Wow, that was fast. Yesterday I wrote that Deadspin might be dead after one deputy editor was fired and eight other staffers resigned. Today, there’s no longer any doubt that the site is just a brand name without a workforce as the number of staffers who’ve resigned reached 20 Thursday:
By Thursday, almost the entire staff — nearly 20 writers and editors — had resigned…
The departures shocked fans of the site, which put a new spin on sports coverage for a generation of digital natives. But they were the result of a long buildup of resentment between the journalists and their new bosses, according to interviews with 13 current and former employees of Deadspin and G/O Media…
In digital media, Deadspin would be considered, from a business perspective, a modest success. In a good month, it had 20 million unique visitors, according to Mr. Ley.
Now Deadspin is down to few, if any, staff members. Mr. Maidment is running the site himself as G/O Media seeks a new top editor.
Those who resigned do not expect to benefit from the agreement on severance that was reached four years ago, when Gawker Media became a union company. G/O Media told them they would be paid through Friday.
Ouch! That’s a tough way to go out. I guess it makes a statement but statements don’t pay the rent. According to the now-former staff, only a tiny fraction of the material posted on the site would have violated the new “stick to sports” policy. Is it really worth losing your job to protect your ability to write stuff like “IMPORTANT: I Would Not Bone A Vampire.” Honestly, that’s kind of funny but maybe publish it somewhere else? Or just put it on Medium and tweet it out? There are other options that would allow you to still occasionally do something for fun without demanding that your employer pay you for doing it.
One of the arguments the writers apparently made was that the non-sports material often did better than the sports stories. If so, it’s the company’s loss for refusing to publish that material, but it’s their site so it is their call. If they want final say, the writers who quit could always form a new company, call it Headspin, where they can do whatever they want all the time. They’ve got nothing to lose at this point.
Finally, this makes two G/O Media properties that have gone away in the span of a month (though I assume the owners will try to revive Deadspin with new employees). Splinter was shut down in early October because it wasn’t bringing in enough revenue:
In an internal memo sent Tuesday to staff, Paul Maidment, the editorial director of Splinter’s parent company, G/O Media, praised the site’s journalism but said the publication struggled to gain large numbers of readers.
Maidment claimed there would be “no reduction of G/O Media’s editorial workforce as a result of this decision,” and Splinter’s headcount would be “reallocated” across other sites at G/O, the network of former Gizmodo Media Group sites including Deadspin, Jezebel, Gizmodo, and Jalopnik, among others.
Splinter was new. It was created in 2017 so it wasn’t around when Gawker was sued out of existence. But still, there seemed to be some writing on the wall which might help to explain why G/O Media had resorted to annoying auto-play ads with sound at the other sites. Those ads were criticized by staff at Deadspin, Kotaku (a left-leaning video game site), and Jezebel (a feminist site), who encouraged readers to complain to management. Management removed the posts about the ads which further fanned the discontent at Deadspin.
So the question now is which former Gawker site is the next to implode. No doubt the staffers at Kotaku and Jezebel are also annoyed with what is happening. And it seems likely that similar editorial restrictions will be imposed on those sites as well, i.e. stick to video games or stick to whatever it is feminists do.
Will there be another revolt? Will former writers peer-pressure current ones into quitting as well or is this the end of the clash with management? I suspect it depends in part on how quickly G/O Media can restaff Deadspin. If they do it relatively quickly, the writers at the other sites may look at that and decide that a) they are replaceable and b) the mass resignation had a brief and limited impact. If on the other hand Deadspin actually dies or can’t be put back together, that would put the writers at the remaining sites in a stronger position and perhaps encourage a little more pushback toward management. Presumably, G/O Media doesn’t want to see all of their brands implode.
So far I’ve seen some pure speculation on YouTube that Kotaku could be the next to erupt, but I haven’t heard of any resignations there so far.