Longtime Deadspin writer and editor Barry Petchesky, the website’s longest-serving employee, announced that he was fired by G/O Media on Tuesday for bucking the company’s new edict to stick to sports.
Petchesky is a Temple alum who has worked for Deadspin since 2009. He had recently taken over as the popular sports website’s interim editor-in-chief following Megan Greenwell’s departure, which was the result of public battles over content with CEO Jim Spanfeller.
“We believe that Deadspin reporters and editors should go after every conceivable story as long as it has something to do with sports," G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “We are sorry that some on the Deadspin staff don’t agree with that editorial direction, and refuse to work within that incredibly broad mandate.”
The GMG Union, which represents employees at Deadspin and other G/O Media websites, said the decision to fire Petchesky was made by Spanfeller.
Among those criticizing Spanfeller on social media Tuesday was Deadspin features writer Kelsey McKinney, who also lamented the sudden shuttering of politics website Splinter earlier this month.
Tension between employees and executives at the company were already high when Maidment sent out a memo Monday telling Deadspin staffers they were no longer permitted to write stories that didn’t 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 wrote in the memo, which was first obtained by the Daily Beast. “Deadspin will write only about sports and that which is relevant to sports in some way.”
The edict was challenged that same day, when a story written by “Deadspin Staff” criticized the company’s new autoplay video ads and directed readers to complain to management and other G/O Media editors-in-chief.
G/O Media responded by taking down the post, which Deadspin employees claim happened without warning. Petchesky was among those who criticized the move, noting the decision violated GMG Union’s collective bargaining agreement.
Tuesday morning, Deadspin employees responded by featuring old stories that had no direct link to sports on top of the website. Among the stories featured were Greenwell’s piece about why she decided to leave Deadspin and Drew Magary’s poignant story of spending two weeks in a coma following a devastating subdural hematoma. The stories still topped the website as of Tuesday afternoon.
Over the years, Deadspin has often featured stories about politics and the media, generally on The Concourse vertical. The site has also repeatedly mocked sports media companies like ESPN for “sticking to sports” and avoiding difficult political topics, especially following the election of President Donald Trump.
“Sports are a highly visible part of the world, and they are both underwritten and infiltrated by multiple political forces in that world,” Magary wrote in a July piece titled “You’re Not Sticking To Sports When You Stick To Sports.”