Writers resign from Deadspin en masse in wake of ‘stick to sports’ demand

Several staffers resigned from the irreverent website Deadspin Wednesday, leaving the site’s future uncertain.

Megan Greenwell resigned as editor of Deadspin in August. Two months later, a number of her former staff members are following in her wake instead of heeding to new ownership’s demand to “stick to sports.’’ –John Taggart For The Washington Post

Several staffers resigned from the irreverent website Deadspin Wednesday, leaving the site’s future uncertain a day after a top editor was fired for refusing to abide by a “stick to sports’’ mandate from its ownership.

Six writers, most of whom were prolific and well-known to the site’s significant readership, were among those who announced their resignations on Twitter. Among the departures were Albert Burneko, Chris Thompson, Patrick Redford, Kelsey McKinney, Lauren Thiesen, and Laura Wagner. Features editor Tom Ley also resigned.

And on Thursday morning, the exits continued, with Drew Magary and Dan McQuade announcing their departures on Twitter.

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In August, Wagner had written a thorough and scathing story on the site’s new ownership, G/O Media, which had purchased the site and several others in May.

The clash between Deadspin’s staff and ownership had come to a head Tuesday when interim editor Barry Petchesky tweeted that he had been fired for refusing to follow the corporate directive sent out in a memo Monday write about topics that had a direct connection to sports.

Deadspin and its affiliated sites are unionized. On Wednesday, GMG Union issued a statement after the exodus that read in part:

“Today, a number of our colleagues at Deadspin resigned from their positions. 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. This is not what journalism looks like, and this is not what editorial independence looks like.

“‘Stick to sports’ is and always been a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power.’ In addition to being bad business, Spanfeller’s actions are morally reprehensible.’’

A G/O spokesperson told the website the Daily Beast in the wake of the resignations: “They resigned and we’re sorry they couldn’t work within this incredibly broad coverage mandate. We’re excited about Deadspin’s future and we’ll have some important updates in the coming days.’’

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Deadspin is a sports-focused site, but one that has long delved into politics, pop culture, and pretty much any other topic that allowed its writers to strike the site’s familiar wry tone.

Deadspin staffers had been publicly critical of management for several months. Deadspin and others formerly under the Gawker Media umbrella (as well as separate sites such as The Onion and The AV Club) were purchased by Great Hill Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, earlier this year.

The transition was rocky from the start. In August, Deadspin editor Megan Greenwell, now at Wired, wrote a column upon her resignation saying that she had been repeatedly “undermined, lied to, and gaslit’’ in her job by the new management.

With a skeleton staff in place, Deadspin’s future becomes murkier by the day.