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Deadspin hires new top editor months after mass resignations

Employees from the website Deadspin work inside their office in Manhattan in early 2019. Three months after its entire staff resigned in November 2019, Deadspin has a new editor in chief. Jim Rich, the former top editor at the New York Daily News, has been hired by Deadspin's parent company G/O Media and will start Monday. (John Taggart / For The Washington Post)
Employees from the website Deadspin work inside their office in Manhattan in early 2019. Three months after its entire staff resigned in November 2019, Deadspin has a new editor in chief. Jim Rich, the former top editor at the New York Daily News, has been hired by Deadspin's parent company G/O Media and will start Monday. (John Taggart / For The Washington Post)
By Ben Strauss Washington Post

Three months after its entire staff resigned, Deadspin has a new editor in chief. Jim Rich, the former top editor at the New York Daily News, has been hired by Deadspin’s parent company G/O Media and will start Monday.

The popular, irreverent and influential sports blog had not published new content since November following the implosion of the site after around 20 editors and writers resigned in protest in October and November. The protests came after management had told the staff to cover only sports and sports-related topics, leading to the firing of deputy editor Barry Petchesky.

“I don’t want to see Deadspin die,” Rich, 48, said in an interview Wednesday. “I know the obit has been written already and people feel like it’s dead but I want to change people’s minds.”

He added that he witnessed the unrest at Deadspin last year with both sadness and sympathy, but did not feel like a scab.

“I’m aware of what happened,” he said. “I understand the emotion of it. That’s what a great site and publication does. It invokes passion. I can’t control any of that. I’m coming into this with the best intentions, with a record that I’m a champion of the best and highest forms of journalism. I’m the farthest thing from a stick-to-sports sort of guy.”

Deadspin’s headquarters will be moved from New York to Chicago with the relaunch of the site and Rich said he plans to hire a staff of around 20. He said he not been in contact with any of the former Deadspin staffers, but was open to any of them returning to the site.

Rich shares some of the DNA that made Deadspin a powerful voice in sports media. He was known for punchy back-page headlines during two stints at as editor in chief at the Daily News, from 2015-2016 and again for eight months in 2018, under the management of Tronc. He oversaw a number of layoffs and resigned in 2018 over the direction of the newspaper under Tronc’s management.

“I feel for everybody who was here and the decision they made,” he said. “I’ve been in their shoes before at the Daily News. I know the emotions behind those decisions. It’s not easy and in no way am I forgetful of that.”

Deadspin, along with the other sites that make up G/O Media, was bought last April by private equity firm Great Hill Partners. Almost immediately, the new management, led by CEO Jim Spanfeller, clashed with the site’s staff. Megan Greenwell, Deadspin’s top editor, left the company last August, 18 months after she was hired, over disagreements with the new executives about the content the site should publish.

In October, Deadspin staffers received a memo that mandated they write only about sports “and that which is relevant to sports in some way,” which ultimately prompted the mass resignations.

Rich said G/O leadership reached out to him in the weeks afterward and he was convinced that he would have the editorial freedom to pursue a wide range of stories.

“I won’t be shackled to straightforward sports journalism,” he said. “What interests me is the issues that a lot of the bigger sports journalism places tip toe around - not much different than what Deadspin has always been and made it as good as it was.”

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