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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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Tinder Plans to Roll Out Panic Button and Other Safety Features

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  • The popular dating app Tinder plans to unveil new in-app safety features for users who feel threatened during face-to-face meetups.
  • Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, is investing in a safety platform called Noonlight, which tracks users’ locations and alerts local authorities if any issues arise. 
  • The safety tools are free to use and will be introduced to U.S. Tinder users at the end of the month.
  • Match Group’s other dating apps will see the new features later this year.

Tinder’s New Features

Tinder is planning to add free in-app safety features for users whose dates go awry, including a panic button that can be pressed if something goes wrong, security check-ins, and an option to call authorities if needed.

Match Group, Tinder’s parent company who also owns Hinge and OkCupid, is making these features possible by investing in the safety platform Noonlight. Noonlight tracks users’ locations and alerts local authorities if any concerns arise.

“I think a lot about safety, especially on our platforms, and what we can do to curtail bad behavior,” Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg told The Wall Street Journal, who first reported the story. “There are a lot of things we tell users to do. But if we can provide tools on top of that, we should do that as well.”

Prior to in-person dates, Tinder users will have the option to manually enter information into a tool linked to Noonlight, such as details about the other party and times.

Source: The Wall Street Journal — Tinder

If at any point a user feels unsafe, they can press the alert button. Noonlight will then send a code for the user to enter. If the code isn’t entered, Noonlight will send a text. If the text goes unanswered, Noonlight will call the user. If the call is not answered or if the user confirms that they need assistance, Noonlight will alert local authorities and share the information previously entered with them, as well as the user’s location. 

Once the Noonlight tool is instated, Tinder users will also be able to add an emblem to their profiles to indicate the additional protection they have opted to take. 

The new security measures will be introduced to U.S. Tinder users at the end of January, while other Match Group dating apps will see the features in the next few months. 

Tinder is also currently testing a feature aimed to eliminate “catfishing” in which users will be required to take photos in certain poses to prove that they look like the images they upload. Profiles that pass the test will have a blue checkmark to indicate they were verified.

New Wave of Safety for Tech Platforms

While Tinder has previously monitored abusive language and images via in-app conversation, this is the first move it has taken to play a hand in regulating in-person interactions once users decide to meet up. 

This step comes after multiple cases of sexual assault and other crimes that users have traced back to relations made through the app. 

The dating app is following the lead of other platforms like Uber and Lyft, who have both rolled out additional security features in the wake of criticism for not doing enough to protect users from safety threats.

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (The Verge)

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Facial Recognition Technology on College Campuses

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Facial Recognition Technology, better known by its acronym, FRT, has been a hot topic for nearly a decade. Most fields have some form of FRT from Taylor Swift using it to identify stalkers at her concerts to police making quicker arrests by matching faces of suspects to a database of mugshots. All forms of FRT have one way or another been contested, but some of the most controversial places that it’s being used are college campuses. 

Recently, an anti-FRT group named Fight for the Future launched the largest nation-wide student campaign to demand that universities never use FRT on their campuses. There are multiple reasons why people love and despise FRT and in this video, we’re going to show you both sides of the argument and why it’s so controversial to use on college campuses. 

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Angled Toilet Designed to Shorten Employees’ Bathroom Breaks Met With Criticism

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  • A British company, StandardToilet, has filed a patent for a toilet fixture designed with a downward-sloping seat. 
  • The product is meant to be uncomfortable to sit on for more than five minutes, in an effort to reduce bathroom breaks and increase employee productivity.
  • StandardToilet also says their product will reduce bathroom lines in public spaces and serve better for people’s health.
  • The company’s idea has been supported by some, but largely slammed by others who claim it promotes an unhealthy expectation of workplace productivity and is inconsiderate to a range of users with differing needs.

A New Type of Toilet

A British startup has developed a toilet designed to be uncomfortable to sit on for longer than five minutes in an effort to increase workplace productivity.

StandardToilet has filed a patent for a toilet fixture with a seating surface sloped forward between 11-13 degrees. The company claims that this design will decrease the time that employees spend taking bathroom breaks, thus allowing them to devote more minutes to work. 

“In modern times, the workplace toilet has become private texting and social media usage space,” StandardToilet says on their website.  

The company estimates that about £16 billion ($20.8 billion) are lost annually to the time that people are spending using the bathroom at work in the U.K. They claim that reducing time spent sitting on the toilet will save about £4 billion of that sum. 

Mahabir Gill, the founder of StandardToilet, told Wired that sitting on the angled fixture for more than five minutes will cause strain on the legs, but “not enough to cause health issues.”

“Anything higher than that would cause wider problems,” Gill said. “Thirteen degrees is not too inconvenient, but you’d soon want to get off the seat quite quickly.”   

StandardToilet says that in addition to increasing employee productivity, their design will shorten bathroom lines in public places such as shopping malls and train stations.

They also claim studies have suggested that flat-surfaced toilets used now can cause medical issues, like swollen haemorrhoids and weakening of pelvic muscles. The company says its product can reduce musculoskeletal disorder “through promoting the engagement of upper leg muscles.”

Response to StandardToilet

While news of the proposed time-saving toilet has been supported by some, like the British Toilet Association (BTA), an organization that campaigns for better toilet facilities, it was also largely met with criticism. Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler, an assistant professor of design history at Purdue University in Indiana, expressed that the idea is a bit controlling. 

“In an office, the one space you have where you can find privacy is often the toilet,” Kaufmann-Buhler told Wired. “So, god forbid that we want to make the one place where workers should have at least some autonomy – the toilet – another place where people impose the very capitalist idea that people should always be working.”

Kaufmann-Buhler’s sentiment was echoed across Twitter, where people were upset by StandardToilet’s motive.

Others pointed out the discomfort StandardToilet’s design would bring to those with physical disabilities.

The company told HuffPost in an email that the product isn’t designed to take the place of toilets for people with disabilities. StandardToilet’s website also notes that another benefit of the slanted toilet is “reduction in overspill usage of disabled facilities.” 

Nadine Vogel is the CEO of Springboard Consulting, a company that works with other businesses on how to serve workers with disabilities. She noted to HuffPost that there are other kinds of hindrances that might justify more time in the bathroom.

Vogel brought up examples of diabetic people testing their glucose levels or others simply needing a break for their mental health.

 “The fact that the concern is extended employee breaks ― well, what about people that have some kind of mental health situation that actually need that kind of longer break?” Vogel said.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Guardian) (Wired)

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