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Deadspin moving to Chicago, CEO requests union halt ‘inappropriate harassment’

It looks like sports blog Deadspin will be moving to Chicago at some point in the near future as union negotiations fail to bear any fruit. A part of the same network as Kotaku, the company has been troubled by disagreements over editorial policy and management decisions to the point that many writers resigned before the end of 2019.

The conflict between the writers and the site owners is multi-faceted, but it largely boiled down to two issues. Firstly, employees were upset by a memo from then-new owners G/O Media that the blog “stick to sports.” The final nail in the coffin, however, was the removal of an article that called for users to write to G/O media asking for pervasive video ads on Deadspin to be removed, culminating in mass resignations at the blog.

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Things have been pretty quiet since then, but a letter from G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller posted on Twitter by The Wall Street Journal reported Ben Mullin has stated that Deadspin is moving to Chicago and becoming part of The Onion’s corporate structure.

Furthermore, the letter addressed what G/O Media views as “unreasonable and unprecedented” demands from the union:

“In terms of modifications to the Gizmodo collective bargaining agreement’s editorial independence provisions, we believe we have reached a point where our discussions are no longer productive and as such, we will not engage in further discussions on this topic. We have and will continue to respect the editorial integrity of our journalists at each of our platforms. The contractual provisions, as they currently exist, more than do this, with language that far exceeds anything that exists elsewhere in the digital media industry. The further revisions you seek are designed not to protect the integrity of reporting, but to place virtually full operational control of the brands in the hands of the bargaining unit. For example, your request to give the staff veto power over who might be hired as their boss goes far outside the norms of the media industry. Your unreasonable and unprecedented demands 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 — it is absolutely critical for media companies to have the ability to ensure that sites are appealing not only to visitors but also business partners and prevent any irreversible damage to the company and to the ongoing employment of our staff.”

The last major item of note is an allegation that union members were harassing prospective employees:

“While we strongly disagree with the positions taken and the views asserted by both the Union and its members on [the issue of managerial decisions], we have become even more concerned by the damaging impact these actions have had on those who want to work for Deadspin and our current editorial management who now refuse to partake in the recruitment process. We have seen at least one extremely public example of a freelance writer being harassed incessantly — to the point the individual refused to work for Deadspin further.”

The union, for its part, has already issued a preliminary response on Twitter:

G/O Media seems dead set on getting Deadspin running again. How much resistance they’ll face from the unions during this time remains to be seen.

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