The editorial director of G/O Media has resigned amid backlash after he told staffers at the company’s sports-centric blog, Deadspin, to “stick to sports,” leading to a mass exodus of the site’s employees.
Paul Maidment on Tuesday sent an email to staff at the company ― which oversees Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jezebel and The Onion, among others ― that he was quitting to “pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity,” a staffer confirmed to HuffPost. Last week, Maidment and the company’s CEO, Jim Spanfeller, demanded that Deadspin’s writers forgo covering the political and culture stories they’d been posting for years, after which the employees quit and the readership revolted.
Maidment wrote in a company-wide email:
“I wanted to let you all know that effective immediately I have resigned my position as Editorial Director of G/O Media. It is the right moment for me to leave to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity. I admire the journalism that you produce and the unique voice that is otherwise missing from mainstream media. It has been a great honor and I wish you all the very best. I am certain that the sites will grow and thrive in the future.”
Employees characterized the departure as too little, too late for a company that has worked to dismantle several of its brands from the inside out since its inception. Spanfeller took over as G/O Media was formed in April, when private equity firm Great Hill Partners bought Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion. During that reconstruction effort, the company fired GMG Editorial Director Susie Banikarim and Managing Editor Alex Dickinson, as well as former Deadspin editor Tim Marchman.
Today, some employees want Spanfeller to join Maidment and leave the company.
“[Maidment’s departure] doesn’t solve any of the problems our websites have experienced under Jim Spanfeller’s disastrous management,” one G/O Media employee said, speaking to HuffPost on condition of anonymity. “He never should have fired Susie Banikarim to begin with.”
Since April, G/O Media has overseen sweeping layoffs, even after Spanfeller said he didn’t foresee cuts; axed its news and opinion site, Splinter, in October, and told other G/O Media employees not to write about it; watched Deadspin’s more recent top editor, Megan Greenwell, walk out after demanding that she foist a “stick to sports” edict on her writers; and fired veteran employee and Deputy Editor Barry Petchesky for thumbing his nose at the edict last week.
G/O Media did not respond to requests for comment. Several former staffers speculated to Mediaite that Maidment was behind some of the widely panned, straight-laced sports content posted to Deadspin since its employees left. A spokesman told The Daily Beast on Tuesday, “We will be working with our EICs to expedite the search for a new editorial director.”
The company’s union, part of the Writer’s Guild of America, East, wrote on Twitter that it’s looking to be part of the process of seeking a new editorial director.