Liberal News Site ThinkProgress Relaunched 3 Days After It Was Shut Down and Staff Laid Off

Union representing former employees condemns move and says it is exploring legal options


Three days after liberal news site ThinkProgress was shut down and the dozen remaining staff members laid off, the site’s parent organization announced Monday it is being relaunched with a focus on “analysis of the news, policy, and politics.”

In statements on Twitter and on the Think Progress website, Navin Nayak, executive director of the Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund, which oversees the site, said it will be “transitioning… back to its roots.” The new version of ThinkProgress, Nayak said, will offer “analysis on policy, politics, and the news,” “expert analysis and commentary from leaders across the progressive movement,” and “the stories of everyday people affected by the Trump administration’s policies.”

No timetable was given for when the transition will be completed, nor how it would be staffed. Nayak said CAP is “grateful to all the editors and journalists who poured their hearts into making ThinkProgress a resource for millions of Americans,” and that all prior work will remain archived on the site as new content is added. Nayak also said that despite the changes, ThinkProgress subscribers will continue to be billed unless they specifically request to cancel their membership in an email.

In a blistering statement Monday night, the ThinkProgress Union —  which is part of the Writers Guild of America, East — condemned the relaunch and said it is exploring legal options.

“We were blindsided by the revelation that CAP intends to continue operating the ThinkProgress site with its own labor, and use the ThinkProgress social media accounts to promote that work. Our editorially independent, unionized labor powered the impactful journalism at ThinkProgress. To take away our independent voice and use the wide audience built by the ThinkProgress union staff is an affront to the ThinkProgress mission,” the Union said.

The union said also it is “gravely concerned” that CAP will continue to bill ThinkProgress subscribers and added that “CAP has repeatedly said that the decision to shut down ThinkProgress was a financial one made in light of larger industry struggles. But ThinkProgress was not founded to be profitable. We now know this was never about money. This was always about power and control.”

The statement concluded, “We are exploring our legal options with our representatives at the Writers Guild of America East.”

On Friday, Nayak announced the end of ThinkProgress “as an independent enterprise focused on original reporting,” citing “the challenging trends in digital news media that have undermined so many iconic outlets,” which he said made it “unsustainable” for a nonprofit like CAP “to continue supplementing” it. And according to The Daily Beast, Think Progress was looking at a $3 million deficit in 2019, due in part to a shortfall in advertising.

However, many former Think Progress staff members accused CAP of lying about its reasons for shuttering the site, calling it a form of union busting intended to end editorial independence. Those criticisms only increased after the announcement Monday; ThinkProgress’ statement on Twitter was heavily ratio’d, with just 36 retweets, 93 likes, and more than 1,500 replies, the overwhelming number of them calling current ThinkProgress and CAP staff “scabs.”

The Center for American Progress did not immediately respond to a request for comment.