The clash between Deadspin.com staffers and management over an edict for the website to “stick to sports’’ came to a head Tuesday when its writers did everything but that and a longtime editor was fired.
Deadspin, ostensibly a sports-centric site but one that has long written with wit, edge, and humor about everything from pop culture to politics, had been ordered by parent company G/O Media in a memo Monday to stop writing about anything that did not have direct relation to sports.
The memo, published by the Daily Beast Monday, told Deadspin staffers that they should leave non-sports stories to the company’s other websites, which include Jezebel, Gizmodo, and Lifehacker.
“Where such subjects touch on sports, they are fair game for Deadspin. Where they do not, they are not,’’ wrote Paul Maidment, G/O Media’s editorial director. “We have plenty of other sites that write about politics, pop culture, the arts, and the rest, and they’re the appropriate place for such work.’’
The staff responded Tuesday by posting older stories atop the site that had little or nothing to do with sports, including one from former editor Megan Greenwell titled “The Adults In The Room’’ that eviscerated G/O Media. Newer stories posted throughout the afternoon included “It’s Absolutely Fine That Donald Trump Got Booed At The World Series’’ and “Three Good Dogs I Met.’’ Later Tuesday, the site was updated with several old sports stories, including one criticizing Browns coach Freddie Kitchens for his coaching job against the Patriots Sunday.
Those posts fit the type of quirky, wry stories Deadspin posts on a normal day. But it was clear the staffers were thumbing their noses at the edict if not pulling an outright revolt.
Just before 2 p.m., deputy editor Barry Petchesky, who replaced Greenwell when she departed in August and had written more than 20,000 posts for the site, announced on Twitter that he had been fired.
Hi! I’ve just been fired from Deadspin for not sticking to sports.— Barry Petchesky (@barry) October 29, 2019
That was not the lone dispute among management and staff, which is unionized. Management removed posts on the site telling readers how to complain to management about the auto-play videos that had become prominent on Deadspin in recent days.
Maidment, G/O Media’s editorial director, issued a statement to CNN saying, “Yesterday I sent a memo to Deadspin staff stating that our sports site should be focused on sports coverage. As I made clear in the note, sports touches on nearly every aspect of life — from politics to business to pop culture and more.
“We believe that Deadspin reporters and editors should go after every conceivable story, as long as it has something to do with sports. We are sorry that some on the Deadspin staff don’t agree with that editorial direction and refuse to work within that incredibly broad mandate.’’
Deadspin staffers have been publicly critical of management for several months. Deadspin and the aforementioned sites formerly under the Gawker Media umbrella (as well as separate sites such as The Onion) were purchased by Great Hill Partners, a private equity firm, earlier this year.
It was not a smooth transition. In August, Greenwell, now at Wired, wrote a column upon her resignation saying that she had been repeatedly “undermined, lied to, and gaslit’’ in her job.
Maidment responded at that time to Greenwell’s criticism with a statement saying, “We are laser focused on serving Deadspin readers sports and everything related to sports. Our former editor had a different vision and we wish her well in future endeavors.’’
Based on Tuesday’s showdown, Greenwell hardly stood alone in her feelings about G/O Media’s approach. The version of Deadspin that its staff wants to continue to produce varies drastically from what its new management wants. It’s hard to believe there won’t be more battles very soon in this public media war.