- 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.
“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)
Target Joins Walmart in Offering Free College Tuition To Attract and Retain Workers
The decision makes Target the latest major company to dangle such incentives before employees, joining the likes of Walmart, Chipotle, and Starbucks.
Target Launches Debt-Free Education Asssitance Program
Target announced new employee perks on Wednesday that it likely hopes will help attract and retain workers.
Starting this fall, Target will cover the cost of tuition, fees, and textbooks for both part-time and full-time workers who pursue degrees or certificates at more than 40 participating institutions.
Employees will have at least 250 different business-aligned programs to choose from, including Business, Computer Science, Design, and more.
Target will also fund advanced degrees, paying up to $10,000 each year for master’s programs at those schools, and it’s offering up to 5,250 for those pursuing non-master’s degrees or business-aligned programs at one of the select schools.
The company said it plans to invest a total of $200 million in the education program over the next four years, and employees in the U.S. will qualify as soon as their first day.
“Target employs team members at every life stage and helps our team learn, develop and build their skills, whether they’re with us for a year or a career. A significant number of our hourly team members build their careers at Target, and we know many would like to pursue additional education opportunities. We don’t want the cost to be a barrier for anyone, and that’s where Target can step in to make education accessible for everyone,” said Melissa Kremer, Target’s Chief Human Resources Officer.
Companies With Similar Perks
Places like Chipotle and Starbucks have already had similar education programs in place, but more companies have been introducing or expanding on similar policies as businesses across the country struggle to find and retain workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Just last week, Walmart announced that it will cover the full cost of college tuition and books for itsemployees, after previously requiring them to pay $1 a day for the assistance. Those workers can now select from around 10 academic partners.
While many have applauded these actions from big corporations, others have noted that it makes it tougher for smaller businesses to compete since they don’t have the same resources at their disposal.
There is some concern about how this could change the business landscape in the future as a handful of large companies dominate in their own sectors and siphon a lot of the talent, forcing smaller competitors to close. Still, others argue that this was already happening. At least now, the big players are investing and support their workforce while doing it.
Tencent Stock Plummet as Company Weighs Video Games Ban for Kids in China
The world’s largest game developer appears fearful that the Chinese government will launch another crackdown on gaming similar to one it launched in 2019 when it limited game time for minors.
No More Video Games
Tencent Holdings, Ltd. — China’s most valuable corporation and the world’s largest gaming company — announced Tuesday that it would consider completely banning games for those under 12-years-old in China.
Tencent also announced that it will now limit playtime for Chinese minors to just 1 hour during weekdays and no more than 2 hours during weekends and holidays. Under a Chinese law set up in 2019, game developers are required to limit minors to just 1 hour and 30 minutes of playtime during weekdays and 3 hours during weekends and holidays.
Additionally, the company explained that it will move forward with plans to enact systems that bar those under 12 from engaging in microtransactions, starting with the largest mobile game, “Honor of Kings” (王者荣耀). It’s possible the ban will extend to some of Tencent’s other holdings, such as “League of Legends” (Riot Games) and “Path of Exile” (Grinding Gear Games), although these changes will likely only affect Chinese users.
Tencent’s decision comes just a day after the Economic Information Daily, a subsidiary of state media giant Xinhua News, said in a now-deleted article that video games were “spiritual opium” and that no industry should continue in a manner that will “destroy a generation.”
Likening video games to opium holds cultural significance in China, which has long disliked narcotics and is sensitive to comparisons to the drug. Using such language, especially by state media, is often seen as a sign that the government is ready to crack down on the industry.
Those fears largely played out over a 24-hour period as shares for Tencent and NetEase, another large game developer in China, plummeted. Tencent’s shares dropped by 11% on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, although it eventually settled at just a 6% loss by the end of Tuesday.
It wasn’t just Chinese gaming companies that were worried. The announcement sent ripples across the entire industry as Nintendo, Capcom, and Nexon shares all were heavily affected as well. One of the reasons that such an article can cast widespread concern is that China has increasingly become the largest market in the $180 billion video game industry, making it larger than the global movie industry and North American professional sports, combined.
Coupled with the recent fall of ActivisionBlizzard’s stock over the last two weeks due to its sexual assault lawsuit and other industry shakeups, over a trillion dollars of market value was wiped out at one point on Tuesday.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Time) (Fox Business)
Google Is Banning “Sugar Dating” Apps as Part of New Sexual Content Restrictions
The change essentially targets apps like Elite Millionaire Singles, SeekingArrangements, Spoil, and tons of other sugar dating platforms.
Sugar Dating Crackdown
Google has announced a series of policy changes to its Android Play Store that include a ban on sugar dating apps starting September 1.
The company’s Play Store policies already prohibit apps that promote “services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation.”
Now, it has updated its wording to specifically include “compensated dating or sexual arrangements where one participant is expected or implied to provide money, gifts or financial support to another participant (‘sugar dating’).”
The change essentially targets apps like Elite Millionaire Singles, SeekingArrangements, Spoil, and tons of other sugar dating platforms currently available for download.
What Prompted the Change?
The company didn’t explain why it’s going after sugar dating apps, but some reports have noted that the move comes amid crackdowns of online sex work following the introduction of the FOSTA-SESTA legislation in 2018, which was meant to curb sex trafficking.
That’s because FOSTA-SESTA created an exception to Section 230 that means website publishers can be held liable if third parties are found to be promoting prostitution, including consensual sex work, on their platforms.
It’s worth noting that just because the apps will no longer be available on the Play Store doesn’t mean the sugar dating platforms themselves are going anywhere. Sugar daters will still be able to access them through their web browsers, or they can just sideload their apps from other places.
Still, the change is likely going to make the use of these sites a little less convenient.