North Texas Daily

The Deadspin situation isn’t the first of its kind and it definitely won’t be the last

The Deadspin situation isn’t the first of its kind and it definitely won’t be the last

The Deadspin situation isn’t the first of its kind and it definitely won’t be the last
December 05
11:34 2019

From late October to early November, the popular blog Deadspin experienced a staff-wide mutiny after months of anger over corporate mismanagement from owner G/O Media Inc.

These complaints ranged from intimidation of the staff from corporate installed seniors to forcing the writers to “stick to sports.” The site has not published any new pieces since the 4th of November, whilst former staff have since released a statement under GMG Union, condemning G/O CEO Jim Spanfeller, alleged writer of the “stick to sports” memo, for interfering in a website with loyal readership because he was “uncomfortable.” 

You have to make money, but narrowing the focus of a site that has a history of dedicating itself to multiple facets of entertainment and society seems counter-intuitive. Deadspin has always had a knack for going outside the world of sports, a fact noted in media critic Erik Wemple’s “Deadspin is ceasing to be Deadspin” article for The Washington Post.

Former deputy editor Barry Petchesky also made sure to note of the blurring line between sports in politics in his New York Times opinion piece, “I Was Fired From Deadspin for Refusing to ‘Stick to Sports.‘”

However, one very memorable moment in the world of politics and broadcasting came around the time Sinclair Broadcast Group was reported to have sent a mandatory script to nearly 200 stations that it owned at the time.  Deadspin sub-blog The Concourse then edited together a video of many journalists belonging to these organizations reading the same script promoting “journalistic responsibility,” further showing just how much control corporate can exercise in news agencies they hold sway over.

At the time of this writing, Sinclar now owns nearly 300 stations.

Another recent casualty of G/O Media was the website Splinter, which began in 2017. Known for a left-leaning opinion and analysis orientation, it was shut down in October this year, with news coming out that despite promises of being moved to different departments and sites, many were effectively laid off with editorial director Paul Maidment instructing G/O properties, Splinter staff included, to not report Splinter’s closure.

Another publication under G/O Media is video game news site Kotaku, which not only investigated and published allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at “League of Legends” developer Riot Games, but also put out Jason Scheier’s blistering expose on the nightmarish development cycle behind the critically disastrous 2019 EA Bioware video game “Anthem,” which revealed years of poor leadership and mistreatment of employees so extreme that many were diagnosed with PTSD. Kotaku may very well be apart of the gaming industry’s hype machine, but its knack for investigative journalism is vital to gaming at large.

It should also be noted that interference seems to already be brewing at Kotaku, with site The Daily Beast reporting that G/O CEO Jim Spanfeller suggested to editor-in-chief Totilo that reporters going to interviews with industry elite bring sales reps with them.

Totilo was able to halt the idea, thankfully, but that may not be the case in the future. With many corporations seeing fit to interfere in, cut down staff or outright gut papers, it’s not unlikely a similar situation to Deadspin may repeat itself at the gaming publication.

These situations aren’t relegated to big publications either. As noted above, the Sinclar Broadcasting group has nearly 300 local stations in its portfolio that it can control coverage from. Between reports on local crime and events, it can halt coverage on anything against its interest. This is not a healthy way to uphold the journalistic duties of the Fourth Estate.

In this day and age, when corporations often put profit above innovation and quality, hard-hitting journalism is needed more than ever. Big business has far too big a capacity to screw over hard-working journalists because they want every single cent they can from them.

In these times, support for digital-first and local news organizations is vital.

Without the support of readers, many of these groups are vulnerable to corporate cannibalism and interference. The only realistic result of this continuing to be the case is a gradual decline in quality reporting, especially in areas such as investigation, an incredibly necessary tool in exposing corruption and abuse.

If you want quality journalism, that sometimes means doing whatever you can to support it which can extend to sharing articles, donating money or giving in to paywalls and making sure they have good feedback.

At the end of the day, you can still speak truth to power, but the truth needs the backing of the readers and attentive public to stand firm.

Featured Illustration: Jae-Eun Suh

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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