Sports journalist Hannah Robbins discusses the final days of Deadspin and the new management that led to the staff’s mass exodus
After 14 years, Deadspin, a sports media website that also focused on commentary, is dead. Every single reporter and writer for the company quit, one after another, culminating with Dave McKenna, the last writer, who named himself as “editor-in-chief” before he too left the company on Nov. 1.
How did Deadspin come to this mass exodus of its staff? It started with new management in April, according to writer Laura Wagner in an article on Deadspin titled “This Is How Things Work Now at G/O Media.” After Deadspin switched hands from Gawker Media to G/O Media, the new CEO Jim Spanfeller failed to mesh with the current employees. First, he overlooked high-ranking females for executive positions, instead hiring colleagues from past places he’d worked. This continued, and led to a team that was once diverse becoming significantly more white and male, with the only additional women hired at a top ranking-positions coming from the one position that was actually released for open applications: deputy counsel, and one additional position: head of talent.
However, that alone was not what caused Deadspin to die. It was instead a difference in vision. You see, Spanfeller and his new c-suite wanted the staff at Deadspin to write about one thing and one thing only: sports. This is despite the fact that Deadspin’s non-sports section, The Concourse, brought in readers at more than double the pace.
So naturally, the staff at Deadspin fought back, purposefully making the homepage entirely sports free coverage. Needless to say, management wasn’t happy, and an editor was fired on Oct. 29 for covering other news. The next day, staff started leaving in droves. Deadspin was not a place anyone wanted to work if half the content that the site is known for is not allowed by management. And suddenly there was no staff.
The censorship by management led them all to quit. New management saw Deadspin only as a way to turn a profit and decided to “stick to sports.” But it was not management’s decision to make: the editorial staff was in charge of the direction of the website. However, that did not stop them, and this overreaching ended the website.
Censorship in media limits the truth that is told. By trying to omit any article that is not specifically focused on sports is frankly ridiculous, especially when some journalists in Deadspin write very little sports-centric content. And firing an employee for keeping journalistic integrity is the reason that the website is no longer with us.
So here’s to Deadspin. Whether you liked them or hated them, they had hot takes and coverage. Whether you were looking for commentary on the political climate or to learn about the Lakers game, they were one stop, and they had something for everyone. To leave rather than be pushed into a narrow box that is not representative in their editorial vision is admirable, and their 14 years was not for nothing. Thank you Deadspin, and may all the writers find employment in jobs that allow them to cover sports and whatever else they want.