UPDATE, 3:40 PM: One day after the troubled The Messenger suddenly shut down and fired all of its remaining staff, owner Jimmy Finkelstein is making more news — and the message is: get yourself a lawyer.
In a proposed class action suit, the former The Hill boss is accused of violating the WARN Act for canning 300 employees “effective immediately” with no notice, no severance and no healthcare.
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“Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of herself and other similarly situated former employees who worked for Defendant and were terminated without cause, as part of, or as the foreseeable result of, a mass layoffs or plant closings ordered by Defendant on January 3, 2024 and within 90 days of that date and who were not provided 60 days advance written notice of their terminations by Defendant as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) … and 90 days advance written notice, as required by the New York Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (NY WARN Act),” the filing in the Empire State says.
The legal action seeks class certification, unpaid wages and other fees.
PREVIOUSLY, JAN, 31 PM: Digital news site The Messenger is shutting down, less than a year after it launched with high ambitions of being an editorial force in the digital landscape.
Founder Jimmy Finkelstein said in a memo to staffers that “over the past few weeks, literally until earlier today, we exhausted every option available and have endeavored to raise sufficient capital to reach profitability. Unfortunately, we have been unable to do so, which is why we haven’t share the news with you until now. This is truly the last thing I wanted, and I am deeply sorry.”
He cited economic headwinds that “have left many media companies fighting for survival.”
“Unfortunately, as a new company, we encountered even more significant challenges than others and could not survive those headwinds.”
The shutdown was effective immediately. Journalists working at the site posted messages on X/Twitter that they had been laid off and a visit to the site’s url brought up only a white spash page with the words “The Messenger” floating in the middle and an info email address below that.
The startup launched last May, featuring an interview with former President Donald Trump. Some 175 journalists were hired, including many lured from other publications, and Finkelstein planned to have as many as 550 in the newsroom, according to Poynter.org. The site pitched itself as a general interest publication offering impartial and objective news, but it ran into the downturn in the ad business.
The New York Times, which broke the story on the demise of The Messenger, reported that the venture lost about $38 million after a $50 million funding round. The Times also reported that it was spending more than $8 million on expensive office space.
The Messenger is only the latest media outlet shut down or undergo severe layoffs amid upheaval in the news business. The Los Angeles Times last week laid off more than 20% of the staff, while The Washington Post underwent a round of buyouts that saw the departure of more than 200 in its newsroom. The tumult has extended beyond traditional media, as BuzzFeed News shut down last year and Vice dropped its regular newscast amid widespread layoffs.
Within hours of the announcement, all of the site’s content disappeared, while some former employees said that they were not given any warning, nor were they offered severance or health care. Some journalists said that they learned that the outlet was shutting down via the Times story.
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