“We thank Paul for his hard work and wish him nothing but the very best,” G/O Media said in a statement. “We will be working with our [editors in chief] to expedite the search for a new editorial director.”
The Gizmodo Media Group Union said in a statement that it looks “forward to working with management to find a new editorial director who understands our brands and respects our editorial independence.”
Maidment joined G/O Media in June, shortly after Deadspin and its sister sites, including Gizmodo, Kotaku and Jezebel, were sold to private equity firm Great Hill Partners. Almost immediately, according to now former Deadspin staffers, he and chief executive Jim Spanfeller pushed the site to surrender parts of its editorial independence and distance itself from the iconoclastic, sometimes antagonistic brand of journalism for which it was known.
“I was in dozens of meetings with Paul Maidment and with Jim Spanfeller between the time they took over and the time I left,” Megan Greenwell, the site’s former top editor, said Monday on Slate’s “Hang Up and Listen” podcast. “I could just never get them to care. I would sit in rooms with them and present them vision memos I had written and spreadsheets showing the data and testaments from people who worked there and people who read the site and other media people.
“It was the most frustrating experience in my professional life because it was truly like talking to a brick wall. They just clearly had made up their minds and nothing I could say would make them care. And that was really what kind of killed me.”
That came to a head in August when Greenwell left Deadspin after a row with Maidment and Spanfeller over the independence of the site’s investigative report on Great Hill.
“I tried to use that to enact some protections from the editorial director, Paul Maidment, but I just couldn’t do it,” she said on the podcast. “I made the calculation that I couldn’t stay for my own integrity, but also because I was putting the site at risk. My thought was maybe they would have a chance of survival if they got rid of me, and then everything else went down this past week.”
Maidment sent an Oct. 28 staff memo instructing reporters that creating great sports journalism would be the site’s “sole focus” and that Deadspin would write only about sports “and that which is relevant to sports in some way.”
“Where such subjects touch on sports, they are fair game for Deadspin,” Maidment wrote in the memo, the text of which was obtained by The Washington Post after first being reported by the Daily Beast. “Where they do not, they are not. We have plenty of other sites that write about politics, pop culture, the arts and the rest, and they are the appropriate places for such work.”
That immediately drew the ire of the site’s employees and the GMG Union, which in a statement called Maidment’s directive “a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power.'”
Deadspin’s interim editor, Barry Petchesky, was fired the next day for not complying with the order after the Deadspin staff posted and promoted articles with very little connection to sports. The remainder of the site’s editorial staff, more than a dozen journalists, quit over the next three days.
“Paul Maidment, after multiple conversations where he intimated that we should stick to sports but would never outright say it — because I think he knew there would be a fight — finally sent out a big memo saying what had been said publicly all along: They had no interest in Deadspin doing the things that had made it Deadspin for the last 14 years,” Petchesky said on Slate’s podcast.
The website has existed in a zombie state since the mass resignations. Diana Moskovitz, a senior editor, published several short blog posts on Friday — “Deadspin is dead. Long live Deadspin,” she wrote in one — before her publishing credentials were revoked.
Freelance writer Alan Goldsher wrote an article Friday afternoon about Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, but vowed not to write for the site again after Twitter backlash from Deadspin supporters. Most subsequent articles have been briefs published anonymously under the byline, “Deadspin.”