Deadspin is dead, for the time being.
As of Friday morning, all 20 of Deadspin’s previous editorial employees are no longer working for the company, a G/O Media rep confirmed. The spokesman added, “The company is recruiting new staff.”
The exits started after G/O Media fired interim editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky when he refused to follow the company’s mandate to stick to sports in Deadspin’s editorial coverage. That directive, from G/O editorial director Paul Maidment, appeared to be in response to a Deadspin article (which has since been deleted) complaining about autoplay video ads that the company was running on the site.
Managing editor Samer Kalaf, the last remaining senior edit staffer as of early yesterday, tweeted his resignation Thursday afternoon: “OFFICIAL STATEMENT: I have self-yeeted from Deadspin.” Word came Friday that staff writer Dave McKenna also had resigned.
Former Deadspin editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell wrote in a tweet Friday, “And with that, it’s over. Deadspin no longer employs a single writer or editor. I am gutted but so very proud of this group of people.” Greenwell exited Deadspin in August, which she previously said came “after months of being undermined by G/O Media management.”
In a statement earlier about the staff resignations, G/O Media had said, “We’re sorry that the staff that resigned couldn’t work within this incredibly broad coverage mandate.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders joined the discussion over the chaos at Deadspin, writing in an Oct. 31 tweet, “I stand with the former Deadspin workers who decided not to bow to the greed of private equity vultures like [G/O Media CEO] Jim Spanfeller. This is the kind of greed that is destroying journalism across the country, and together we are going to take them on.”
Deadspin was part of Univision’s sale in April of this year of Gizmodo Media Group to G/O Media, which is backed by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners and Spanfeller. Univision had acquired the assets of the former Gawker Media in a bankruptcy auction in 2016.
GMG Union, the WGA East-affiliated local that reps G/O Media edit staffers, on Wednesday called Spanfeller’s actions in the Deadspin situation not only “bad business” but “morally reprehensible.”
“From the outset, CEO Jim Spanfeller has worked to undermine a successful site by curtailing its most well-read coverage because it makes him personally uncomfortable,” the GMG union said. “‘Stick to sports’ is and always has been a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power.'”
G/O Media claimed that in September 2019, Deadspin’s non-sports content accounted for less than 1% of page views in trying to defend its edict to the edit team that they focus on sports. But employees disputed that claim, with Petchesky saying the company’s own internal analytics showed the site’s individual non-sports stories on average had twice as many as views as sports-related articles to date in 2019.
Among the final posts on Deadspin from the departing staff was a farewell message from senior editor Diana Moskovitz, who thanked freelancers, follow bloggers, sources and “most of all, thank you to our readers. You are the best readers. It was us — and you — that made this place special.”