The Internet has ravaged newspapers and magazines. The new age is also perilous for digital news sites.
Cheeky sports site Deadspin looks all but dead after a staff revolt against its corporate overlords.
Deadspin's staff resigned this week after a demand from its private equity owners that the site limit its coverage to sports. The site drew a hip audience with articles that branched out from sports to politics and popular culture. Writers were given wide latitude to give personal views and throw bricks at revered sports figures and institutions.
As with ESPN, Deadspin owner Great Hill Partners grew uneasy with its staff's left-leaning political coverage. Great Hill gained control of Deadspin and sibling Jezebel from Univision and formed G/O Media to run the sites. Deadspin and Jezebel were originally part of Gawker, which collapsed after wrestler Hulk Hogan won a $140 million judgment against it.
G/O Media Editorial Director Paul Maidiment's meddling with Deadspin's articles led to the resignation of Editor Megan Greenwall a few months ago. This week, interim Editor Barry Petchesky was tossed out after opposing Maidment's demands that the site limit itself to sports. The staff resigned in support of Petchesky. The writers also objected to pop-up video ads that disrupted readers. An outpouring of outrage from Deadspin fans followed the turmoil.
Deadspin's self-immolation follows massive staff cutbacks at Sports Illustrated, engineered by another private equity firm. SI soldiers on, scoring a First Amendment victory over the Houston Astros during the World Series when an Astros executive was fired for making misogynistic comments to a female SI reporter.
With Deadspin reeling, sports fans have fewer digital choices. The site's demise is another blow to free, reliable information on the Internet.
Along with ESPN, newspaper sites and the diminished SI, those hungry for comprehensive sports news on the Internet can turn to the self-congratulatory and subscription-based the Athletic, funded by venture capitalists. With a roster of mainstream sportswriters pirated from local newspapers, The Athletic labors to match Deadspin's snarkiness and unconventional views.
Private equity firms have plundered local newspapers as well as digital sites. The old press barons were greedy, but had some commitment to journalism.