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Deadspin Situation Makes the Front Page of the Times

Illustration for article titled Deadspin Situation Makes the Front Page of the Times
SplinterRIP/MBCockMilton has a byline now.

Milty here. Scrolling the papers this morning and I see this in the NYTs

Stick to Sports? No Way. Deadspin Journalists Quit en Masse.

I’ll just copypasta the whole article.

On Monday, the journalists at the freewheeling website Deadspin were instructed by its owners to stick to sports. On Tuesday, the site’s interim editor in chief, Barry Petchesky, was fired for refusing to obey that order. On Wednesday many longtime staff members quit in protest, hurling Deadspin into chaos.


At least eight Deadspin journalists announced their resignations on Twitter, casting doubt on the future of one of the most popular digital properties owned by G/O Media six months after a private equity firm bought the company for an undisclosed price.

Laura Wagner, a reporter, was among the six staff writers — out of 10 — who quit. In August, Ms. Wagner wrote a deeply reported and highly critical story for Deadspin on G/O Media and its chief executive, Jim Spanfeller.

Joining her in saying that they had resigned were Tom Ley, the features editor, and the staff writers Albert Burneko, Kelsey McKinney, Patrick Redford, Chris Thompson and Lauren Theisen. (All but Ms. Theisen confirmed their resignations to The New York Times.)

“Firing Barry yesterday was a disgrace,” Mr. Ley said in a text message, “and the direction that management wants to take the site in is something I cannot get on board with.”


Deadspin started as a sports-centric site at Nick Denton’s Gawker Media in 2005. Its founding editor, Will Leitch, posted a tweet on Wednesday, when Deadspin became a trending topic on Twitter because of the sudden departures. “Deadspin Today, Deadspin Tomorrow, Deadspin Forever,” he wrote.

In an email, Mr. Leitch said, “To watch the way they punched and screamed and clawed on the way out the door is truly inspiring, and as true to the spirit of Deadspin as anything I could have ever imagined. They refused to give in to the bad guys. During a time when so many people have made a profession of that very thing, I find it downright heroic.”


The site relied on the work of energetic and irreverent journalists who did not always confine themselves to the game stories and sports-commentary pieces typical of the sports sections and publications that came before them. They favored a conversational voice that played well online at a time when other outlets still abided by the decorum associated with the printed page.

The decision to leave the publication could not have been easy. Jobs are hard to come by in an industry that has gone through hard times. Newspapers have struggled for more than a decade, especially in small towns and midsize cities, and the digital news operations that sprang up in their wake have also shown signs of distress.


“I no longer believe that this company supports its writers,” Ms. McKinney said in a text message. She pointed to G/O Media’s deletion of a post across its sites acknowledging reader complaints over auto-playing ads that management had insisted run on the sites.

On Tuesday, Diana Moskovitz, an investigative reporter, disclosed that she had given her two weeks’ notice the week before. “What happened today — and everything that preceded it — are among the reasons I decided to move on,” she said on Twitter.


G/O has maintained that it allows Deadspin to weigh in on matters that would seem to have little to do with sports — as long as there is a sports-related angle. After the exodus on Wednesday, the company said in a statement, “They resigned and we’re sorry that 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.”

Deadspin has been without a full-time top editor since August, when the editor in chief Megan Greenwell resigned, citing undue interference from management.


Among the site’s investigative coups was a 2013 report revealing that the feel-good story behind the Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o was based on a fabrication: His purported long-distance girlfriend who died in a car accident in fact did not exist — it was all a hoax.

Deadspin, as a part of Gawker Media, was sold to Univision in 2016 after Terry G. Bollea, the former professional wrestler known as Hulk Hogan, won a $140 million judgment against Gawker for an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit financially backed by the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel.

Univision sold the digital publications — which also included the lifestyle blog Jezebel, the gaming blog Kotaku and the gadget blog Gizmodo — to Great Hill Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, this year.


In a text message on Wednesday, Ms. Wagner, one of the writers who quit, said: “Deadspin was a good website.”

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