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What makes people avoid the news? Trust, age, political leanings — but also whether their country’s press is free
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Jan. 10, 2020, 1:33 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   January 10, 2020

Deadspin, the once-revered sports blog rendered mute by a staff revolt in October, is about to enter a new stage of existence: moving to Chicago, being put under The Onion’s corporate structure, and suspending negotiations with the union that represents its old staff, according to a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Mullin.

Jim Spanfeller — CEO of G/O Media, which bought Deadspin and other former Gawker Media properties from Univision last year — sent the letter to Writers Guild of America East executive director Lowell Peterson, saying the company wouldn’t continue discussions on the collective bargaining agreement’s editorial independence provisions. But Spanfeller said its offer to former Deadspin employees to return to work (in New York) “remains open at this time.”

“The further revisions you seek are designed not to protect the integrity of the reporting, but to place virtually full operational control the brands in the hands of the bargaining unit,” Spanfeller wrote. “Your unreasonable and unprecedented demands go are not in the best interests of the company and would inhibit our ability to successfully operate our websites for the benefit of our readers, employees and advertisers…”

WGAE responded to the letter, saying the company had “without warning” “walked away from discussions” and that “today’s actions undermine all our efforts to find a workable solution.” (Along with Deadspin, WGAE also represents editorial staffers at other G/O sites.)

Spanfeller sparked the staff rebellion by telling them to, in essence, “stick to sports” and abandon the site’s tradition of also writing about politics, culture, and other issues in a Deadspin style. The staff quit over a few days in late October. Deadspin published a few, mostly unbylined stories in the following days, but its most recent post is from November 4.

In his letter, Spanfeller said “our efforts to operate and then restart Deadspin have been severely hampered by Union-represented employees’ concerted, divisive actions and their continued objections to our managerial decisions.” These actions, he said, have led potential employees to not want to work for Deadspin and even its remaining editorial management to “refuse to partake in the recruitment process.” He cites the case of one-time Deadspin freelancer Alan Goldsher, saying Goldsher was “harassed incessantly — to the point the individual refused to work for Deadspin further.”

That’s not quite what happened. Goldsher did face lots of blowback on Twitter from Deadspin fans after his one piece was published November 1. But, as The Daily Beast put it, within an hour, Goldsher “went from being a ‘scab’ to a newfound symbol of the resistance against G/O Media.” After hearing from Deadspin fans, he tweeted that his piece “clearly wasn’t a good idea, and I appreciate that I was pointed in the right direction.”

And while the experience of being swarmed by a social media mob was awful, Goldsher came away heartened. Following his public apology, strangers had suggested sending him money via Venmo. One even offered a job in the “financial sector,” he said. (He turned the offer down.)

“I guess there is a writers’ community, just not one I’ve been a part of…it was nothing short of amazing,” Goldsher said. “The big takeaway is: There are people who will have your back.”

For what it’s worth, Alan Goldsher lives in…Chicago. Primarily a musician, he also has a new album out this week, “Big Al Bassman Funks Up The Jazz Classics.”

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