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Media is undergoing a very rough evolution, there’s no doubt about that. Traditional ones are struggling to pay the bills with their current setup, so they’re moving to behind a paywall while continuing to show ads, which of course only further hurts viewership and makes it decline faster.
This evolution doesn’t only apply to press that has branched out online, as was recently proven by the death spiral of Deadspin. Deadspin was part of the former Gawker Media, which was purchased by Univision in bankruptcy auction in 2016. Deadspin, Gizmodo, Kotaku and Jezebel were rebranded as the Gizmodo Media Group, which added sites like The Onion and eventually was sold off to the private equity firm Great Hill Partners in early 2019 and rebranded as G/O Media. G/O Media is now led by former Forbes boss Jim Spanfeller, which isn’t a particular favorite of his staff.
At the end of October, Editor Barry Petchesky was fired from Deadspin “for not sticking to sports.” The Deadspin site is intended to be a sports news website but writers were increasingly refusing to write about sports and instead wanted to write about political and social issues.
The editorial team also opposed the new autoplay ads being displayed on the site and published a post objecting to it, which was quickly taken down by the bosses. These two events started an uproar within Deadspin causing multiple staffers to simultaneously resign and publicly announce it on Twitter.
A little over two months later, there have been no stories published on Deadspin since November 4th, which suggests that the entire staff had walked away. On January 10th, Spanfeller sent a letter to Deadspin’s union, saying that he intends to relaunch the site under the Onion’s corporate structure in Chicago. The letter was posted on Twitter by WSJ reporter Ben Mullin.
The letter includes several examples of what he feels is unions going too far, such as having veto power to fire superiors and having job applicants and freelance writers get harassed online into quitting, which, along with striking, he argued are against their bargaining agreement.
“As I’m sure you know, over the past few months our efforts to operate and then restart Deadspin have been severely hampered by Union-represented employees’ concerted, divisive actions and their continued objections to our managerial decisions,” Spanfeller wrote.
“While we strongly disagree with the positions taken and the views asserted by the Union and its members on this issue, we have become even more concerned by the damaging impact these actions have had on those who want to work for Deadspin and our current editorial management who now refuse to partake in the recruitment process.”
He did however state that the staffers who left are able to return to their former positions: “The offer to prior Deadspin employees to return to their former positions remains open at this time.”