The first blog of the post-Deadspin era at Deadspin was published at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, a nondescript submission by a freelancer who then, in the course of an hour, went from being a “scab” to a newfound symbol of the resistance against G/O Media.
The post, which speculated about two NBA players beating each other up, was not assigned by G/O, did not undergo an editorial process with the writer, and went online largely untouched from the draft that was filed early Friday at around noon.
In a conversation with The Daily Beast, that freelancer, Alan Goldsher, a 53-year-old musician and writer living in Chicago, revealed those details and added that he has no idea how much he will even be paid for his efforts—G/O Media never proposed a fee, nor did he receive a contract.
Goldsher wasn’t certain the blog, titled “If Only Kevin Durant Had Beaten the Shit Out of Draymond Green,” would be published Friday at all prior to seeing it appear on Deadspin. Perhaps he should have. The site is now in desperate need of content after the entirety of their editorial staff resigned over the past week after G/O executives instituted a “stick to sports” edict for the website that also often—and successfully—covers politics and culture.
Within minutes of the blog’s posting, the online response was swift and brutal. Goldsher’s tweet announcing his article was thoroughly ratioed, racking up approximately 1,400 replies, many of which called him a “scab” and worse. And before an hour had passed, Goldsher deleted the tweet, apologized, and said he was done working with G/O Media.
“I’ve listened to the room, and I’m out of Deadspin,” Goldsher posted in a series of contrite and earnest tweets. “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.”
According to Goldsher, part of the reason for the vitriol—which was directed both at him and the content of his blog post—was because he was perceived as showing a lack of solidarity with Deadspin’s former staffers, or the “scab situation,” as he put it.
For the bulk of Goldsher’s professional career, he’d largely been siloed off in Chicago, he explained, writing books under his own name or ghostwriting for others. As such, he wasn’t aware of the deep-seated loyalty Deadspin in particular had built up with both its readers and other journalists.
“Former Deadspin writers should be thrilled that their community has their back,” he wrote in his apology tweets. “If I’d ever had that kind of support, I probably would’ve looked at the opportunity much differently.”
Goldsher explained to The Daily Beast that the idea of working for Deadspin came to him after learning of the mass resignations and the firing of the site’s acting editor-in-chief over his refusal to “stick to sports.” In retrospect, Goldsher said, he realized the decision to do so “makes me sound like kind of a dick.” Still, he was a fan of the site, describing it as “fun.”
So on Thursday at some point in the mid-morning—he can’t recall the exact time—Goldsher fired off an email to G/O Media pitching himself as a possible contributor, and he included samples of his previous work. Goldsher was away from his computer when he spoke with The Daily Beast and declined to share the emails he’d exchanged, but described the gist of his entreaty as: “I’m guessing you’re looking for writers.”
Shortly thereafter, he received a phone call from someone at G/O Media whom he describes as being in the “HR Department,” and then a follow-up email on Thursday evening requesting ideas for possible stories. (Goldsher declined to name who, specifically, he communicated with at G/O Media.)
And when G/O Media did not respond to his proposed articles, Goldsher decided to show some initiative, hoping to impress a possible employer. On Friday morning, he wrote up the story about Durant and Green and sent the draft to his points of contact, one of whom was an editor. (Goldsher declined to answer when asked if the editor he dealt with was G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment. While Maidment did not respond to a request for comment, a G/O Media spokesperson confirmed that he did edit and post the piece. The spokesperson also said that G/O was in the process of hiring new staff members.)
Within minutes, Goldsher received a short note from G/O Media to the effect of: “I can use this, thanks.” To the freelance writer, that was confirmation enough that the story would be published at some point, though he had no idea exactly when.
Neither Maidment nor anyone else at G/O Media said a word to Goldsher in the two hours that passed between his email and when blog post went live, he said. No edits or revisions were suggested, and G/O ultimately ran with the headline he’d concocted. By Goldsher’s estimation, the blog post was largely unchanged from the draft he’d submitted. “There were tweaks on it, but I don't know their process,” he said. “There was no process really, I just sent the article in and that was it.”
As for his compensation, while he did fill out and return the standard W-9 form required for freelance assignments, the subject of payment never came up. Overall, and perhaps oddly enough, Goldsher said he was pleased with his interactions with G/O Media.
"They’ve been nothing but nice. Please put that in there,” he asked. “They were very cool, very polite, very pleasant, very nice. They just wanted to get things going again.”
And while the experience of being swarmed by a social media mob was awful, Goldsher came away heartened. Following his public apology, strangers had suggested sending him money via Venmo. One even offered a job in the “financial sector,” he said. (He turned the offer down.)
“I guess there is a writers’ community, just not one I've been a part of… it was nothing short of amazing,” Goldsher said. “The big takeaway is: There are people who will have your back.”
Throwing up a relatively unchanged, anodyne blog post in order to avoid going completely dark marks the conclusion of a tumultuous week for G/O Media, to say the least.
As first reported by The Daily Beast, Maidment on Monday sent out an email mandating that all content would be limited to sports and sports-related subject matter. This came despite the fact that non-sports content has long been included in Deadspin’s editorial scope, and constitutes some of their most widely read articles. The insistence on sports-only content had previously played a significant role in the departure of editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell, who resigned in protest in August. As she told The Daily Beast at the time, she’d been “repeatedly lied to and gaslit” by G/O Media management.
To the surprise of no one, the staff refused to buckle. The following day, a slew of blog posts were published about non-sports subjects, including a scathing essay about President Trump by David J. Roth, the latter of which was filed under the tag “BIG WET PRESIDENT.” (Disclosure: this article’s author had three stories published by Deadspin over the last five years and is friends with a few current and former staffers.)
The crisis only continued to escalate from there. Barry Petchesky, the acting editor-in-chief, was summarily fired on Tuesday, with expletives thrown in his face by CEO Jim Spanfeller, according to The New York Times. And on Wednesday, Farmers Insurance Group pulled a million-dollar ad buy after it was reported that G/O Media had been trying to juice the total impressions by running auto-play videos. (Multiple G/O-owned websites, including Deadspin, had run a blog post encouraging readers dissatisfied with the ads to contact management. Those posts were then summarily deleted by G/O Media.)
The resignations began filtering out on social media over the past few days, leaving Deadspin effectively unmanned. In contrast, a post by former Gawker and Deadspin writer Emma Carmichael calling Spanfeller an “Herb” went viral.
And apparently, the need for new posts wasn’t sated by Goldsher’s contribution. Deadspin also posted a slightly reworked two-year-old story about the New York City Marathon late Friday afternoon with the timestamps adjusted to the present day.
A reader who clicked on the blog post wouldn’t discover that this didn’t represent new work until they’d reached the end and saw a brief editor’s note. Chris Thompson, a Deadspin staffer who resigned on Wednesday, alleged that this information was not originally included in the story.
But despite all that has transpired, Goldsher remains happy with his sole contribution to Deadspin.
”I think it's a fun piece,” he said. “I like it. It’s in the Deadspin tradition. It doesn’t suck!”