The pull quote for me was the one where the left-leaning original partners in the online journalism venture sold their business to a known right-wing anti-union Trump-buddy. That was a decision they made, presumably to “cash out” (a less euphemistic phrase might be “sell out”) and make lots of money. So, yes, Ricketts as described here sounds like a textbook greedhead with Archie Bunker overtones, but there’s another question that isn’t asked: why did the original partners choose to hand over their baby to the guy with the buzzsaw and the bad reputation? Wasn’t that, umm, also just a wee bit greedy of them?
First lesson for people trying to do independent journalism: don’t sell out. Just accept that you won’t get rich. Accept that you’re in it for other reasons (like a sentimental attachment to the truth, or liberal democracy, or some such quaint old-fashioned notion). Don’t abandon your staff, your readership, all the credibility you’ve built up, to the fat cat — just because he offers you beaucoup bodacious bucks. Because if you do hand over the feisty little independent newspaper to the mega-rich ultra-Tory, guess what? he’s going to shut’er down on one excuse or another. Don’t act surprised. It’s about as unpredictable as the ending of The Greatest Story Ever Told.
And for heaven’s sake, do remember that whoever owns the servers has the power to destroy the content. Archive your work. Archive the whole damn site. Backup early, backup often. And not in the cloud, either. If you haven’t archived your portfolio yet, do it now, especially if you hear rumours that a buyout may be in the works.
Honestly, the class awareness of some younger people today appears to be nil. There was a time when labour — and journalists — and academics — pretty much understood that the ultra wealthy were (on average) not our friends: that (on average) they were anti-union, anti-free-press, and anti-intellectual. So we exercised due caution, thought strategically, did not put our trust in princes, and didn’t believe for a minute that big money smells just the same as small money. Which is why, e.g. the Guardian is still an excellent independent newspaper.
The only way to stay independent is to, well, stay independent. Crowdfund. Subscription. Paywall. Endowment. Bequest. Grants. Whatever it takes. But when you sup with the capitalist devil, believe me kids, there is no spoon long enough. What the heck did they think would happen when they sold the plump little baa-lamb to the big bad wolf?