UPDATE, with more staff exits: Deadspin employees revolted against a corporate “stick to sports” mandate made by its parent company G/O Media that led to the firing of interim editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky, with several staffers on the well-read sports blog taking to social media Wednesday to say they also have left the site.
Writers including Lauren Theisen, one of the staffers who said she has left the blog, tweeted Wednesday that Deadspin had disabled comments on its posts. Other staffers saying they had exited include Kelsey McKinney, Laura Wagner and Malik Beasley.
“Today, a number of our colleagues at Deadspin resigned from their positions,” said GMG Union, a WGA East local that reps the editorial staff. “From the outset, [G/O Media 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 it is not what editorial independence looks like.
“ ‘Stick to sports’ is and always has been a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power.’ In addition to being bad business, Spanfeller’s actions are morally reprehensible. The GMG Union stands with our current and former Deadspin colleagues and condemns Jim Spanfeller in the strongest possible terms.”
Petchesky’s termination Tuesday came a day after management handed down the mandate telling employees to stop writing stories that don’t involve sports. The edict was met with anger internally and by readers on social media, prompting staffers to fill Deadspin’s homepage with non-sports stories.
While Deadspin is a sports site, it’s also known for covering politics, media and culture, including President Donald Trump’s response to NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. A day before the new sports-only edict, the site covered Trump being booed during Game 5 of the World Series in Washington, D.C.
Deadspin’s slogan is “Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion.”
Paul Maidment, G/O Media editorial director, sent the memo to the staff Monday handing down the new rule.
“To create as much great sports journalism as we can requires a 100% focus of our resources on sports. And it will be the sole focus,” said the memo, leaked to the Daily Beast. “Deadspin will write only about sports and that which is relevant to sports in some way.”
Before his firing, Petchesky had been with the company for 10 years. His departure came after Deadspin’s previous editor-in-chief, Megan Greenwell, resigned in August.
Deadspin previously was run by Gizmodo Media Group, which was renamed G/O Media after private equity firm Great Hill Partners acquired its portfolio, including Jezebel and Gizmodo, from Univision-owned Fusion Media this year.
Splinter, one of the company’s other brands, shut down a few weeks ago. The left-leaning news site succeeded Gawker, which shuttered in 2016 after losing a lawsuit filed by former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan.