Deadspin’s new bosses have issued an order to the website: Do not cover anything other than sports.
In a Monday memo to staff, G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment told the employees of the site—which primarily covers sports, but also frequently writes about media, politics, and culture—to abstain from stories that do not have an explicit link to sports.
“To create as much great sports journalism as we can requires a 100% focus of our resources on sports. And it will be the sole focus,” Maidment said. “Deadspin will write only about sports and that which is relevant to sports in some way.”
The top editorial leader at G/O—the new company overseeing Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jezebel, Lifehacker, and a number of former Gawker Media sites—told employees that stories with tie-ins to sports were permitted to run on the site but that they should leave non-sports stories to the company’s other websites.
“Where such subjects touch on sports, they are fair game for Deadspin. Where they do not, they are not,” Maidment wrote. “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.”
Deadspin has often featured important politics and media articles, often in a subvertical titled The Concourse, and has poked fun at criticism of its decision to write about other non-sports topics, even selling “Stick to Sports” merchandise on its site.
But non-sports coverage has also often been a traffic-booster for the site. Sources have told The Daily Beast that, among other articles, writer David Roth’s political commentary often tops the site’s most-read articles, as has writer Drew Magary’s annual hater’s guide to the Williams-Sonoma holiday catalog.
The tug-of-war over Deadpin’s editorial mandate to stick to sports has been a long-running source of internal frustration and amusement for the site’s staff. Monday’s memo put the mandate in writing for all to see, however.
When former Deadspin editor in chief Megan Greenwell left the site in August, she claimed G/O management had mandated sports-only coverage, noting it was one reason she could not continue at the company. “That's not something I feel I can ethically do,” she said.
Monday’s memo is just the latest in a series of decisions that have caused friction between the websites and new management.
In recent days, many G/O employees have publicly and privately criticized a new seven-figure advertising deal that has clogged the websites with irritating auto-play videos. On Monday afternoon, Deadspin posted an article on its site noting that the G/O editorial staff was “upset with the current state of our site’s user experience” and “does not control the ad experience on the site.” And in a series of internal Slack messages provided to The Daily Beast, employees pointed out to Maidment and other executives that the new ads were alienating readers.
“This isn’t what any of us signed up for,” one staffer said. “It’s amateurish and pushing longtime readers away and making the sites difficult to enjoy.”
However, the post was removed later on Monday.