By Sports Editor Tom Griffin
Almost the entirety of sports media site Deadspin’s production staff, a team of approximately 20 in-office writers and editors, have quit their jobs en masse following the firing of the site’s interim editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky.
As the ex-editor-in-chief declared on his personal twitter account, Petchesky was let go for “not sticking to sports” as per management’s request.
Paul Maidment, the editorial director for Deadspin’s parent company G/O Media, noted in a company memo that the organization owned “plenty of other sites that write about politics, pop culture, the arts, and the rest,” requesting that Deadspin and its writers publish only sports-related articles to the site.
Petchesky’s firing comes as a result of not holding his writers accountable to this mandate, allowing the site’s publication to continue unchanged.
For context, Deadspin has a history of posts and articles that break standards of sports writing, using a humorous and often inflammatory site-wide tone to condescendingly address politics, social injustice, or just old-fashioned, ranking-based clickbait.
G/O Media, also owners of Gizmodo, Kotaku, The Onion, and formerly Gawker, saw Deadspin’s freeform methods and topics of journalism to be problematic to the site’s bottom line – the readership and retention of sports fans.
Deadspin’s writers, on the contrary, perceived the executive decision from G/O Media to be detrimental to what the site’s devout readership wanted. Noticing negative feedback to many newer changes of the site’s user experience, including auto-playing advertisements and using pop-ups to demand ratings from the users, Deadspin’s staff addressed the rising concerns and potential changes in a meeting with G/O Media.
The result? Stick to sports.
Former Deadspin editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell, who had held Petchesky’s position up until the G/O memo, reflected a willingness to cooperate with their media conglomerate executives.
“Media owners… are so exceedingly unwilling to reckon with the particulars of their own business,” Greenwell stated in her final article to the site, “that they refuse to accept our eagerness to help them make money.” The editor-in-chief would resign from her position later that day.
Publication continued for about a week on the site without any major changes occurring to its content. Continued aversion of new company policy eventually led to Petchesky’s forced departure.
On the day of Petchesky’s firing, almost the entirety of the site’s staff left a swan song of non-sports-related articles, filed wisely under “Stick to Sports.” In direct protest to the site’s new rules, writers and editors spent their day addressing their experiences with dogs, perceived wedding dress codes, and, in some cases, the very morality of controlling journalism in sticking to sports.
With their final messages sent, the collective of Deadspin employees quit their jobs and walked out. Senior editor Diana Moskovitz, who had sent in her two weeks’ notice following the memo, decided to respect the agreement in place and patiently wait out the last of her days as an employee.
The collapse of the site garnered mixed reactions across social media. Some stood with the newly jobless writers, pushing for political reform, prosecution of unlawful termination, and the protection of journalists’ right to publish. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders offered solidarity toward the no ex-Deadspin employees, applauding them for having “decided not to bow to the greed of private equity ventures.”
Many took the publication’s near demise as an opportunity to criticize the site’s operation, with many believing that sports journalism would be better off without interjecting inconsistent subject matter into the world of athletics. Dave Portnoy, owner and president of Barstool Sports and often outspoken critic of his rival site, mockingly offered Barry Petchesky a $100,000 salary in a “3-year deal to be [his] butler.”
In the meantime, the remaining server masters of the Deadspin site have been attempting to cover up the “Stick to Sports” protests from their front page. In most documented cases, they have been attributed to shuffling and reposting older articles, including a 2017 marathon article from Bill Bradley, who hadn’t written for Deadspin since February of 2018.