UPDATED with further staff departures: Deadspin, the formerly Gawker-owned sports-website that has become a case study in the management of digital news assets, saw its news flow go dry for nearly 24 hours as writer Drew Magary joined a mass editorial exodus on Thursday.
By Friday morning, the entire staff was gone, and noted contributors like Dave McKenna had also cut ties with the site. Megan Greenwell, the former editor of Deadspin who left last summer after clashes with its owners, tweeted Friday morning: “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. Deadspin was a good website.”
Wednesday night’s World Series victory by the Washington Nationals, typically the kind of sports event that automatically gets the Deadspin treatment via multiple posts, drew no coverage until about 1PM ET on Thursday. A feature about a Jordanian soccer team was published Thursday morning, but appeared to have been in the hopper for some time.
Magary, perhaps the site’s best-known writer, announced his resignation Thursday morning. He joined a flock of at least a dozen staffers to exit in recent days. Almost all elected to quit over a management edict to “stick to sports.” Interim editor-in-chief Barry Pechetsky was fired for not adhering to that dictum. While Deadspin was founded in 2005 as a site focused on sports, it has branched out into several coverage areas, from the arch and the waggish to more serious political and social commentary.
Private equity firm Great Hill Partners bought the former Gawker portfolio from Univision in April, creating a new holding company called G/O Media. Other sites in the acquisition by G/O include Jalopnik and Jezebel. Splinter, a politics-oriented site, shut down a few weeks ago.
G/O did not immediately respond to Deadline’s request for comment, but in a statement relayed by media outlets including The Daily Beast, the company reaffirmed its strategic direction. Citing internal data on traffic generated for sports-related posts versus those perceived as having no sports tie, G/O said “it makes sense to focus attention and resources on even more sports coverage to serve our readers what they want.” (Several ex-Deadspinners have vigorously disputed this traffic analysis.)
Jim Spanfeller, CEO of G/O, and Paul Maidment, its editorial director, last teamed at Forbes. While they generated considerable traffic and revenue from their revamp of that storied media brand, they also colored a bit outside the editorial lines. Specifically, writers for the company’s network of freelance contributors occasionally drew fire for posting inaccurate or objectionable content without oversight.
In an echo of Gawker’s demise, which came via a legal showdown with Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel, the fate of Deadspin was greeted with lamentations and cries of defiance in many quarters. A cross-section of journalists, labor activists and others wary of corporate control of media have championed the cause of the Deadspin staffers who have left, filling Twitter with sympathetic commentary. A few others in the vocal minority, though, include longtime rivals in the sports arena like Barstool Sports and frequent targets like Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock, who have voiced far less sympathetic views.
Dave Portnoy, founder and president of Barstool, taunted Deadspin’s union on Twitter and also tweeted an overture to Spanfeller to “clean house and fix this for you.” Barstool, like Whitlock and a gallery of other figures in and out of the sports and media realms, has been a frequent target of Deadspin’s often uncompromising coverage.
Here are some Twitter posts from recent days: