G/O Media named the veteran editor and journalist, who formerly served as editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News, executive editor at Huffpost, and night sports editor at the New York Post, to the top editorial position to relaunch Deadspin. In the role, Rich will oversee all editorial operations for the site and will be based in Chicago.
G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller, with the backing of private-equity firm Great Hill Partners acquired Gizmodo Media Group (which included Deadspin) last year from Univision.
Rich’s hire comes a little more than three months after the entire editorial staff of Deadspin quit, triggered by G/O Media execs instructing the publication’s editors to limit their coverage to sports. That came in response to Deadspin stories that were critical of the parent company’s policies.
Earlier this month Spanfeller informed GMG Union, the WGA East-affiliated local that reps many G/O editorial employees, that he was cutting off negotiations with the union regarding Deadspin and that G/O Media would relocate the publication in Chicago, where G/O-owned The Onion is based. Deadspin’s new editorial team will be covered under the Onion Local (which also is affiliated with WGA East).
Rich addressed the controversies and explained why he took the gig in an interview with Variety. “Obviously, there are a lot of raw emotions around this site… which I think is incredibly unfortunate and tragic, really, in the grand scheme of the journalism landscape,” he said. When G/O reached out about Deadspin, “I had mixed emotions [about accepting the job] but I felt it was too good of a site to let it die completely.”
As for whether he will conform to G/O’s previous “stick to sports” mandate, Rich responded, “I don’t feel any constraints at this point when it comes to any editorial decision-making,” and said he would not have accepted the job if he had. “Everyone who knows me and has followed my career knows I’m not a ‘stick-to-sports’ guy.”
The company didn’t say when it expects Deadspin to relaunch under Rich’s leadership. He officially starts next Monday, Jan. 27.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do… Filling out the staff is the first priority,” Rich said. He said he’s eyeing potential staffers he plans to reach out to about joining Deadspin but declined to name them. Rich expects to assemble a team of about 20. While Rich himself will not be a member of the WGA East-affiliated Onion Union in Chicago, new Deadspin hires will be eligible to join. Rich added that he supports unions (“I grew up in a union household”) and is in favor of Deadspin staffers having union representation.
Regarding Deadspin’s editorial focus and voice, Rich said, the site has always been “unafraid about pursuing stories that other outlets shy away from, and we’ll continue to do that.” At the same time, he added, “There will be value to what I bring to this based on what I’ve done in my career.”
Most recently, Rich was editor-at-large at SWNS Media Group, the U.K.’s largest newswire, where he helped shape coverage and advised the company on how to expand its reach in U.S. newsrooms. As editor-in-chief of the Daily News, Rich was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize (in partnership with Pro Publica) for public service journalism in recognition of his work overseeing a year-long investigation into a series on abuses by the New York Police Dept. and NYC Law Department of nuisance abatement laws. During his tenure there as deputy managing editor for sports, Rich’s team won dozens of Associated Sports Editors Awards for its investigative and special projects work.
“Jim’s extensive experience as a reporter and editor will enable him to rebuild and lead Deadspin into the future,” Spanfeller said in a statement.