I’ve been faithful to Deadspin for well over a decade with a religious devotion unbecoming of a blogger for an atheist network. Perhaps it’s best known around these parts for roasting the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Though nominally a sports blog, they covered many, many other things, something which their vulture capitalist overlords apparently didn’t like – not because of profits (by all accounts it was profitable), but because they disliked their politics.
Last week, the staff were told to “stick to sports,” which eventually led to most, if not all of the staff quitting. The saga largely began when Gawker, of whose blog network Deadspin was a part of, was destroyed by Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel. The remaining websites were purchased by Univison, who had no idea what to do with them, and promptly sold to private equity ghouls, Great Hill Media (which rebranded as G/O Media), who are in the process of actively ruining them. This fits into a larger pattern in which terrible people purchase media entities, terrorize and fire staff, make changes everyone hates, and, I guess, make a shit ton of money selling it off – basically catabolic capitalism applied to media
The bloodletting began a few weeks ago when G/O abruptly shuttered Splinter, which was the political descendant of Gawker proper. Splinter, while perhaps less entertaining, took the remnants of Gawker much further to the left – much to the consternation, hilariously, of a large portion of its centrist readers. It was one of the few mainstream-ish websites I trusted for national news. The final post on the website, ironically a non-sports blog from Deadspin, is titled Meatball President Criticizes NBA Coaches For Weak Statements On China, Instead Of Answering Direct Question About China (this amuses me).
For Deadspin, stormclouds have been gathering for some time, but the forcing out of editor Megan Greenwell truly signaled the beginning of the end. On her way out she righteously crucified those that made her tenure suck:
The richest men in digital media sometimes show they are not the adults in the room in the pettiest ways. The beginning of the end of my time here came when [Jim] Spanfeller, my boss’s boss, threw a tantrum in an email to the entire company over a story our staff was reporting on his hiring practices, management style, and threats to editorial independence. He accused us of biased journalism based on the fact that we had sent an early draft to our media lawyer, which is standard journalistic practice. He accused me and a 26-year-old reporter who works for me—a wildly talented reporter who has as much integrity as anyone I’ve ever worked with—of trying to “shame and discredit others in our community” by reporting a story. When another colleague suggested in an all-staff meeting that his email was itself an attempt to publicly shame and discredit his employees, he doubled down, saying he is a transparent guy who says what he thinks. The story—which was damning only in that it was a true recitation of facts—was published anyway, not because our bosses “allowed” it to be, but because Gawker Media journalists are not and will never be intimidated by bullying.
Lauren Wagner, an utterly fearless badass, provided the insight into the inner workings of G/O, which precipitated Greenwell’s departure:
In conversations with Deadspin, more than 20 employees from across the business, tech, and editorial departments of G/O Media expressed frustration with [Jim] Spanfeller’s approach to hiring and his new executives’ lack of knowledge about the company combined with their seeming unwillingness or inability to get up to speed. The employees, nearly all of whom requested anonymity because of fears of retaliation from company management, are angered by a lack of communication regarding company goals, seeming disregard for promoting diversity within the top ranks of the company, and by repeated and egregious interference with editorial procedures.
These conversations reveal that Spanfeller’s biggest effect on the company since taking over has been a deflation of morale. Several high-ranking employees have left the company over the past three months, departments have been stretched thin, and those who remain say that Spanfeller’s micromanaging and inappropriate interference has hamstrung their ability to effectively do their jobs.
This is an example of the sort of journalism they did so well. Unlike other sport media entities, they constantly delved deep into the intersections of economics, sports, and politics. And, as you can see from the quotes above, they never hesitated to place superiors in their cross-hairs. They remained inveterate shit-talkers to the very end.
Deadspin existed as a leftist counterweight to trash like Barstool, a sports-related haven for MAGA dipshits. They never “stuck to sports,” rightly realizing that sports are inextricably intertwined within the socioeconomic conditions in which they exist. They did their jobs with humor, courage, joy, irreverence, tenacity and humility (though, as they readily admit, they were certainly not without their faults over 14 years). They almost always pissed off the right people, and you will find the very worst of them gloating over their still-warm corpse.
Anyways, it’s dead now. Well, not technically dead; Deadspin will still exist in a weird, zombie-like form. The owners of the website are already crowing about how awesome their rebooted product will be. Given what they’ve done with a beloved, profitable, unique internet space, there is no reason to think it will be anything but putrid. What is possibly in store is summed up by Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate:
Trustworthy brand-name publications are being hollowed out and refilled with unpaid “community” contributors or low-paid, less experienced professionals who don’t have the stature to challenge editorial imperatives or productivity quotas that generate useless, often-inaccurate content. This kind of zombification is happening right now to Sports Illustrated and has already happened to Newsweek; it’s even happened to parts of BuzzFeed, which didn’t even exist until this century.
Long live Deadspin.
@realDonaldTrump Go fuck yourself.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) January 17, 2013