. The source noted that Twitter was aware that its suspension permissions could be abused but did not change its protocol.

The Washington Post, Rachel Siegel, Hayley Tsukayama and J. Freedom du Lac:

Rogue Twitter employee on last day of job deactivated Trump’s personal account, company says

The deactivation Thursday sparked deep and troubling questions about who has access to the president’s personal account, @realDonaldTrump, and the power that access holds. The deactivation also came at a time when the social network is under scrutiny for the role it played in spreading Russian propaganda during the 2016 presidential election.



In March of this year, TNM reported on the acquisition of Gothamist and its network of five city sites by Joe Ricketts. Media properties are sold all the time, which is why TNM maintains a section for Media M&A. But the sale to Ricketts raised red flags and was a prominent part of TNM’s story on the acquisition.

But the real news may that DNAInfo’s owner is Joe Ricketts, and that has the sellers making some excuses. Ricketts, who besides being part of the Ricketts family that owns the Chicago Cubs, is also a big supporter of Donald Trump. A big supporter, to the tune of donating one million dollars kind of supporter.

So, when the staff of the local news outlets voted to strike it wasn’t really a shock, at least to me, that Ricketts would simply shut them down. And that is what he has done.

This is why freedom of the press cannot be guaranteed by relying on America’s new class of oligarchs. Yes, for every Ricketts there may be another oligarch investing in media purportedly to save it, but this is a business model that should not be tested too much (though what can be done about it is not known to me).

“Today, I’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist. Reaching this decision wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t one I made lightly,” Ricketts said in announcing the shuttering of the sites.

“But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure. 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,” Ricketts said.

“I’m hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling for I believe telling those stories remains essential.”

The New York Times, Andy Newman and John Leland:

DNAinfo and Gothamist Are Shut Down After Vote to Unionize

A week ago, reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading digital purveyors of local news, celebrated victory in their vote to join a union.

On Thursday, they lost their jobs, as Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade who owned the sites, shut them down.

The Washington Post, Erik Wemple:

Billionaire Joe Ricketts disappears local websites

The move immediately throws 115 people out of their jobs doing the grunt work of American democracy: That is, establishing the most immediate and consequential connection between residents and the Fourth Estate. To appreciate just how low-to-the-ground these sites scraped for news, it’s generally best to show samples of the stories they produced. That’s a bit difficult now, considering that the sites’ pages default to the Ricketts shut-down announcement. Just try it.

JoeRicketts.com:

Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create

It is the Free Enterprise system that has made this country an economically wealthy and powerful nation and I enjoy participating in it. And I like starting businesses that solve problems and create jobs. In fact, I love it.

When a business succeeds, it’s fantastic; fantastic for the people working in the business, and fantastic for consumers who benefit from a new product or service…

…I believe unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed. And that corrosive dynamic makes no sense in my mind where an entrepreneur is staking his capital on a business that is providing jobs and promoting innovation.

That’s why the type of company that interests me is one where ownership and the employees are truly in it together, without interference from a third-party union that has its own agenda and priorities. I’m not interested in any agenda at any company I start, other than working together to deliver something exceptional to consumers and doing it as everyone pulls shoulder-to-shoulder tackling whatever the marketplace throws at us.

Chicago Tribune: Billionaire CEO Joe Ricketts shuts down DNAinfo and Gothamist, including Chicago operations
RobertFeder.com: Union vote doomed money-losing DNAinfo

Note: I’m reading some pretty strange responses to this episode from journalists upset with the fact that their work is disappearing from the web due to the shuttering of the sites. I find this odd because this is something that often happens when a newspaper or magazine is shuttered (and doesn’t survive as a digital brand).

Maybe this is a good reminder to many that owners own. And that while journalists create the content, owners own the content (in most cases, obviously there are exceptions, and freelancers often retain some rights). We all give up a lot to be “employed”, the question is ‘are we working for a good employer, or a slime ball?’ I think in the case of Ricketts it is pretty obvious.



It used to be that for every magazine or news outlet that went under there would be another launched. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Journalists thrown out of work don’t always return to the industry, and publishers sometimes are forced to simply launch their own products… like TNM, for instance.

But publishing continues on, in one form or another.

Here is a new launch. Well, not exactly. But Paul Ryan magazine, though a one-off, should continue on, the man provides so much material, after all.

Paste magazine, Seth Simons:

Paul Ryan Is a Great Magazine about a Terrible Man

Here is one of the dumbest brilliant things you ever might see: Paul Ryan, a 192-page skewering of America’s biggest coward and tribute to just about every magazine in existence, from GQ to n+1. Created and edited by James Folta and Andrew Lipstein, the minds behind last year’s New Yorker parody Neu Jorker, Paul Ryan is a dense, gorgeous and increasingly rare thing—a big old slab of written humor you can completely lose yourself inside of…

…Paul Ryan’s delight is in its precision and idiosyncrasy, two things crucial to good comedy that are somehow missing from much of our contemporary political humor. Lipstein and Folta are well aware of the form’s pratfalls—the low hanging fruit, the easy tweets—and careful to avoid them in their own work, though that’s no easy feat. ”It’s so hard to find an absurd take on stuff that’s already so insane and surprising,” Folta said. “I think of it as manbun humor, where a manbun is a stand-in for a joke but I’m not clear what exactly is inherently funny about a manbun… It’s just this thing we’ve decided, that Trump having small hands will get clapter every time it’s brought up. But there’s not actually anything interesting or revealing or absurd about that.”

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