“Deadspin is dead,” she wrote. “Long live Deadspin.”
A clash at the website this week over a corporate directive to “stick to sports” and the firing of the site’s interim editor in chief led to mass resignations Wednesday and Thursday, until not a single member of the editorial staff remained.
On Friday morning, Moskovitz logged on and penned some final farewells.
“I thought the website should go down swinging,” she said in a phone interview. “I know that people reached out to us and trusted us with their stories because of that attitude, so I thought it was important to show that until we couldn’t anymore.”
It’s the latest turn in the saga over Deadspin’s editorial independence from private equity owner Great Hill Partners, its chief executive Jim Spanfeller and editorial director Paul Maidment.
G/O Media purchased Deadspin and its sister sites, including Gizmodo, Jezebel and Kotaku, in April from Spanish-language media giant Univision. In August, Deadspin published a lengthy investigation on Spanfeller, who recommended an independent third-party editor vet the piece before publication.
Tension over that decision led to the departure of chief editor Megan Greenwell, a move staffers worried could mark a shift in the way corporate leaders oversaw the news product.
The “stick to sports” memo from Maidment, sent Monday, worsened the schism between Great Hill executives and Deadspin’s staff. The website’s union said in a statement that the directive “is and always has been a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power.' ”
On Tuesday, interim editor in chief Barry Petchesky was fired for violating that policy, and article comments were disabled after readers rose to his defense. By Friday, Moskovitz, who had given two weeks’ notice of her resignation earlier in October for unrelated reasons, was the only member of the staff who could still access Deadspin’s content management system.
“They resigned and we’re sorry that they couldn’t work within this incredibly broad coverage mandate,” a G/O Media spokesman said in a statement about the resignations. “We’re excited about Deadspin’s future and we’ll have some important updates in the coming days.”
But to Moskovitz, the old Deadspin still had a few articles left in it. She fired off a few more short posts for the site’s readers Friday morning.
“Sports blogs, ranked,” one headline read. The entire article: “1) Getting hit by a car 2) Deadspin.”
“Was Deadspin a good sports blog? A Very Short Debate,” read another headline. The article was a single word: “Yes.”
The publication date of another post, titled, “Transactions, Nov. 1," was changed late Friday night to Oct. 1. The article no longer appears on Deadspin’s homepage. Moskovitz wrote in a text message that she did not change the publication date and her access to the website had been revoked.
Friday afternoon, the site posted its first freelance article, a replacement for the daily content of the more than dozen editorial employees. Alan Goldsher, a freelance writer in Chicago, had followed the Deadspin labor dispute and contacted G/O Media on Wednesday in search of writing opportunities, he said in a phone interview.
He exchanged emails with a company official, then sent story pitches Thursday and a test article Friday. That story, “If only Kevin Durant had beaten the s--- out of Draymond Green,” published at 2 p.m. Almost immediately Goldsher was excoriated online as a “scab."
Not even an hour later, he said on Twitter that he would never work for G/O Media again.
“It wasn’t a crossing-the-theoretical-picket-line thing. I saw they need writers. I thought, ‘This looks fun; let’s give it a shot,’ ” he told The Washington Post. “ … When I reached out, I did not know — and color me naive — that there would be this much passion in support of the writers.”
I've listened to the room, and I'm out of Deadspin. I hear what you guys are saying, and I respect it. This clearly wasn't a good idea, and I appreciate that I was pointed in the right direction.— Alan Goldsher (@AlanGoldsher) November 1, 2019
As a freelance writer, he said, there isn’t much of a community of journalists to guide one another on which jobs to take and which to decline. It’s sometimes hard to feel solidarity with salaried reporters.
Goldsher said that when he backed away from G/O Media, he quickly started receiving messages of support. One Twitter user offered to send him money on Venmo. Another wrote back, “writing jobs are precious but souls are moreso.”
A G/O Media spokesman said company leaders “are actively looking for new staff” and that Deadspin would continue under the “stick to sports” mandate.
Posts with the byline “Deadspin Staff” continued to populate the website Friday afternoon. The site appears to be republishing stories, including one that former staffers say was published in 2017, to repopulate Deadspin’s homepage with what might look like fresh content.