'Stick to Sports' Demand Backfires: Deadspin Newsroom in Open Revolt Against Private Equity Owners and Management

In the latest example of journalism’s clash with profit-driven mandates, reporters and editors for the popular sports and culture website Deadspin were in open revolt against the site’s private equity owners on Tuesday after being ordered to forego other topics and “stick to sports.”

The rebellion has already cost one staffer, deputy editor Barry Petchesky, his job. 

“Hi!” Petchesky tweeted. “I’ve just been fired from Deadspin for not sticking to sports.”

For much of Tuesday, the front page of the site was filled with non-sports-related stories that Deadspin has written over the years, a clear refutation of a memo that was reportedly circulated to staff on Monday by G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment.

Of the four new stories published on the homepage, only one, a David Roth piece on President Donald Trump being booed at a Washington Nationals game, was tangentially sports-related.

Tuesday’s front-page protest was apparently undone by management Tuesday afternoon. 

The so-called “stick to sports” memo was the second instance on Monday of management interfering in the site’s editorial direction. A story called “A Note to Our Readers” addressing the site’s new autoplay ads—which had spurred a flood of user complaints—was pulled from Deadspin and other G/O properties, a move that may violate the company’s agreement with the union—particularly section VIII, which  lays out the governance of editorial independence for the site’s editors and writers.

In an email, G/O Media spokesperson Jeffrey Schneider told Common Dreams that the union was not consulted because management believes removal of the post was “not a violation of the contract.”

“The post would not have been covered by the contract and the three editorial managers charged with making these decisions voted unanimously to remove it,” said Schneider.

Schneider clarified in a second email that, “A vote was taken—as stipulated in the contract—by the editorial director, general counsel, and CEO, to remove the post.”

An attempt to get Schneider on the record over the phone for further clarification failed when Common Dreams asked to record the discussion to ensure accuracy. 

The vote was taken by editorial director Maidment—whose position, Schneider claimed, is the same thing as executive editor—general counsel Kai Falkenberg, and CEO Jim Spanfeller. 

Deadspin staffers Common Dreams spoke to said they doubted the vote took place.

GMG Union, which represents staff at G/O Media, said in a tweet that they were taking action over Petchesky’s dismissal.