Imagine you’re driving down the highway and a truck transporting chickens overturns. The road then becomes filled with chickens running around. A driver hits his brakes, the car behind crashes into him, followed by 20 more vehicles. An oil truck involved with the wreck leaks its contents. As people get out of their cars to assess the damage, they comically slip and fall. On the other side of the highway, the rubberneckers who slowed down to watch caused some collisions and one of the vehicles erupted in flames. The air turns to smog. The disaster snarls traffic for miles. People are yelling, pushing and shoving each other. Frantic calls are going out to insurance agents. The police officers arrive at the scene and are so startled that they just stare bewildered at the mess. Everyone blames each other and nothing gets resolved, except for escalating further tension and anger.
A similar story is playing out in the sports blogosphere. Deadspin, the punk-rock, sports news and culture site spectacularly imploded last week. The entire staff, consisting of around 20 writers and editors, abruptly quit in a communal huff. They angrily claimed that the rich, private-equity, white-guy “suits” who run the place had the temerity and unmitigated gall to request that the intrepid journalists stick with writing about sports, which was kind of supposed to be their thing.
Paul Maidment, the editorial director of G/O Media, which is Deadspin’s parent company, stated, “To create as much great sports journalism as we can requires a 100% focus of our resources on sports. And it will be the sole focus.” He added, “Deadspin will write only about sports and that which is relevant to sports in some way.”
The writers were outraged, demanding that they were more interested in writing “woke,” culture-related pieces and would fight for their right to write whatever they damn well pleased. Senior-level staff asserted that the data showed their interests in topics outside of traditional sports coverage garnered significantly more clicks and views compared to the stale old sports stories. Also, saving the world is much cooler than a tennis match. Executives were not swayed by their analysis.
Instead of trying to find a solution, the union representing the writers, the journalists themselves and management were intransigent. All parties refused to yield and stood their respective, lofty ground. CEO Jim Spanfeller clamped down on the mutiny and demanded that the writers stop their social-warrior crusade and stay on topic with their mandate—sports. One of the blog’s top editors was discharged of his duties for “not sticking to sports.” After that, the heroic writers revolted by quitting. A freelancer was brought in to offer some life support, but was hectored and bullied into resigning and forced to grovel with an apology to the Twitter trolls.