Why Did Everyone Just Quit Deadspin?

by Stephanie Maida · October 31, 2019

    In media's current, volatile climate, it has become all too common to see swarms of staffers announcing their layoffs from publications whose voices, and followings, they helped build. Earlier this year, we saw it on a massive scale when titles including BuzzFeed, VICE, and HuffPost let go of more than 2,000 people in a two-week span. 

    This week, Twitter has once again been alight with editorial staffers declaring their departure from yet another popular website. But they weren't laid off. They quit.

    In a show of remarkable solidarity, several employees of Deadspin, the sports commentary site with the biting spirit of its OG parent website, Gawker, have rallied behind fired interim editor-in-chief, Barry Petchesky, who was reportedly punished for "not sticking to sports." The command, which GMG Union, which represents the Deadspin staff, called "a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power,’" had come from G/O Media's newly-seated CEO Jim Spanfeller, who took over the former Gizmodo Media Group back in April. 

    In August, Deadspin's Laura Wagner published an in-depth report on the inner-workings of G/O Media, including a list of grievances a large number of the staff had against Spanfeller, ranging from aggressive interactions and erratic assignments to overlooking women for top roles in the company and, a precursor to this week's massive walk-out, an increasingly stifling approach to editorial independence. 

    While Deadspin is known for its sports-related content, its writers have also always covered a range of topics that touched upon politics, culture, and media. Before Petchesky's termination on Tuesday, the editorial team was sent a memo instructing them that sports would be "the sole focus" of the site going forward, which many writers felt was an edict directly undermining everything Deadspin was about. 

    On Wednesday, following Petchesky's departure announcement, Tweets from his former colleagues started flooding the feed, each stating slightly different versions of the same thing: "I've resigned from Deadspin." A totally badass move on all their parts, but one that also illustrates the tensions between newsrooms and higher-ups across the industry.