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Deadspin Editor Fired After Ignoring “Stick to Sports” Order

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  • Deadspin’s Interim Editor-in-Chief Barry Petchesky was fired after he disobeyed an order from the executive director of the site’s parent company, G/O Media.
  • Though the site has often been known to post non-sports related stories, the order instructed Deadspin to only post sports-related content moving forward.
  • At the same time, employees are embroiled in another dispute with G/O Media after it implemented a new auto-play ad feature on the site.

Editor-in-Chief Doesn’t “Stick to Sports”

Deadspin’s Interim Editor-in-Chief Barry Petchesky announced he had been fired Tuesday morning after disobeying an executive who ordered the site to only publish sports-related stories.

Deadspin, an online sports news website owned by G/O Media, has been known to occasionally break away from sports on its site, so much so that it’s become a running joke, even receiving its own category on the home page and merchandise with the label “Stick to Sports.”

Monday, however, G/O Media’s recently-appointed editorial director Paul Maidment ordered employees to refrain from writing non-sports related stories in the future. 

“To create as much great sports journalism as we can requires a 100% focus of our resources on sports,” Maidment said in a statement to employees. “And it will be the sole focus. Deadspin will write only about sports and that which is relevant to sports in some way.”

“Where such subjects touch on sports, they are fair game for Deadspin,” the statement continues. “Where they do not, they are not. 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.”

Instead of “sticking to sports,” however, Petchesky did the exact opposite by converting the website’s front page into a collection of non-sports related stories. Staff then tagged those stories with the label “Stick to Sports.”

Deadspin became part of G/O Media in April after being bought by the private equity firm Great Hill Partners. Before the acquisition, the site was part of the Gizmodo Media Group owned by Univision. In the deal, G/O Media also acquired sites like Gizmodo, The Onion, Kotaku, and Jezebel.

The Concourse,” Deadspin’s non-sports category, features everything from political commentary to an annual “Hater’s Guides to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog.” The site has also dipped into video game news, one 2014 article receiving high praise for its deep dive into sexism and harassment in the gamer community.

In fact, according to former editor Timothy Burke, those stories were some of the site’s most-viewed, despite the fact that The New York Times reports the section only made up about one of every 50 posts.

Fallout After Petchesky’s Firing

About thirty minutes after Petcheksy’s firing, the Gizmodo Media Group Union confirmed the termination, adding, “This will not stand.”

The following day, the site’s founder, Will Leitch, addressed Petchesky’s ousting.

“There is also no more Deadspin person than Barry,” Leitch said. “He has been with the site its entire history. He covered the Westminster Dog Show for Deadspin in 2007 WHILE A JOURNALISM STUDENT.”

By Tuesday evening, the site’s main page reverted back to sports stories, though as of Wednesday afternoon, several non-sports stories still remain on the home page, as well. Following the change, GMG Union tweeted again, saying Deadspin staffers did not play any role in the new changes to the front page.

The New York Times then reported that two sources with “full knowledge of the situation” said Maidment was in direct control of Deadspin on Tuesday.

The same day, senior Editor Diana Moskovitz announced that she had given her two-weeks notice the week prior.

“What happened today — and everything that preceded it — are among the reasons I decided to move on,” she said.

The situation follows Deadspin’s former Editor-in-Chief Megan Greenwell leaving the site in August after disagreeing with several top executives, including Maidment.

In response to revolt, Maidment issued another statement.

“I sent a memo to Deadspin staff stating that our sports site should be focused on sports coverage,” he said. “As I made clear in that note, sports touches on nearly every aspect of life — from politics to business to pop culture and more.”

We believe that Deadspin reporters and editors should go after every conceivable story, as long as it has something to do with sports,” he continued. “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.”

Leitch then accused G/O Media executives of potentially attempting to ruin to the website.

“The only way you could buy Deadspin and say, ‘Here are some edicts and now everyone follow them,’ is if you never read Deadspin in the last 10 years,” he said. It feels like they are either trying to kill the site and squeeze whatever money they can out of it or get rid of the entire staff. Or both because there’s no sense they have any plan.”

The Intersection of Sports and Politics

The situation with Deadspin and G/O Media has breached another debate: how sports news outlets cover other topics like politics, especially as the two become increasingly related.

According to Maidment, the staff at Deadspin has full range to talk about sports-related issues like the NCAA saying it will allow student-athletes to profit from their names, images, and likenesses or about the debate around the NBA, China, and Hong Kong

But there’s also been some concern that the site’s freedom to publish such stories may be stripped away in the future.

“If [the] past year has shown anything, it’s that when a company says ‘stick to sports, except when there’s a connection to politics,’ what they mean is ‘stick to sports,’”  Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay said. “It’s meant to have a chilling effect. This is like buying a hat and wearing it as a shoe.”

Auto-Play Ad Complaints

Deadspin employees and employees from the other sites have also expressed discontent with another decision by G/O Media. Last week, G/O Media landed a seven-figure advertising deal, but employees were reportedly not happy with the move because that deal includes sound-on, auto-play video ads.

Employees claimed to the sites had all received a ton of negative feedback from their readers, which is why, on Monday, they directly addressed these concerns to their audiences.

In a series of identical articles, they said that they were “as upset with the current state of our site’s user experience as you are.” The posts then went on to say that none of the individual sites had any control over those ads.

Source: Deadspin

“Editorial staffers at all levels of this company have made our concerns known in various conversations with members of G/O Media’s senior leadership team,” the article concluded. “We think it would be good for them to hear from you, as well.”

“This isn’t what any of us signed up for,” The Daily Beast quoted one staffer as saying. “It’s amateurish and pushing longtime readers away and making the sites difficult to enjoy.”

Those posts were then deleted shortly after they went up. 

“The GMG Union has been informed that posts across our websites asking for reader feedback on an autoplay ad campaign were taken down by management,” GMG Union said in a tweet. “We condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”

The union followed up Tuesday by claiming that G/O Media executives had disabled the forwarding address to the email provided in those posts.

See what others are saying: (Vice) (Wall Street Journal) (The Wrap)

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Twitter Launches Birdwatch, A Crowdsourced Effort To Combat Misinformation

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  • Twitter is launching Birdwatch, a tool where users can write informative notes to fact check tweets.
  • The program is only in a pilot phase with select users right now but Twitter plans to eventually make it widely available on the site. 
  • In addition to writing fact checks, users will also be able to rate how helpful those notes are. 
  • The company believes this will allow misinformation to be quickly corrected in a trustworthy way. 

Twitter Launches Birdwatch

Twitter is continuing its battle against misinformation by launching Birdwatch, a new tool where users can fact check tweets themselves. 

The program allows users to write notes that provide factual context to a Tweet they know contains false or misleading statements. As of now, the program is in pilot mode and is only available to a select few users who apply to it. The application is open to all Twitter users who have a verified phone and e-mail, two-factor authentication, a trusted U.S. phone provider, and have not recently broken the site’s rules. Fact checks can only be seen on the Birdwatch site, though Twitter’s eventual goal is for all Twitter users to see it on the platform directly. 

“People come to Twitter to stay informed, and they want credible information to help them do so,” the company said in a statement announcing the news Monday. “This isn’t always easy with the spread of misleading information online. Birdwatch is a community-driven approach to addressing this problem, seeking to create a better-informed world.”

Twitter users will also be able to rate the helpfulness of the notes provided, which will hopefully prevent the feature from being misused. The company says it spoke to 100 people from across the political spectrum who believe this tool could be effective. Many were apparently particularly supportive of fact checks coming from a community voice rather than Twitter or another authority. 

“We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable,” Keith Coleman, the Vice President of Product at Twitter wrote. 

Misinformation on Twitter

Like most social media platforms, Twitter had been trying to combat the growing spread of misinformation for years. This problem surged with the pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election. The company started adding fact-checking labels to tweets in the spring. After misinformation about election results contributed to an attack at the U.S. Capitol, the company removed President Donald Trump from its platform. Many other social media companies did the same.

Twitter’s battle with misinformation is nowhere near over. Still, the company hopes a community-centered tool like Birdwatch will be beneficial to the site. 

In its announcement, Twitter acknowledged the potential problems a tool like this could pose but maintained that it is still a “model worth trying.”

“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors,” Coleman wrote. “We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot.”

In an effort to prioritize transparency with Birdwatch, all data contributed to the program will be publicly available and downloadable. Twitter also plans on publishing the code that powers it. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (NBC News) (Washington Post)

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SpaceX Boosts a Record 143 Satellites Into Orbit With Rideshare Launch

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  • SpaceX sent 143 satellites into orbit Sunday, breaking the record for most satellites lofted into space on a single launch.
  • It marked the first of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare program, “SmallSat Rideshare,” which splits up the payload of the rocket launch among multiple customers who want to send satellites of their own. 
  • However, the new launch has also triggered conversations about the increasing number of satellites congesting low-earth orbit.
  • Experts fear that overcrowding there could create a rise in potentially catastrophic orbital collisions and dangerous levels of space debris. Now, many are calling for regulations to be put in place.

SpaceX Breaks Record

SpaceX launched 143 satellites into orbit Sunday, setting a new world record for most satellites sent into space on a single rocket.

The mission, dubbed Transporter-1, surpassed the previous 104-satellite mark set in February 2017 by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The launch was the first of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare program, “SmallSat Rideshare,” which is essentially a carpool for satellites.

Ridesharing efforts are a recent innovation that came in response to growing demands for low-cost access to space by smaller companies and institutions. The idea is to split up the payload of the rocket launch among multiple customers who want to send satellites of their own.

It could prove to be a profitable new venture for SpaceX, which charges a relatively low $1 million to launch a 440-pound satellite and $5,000 for every 2.2 pounds above that base level.

On this latest mission, SpaceX launched 133 satellites for a broad variety of government and private customers, as well as 10 of its own Starlink satellites.

Concerns of Overcrowding and Need for Regulation

While widely celebrated by smaller institutions and companies focused on space, the launch has also triggered conversations about the increasing number of satellites congesting low-earth orbit.

Experts fear that overcrowding in that area could create a rise in potentially catastrophic orbital collisions and dangerous levels of space debris. Now, many are calling for regulations to be put in place.

“Given the recent increase in non-traditional commercial space operations, including satellite servicing, space tourism and the deployment of large numbers of satellites to provide worldwide internet access, updates to the existing roles and responsibilities may be appropriate,” NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel wrote in its 2020 annual report.

“As things stand today, there are no clear lines of authority for directing coherence among the many entities that operate in space.”

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (CNN) (Quartz)

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FDA Recalls 11,000 Ice Cream Containers and Sportsmix Pet Food Products

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  • Over 11,000 cartons of Weis Markets ice cream were recalled after a customer discovered an “intact piece of metal equipment” inside a 48-ounce container of the brand’s Cookies and Cream flavor. 
  • The FDA also expanded a recall of Sportsmix pet food over concerns that the products may contain potentially fatal levels of aflatoxins.
  • So far, more than 70 dogs have died and more than 80 pets have become sick after eating Sportsmix food. The agency recommends taking your pet to a veterinarian if they have eaten the recalled products, even if they aren’t showing symptoms.

Metal Pieces in Weis Ice Cream Cause Massive Recall

The Food and Drug Administration announced two major product recalls this week following serious consumer complaints.

The first came Sunday when the agency revealed that over 11,000 cartons of Weis Market ice cream were recalled. “The products may be contaminated with extraneous material, specifically metal filling equipment parts,” the FDA’s statement explained.

At least one customer discovered an “intact piece of metal equipment” inside a 48-ounce container of the brand’s Cookies and Cream flavor.

Those containers were available in 197 Weis Market grocery stores, but they have already been pulled from shelves. The products have a sell-by date of October 21, 2020, and customers who purchased the product can return it for a full refund.

Along with removing 10,869 units of the Cookies and Cream containers, the brand also recalled 502 3-gallon bulk containers of Klein’s Vanilla Dairy Ice Cream.

Those bulk containers were not for retail sale, but were instead sold to one retail establishment in New York and have since been removed.

Sportsmix Recall Follows 70 Pet Deaths, 80 Illnesses

The second major recall came Tuesday when the FDA expanded a recall of Sportmix dog food.

According to the agency, the product may contain potentially fatal levels of aflatoxins – toxins produced by the Aspergillus flavus mold, which can grow on corn and other grains used as ingredients in pet food.

As of Tuesday, more than 70 pets have died and more than 80 have gotten sick after eating Sportsmix pet food. Not all the cases have been officially confirmed as aflatoxin poisoning at this time. This count also may not reflect the total number of pets affected.

For now, the FDA is asking pet owners and veterinary professionals to stop using the impacted Sportsmix products that have an expiration date on or before July 9, 2022, and have “05” in the date or lot code.

More detailed information about the recalled products can be found on the FDA’s announcement page.

Pets experiencing aflatoxin poisoning may have symptoms like sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice, and/or diarrhea. In some cases, this toxicity can cause long-term liver issues without showing any symptoms. Because of this, pet owners are being advised to take their animals to a veterinarian if they have eaten the recalled products, even if they aren’t showing symptoms.

There is currently no evidence that pet owners who have handled the affected food are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning. Still, the FDA recommends that wash your hands after handling pet food.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (USA TODAY) (PEOPLE)

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