Deadspin's new bosses want the website to stick to sports, which by very definition means presenting a wholly uncritical and incurious view of sports. The people of Deadspin would prefer not to do that for very good reasons -- the main one being that that type of content is a major traffic-driver there and pretty much everywhere else on the internet. These differences appear irreconcilable and the latest bit of drama is spilling out into public.
Max Tani reports for The Daily Beast that G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment wrote to Deadpsin's blog-makers, reminding them not touch on pesky real-world stuff when they could be writing about Philadelphia Eagles games or posting Web Gems or whatever.
“To create as much great sports journalism as we can requires a 100% focus of our resources of sports. And it will be the sole focus,” Maidment wrote. “Deadspin will 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. Where they do not, they are not,” Maidment added. “We have plenty of other sites that write about politics, pop culture, the arts, and the rest, and they’re the appropriate place for such work.”
Splitting this atom is not a challenge specific to Deadspin. ESPN is currently also trying to weigh its bottom-line concerns against the part of being a journalist that requires engaging with the inherently political act of drawing air, even if it's in a sporting arena. Any other outlet? Same thing.
It makes sense that the powers-that-be would prefer to have that element taken off the plate. The prudent suits figure out a way to co-exist with employees who are passionate and aggressive in tackling political and politically-adjacent issues head-on. The worst try to squash those endeavors with a heavy hand and laughable language.
From the very beginning, it's been clear those trying to sail the ship at Deadspin have had a fundamental misunderstanding of what kind of product they'd purchased. The friction with staff was predictable from thousands of miles away-- and yet here we are, with it playing out for all to see.
Deadspin editor Megan Greenwell quit back in August and roasted her bosses on the way out. In recent weeks the staff has been openly criticizing the proliferation of auto-play ads that have made the site a less user-friendly experience. Moments after the latest Daily Beast scoop dropped, Deadspin posted a blog titled "A Note to Our Readers" about those autoplay videos.
"Editorial staffers at all levels of this company have made our concerns known in various conversations with members of G/O Media’s senior leadership team. We think it would be good for them to hear from you as well, so we invite you to submit feedback about our site’s current user experience. This email address goes to G/O Media’s CEO, editorial director, as well as the editors-in-chief of Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, Lifehacker and The Root. Please keep your comments respectful."
Perhaps, against long odds, there will be some sort of detente. It just doesn't feel that way. Nothing that's happened since the acquisition has provided any hope that the two sides are going to see eye-to-eye soon.
UPDATE: G/O leadership has removed the staff post about autoplay videos: