Nov 1, 2019

Three thoughts from Bernie Sanders' take on Deadspin

Bernie Sanders. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Bernie Sanders Thursday night tweeted support for the Deadspin journalists who resigned en masse, in protest of a management edict that their coverage stick exclusively to sports:

"I stand with the former Deadspin workers who decided not to bow to the greed of private equity vultures... This is the kind of greed that is destroying journalism across the country, and together we are going to take them on."

Three thoughts:

1. Sanders shouldn't mistake incompetence for greed.

All indications are that private equity firm Great Hill Partners either didn't understand what it bought, or believed it bought something more malleable than it really was.

  • It didn't fire the staffers. Instead, Great Hill seemed to think that they'd grumble and then do as told. Now it's left with a ghost ship.

2. Great Hill is hardly the first to flail with this prickly pack of media assets, which were originally part of the Gawker bankruptcy before spending time under the Univision umbrella.

  • But, unlike when Great Hill shut down left-wing news site Splinter last month, this wasn't an intentional game-plan born of cratering traffic. Not surprisingly, it's not returning my calls this time around.

3. Not sure what Sanders means by "take them on."

  • As we noted when Elizabeth Warren criticized the Splinter situation, Great Hill didn't use any debt on what it calls G/O Media. So changing leverage liability rules wouldn't help.
  • And changing carried interest tax treatment, via equalizing capital gains and ordinary income rates, also wouldn't have much impact, given that it's hard to see how profits will be enabled by this mess.

The bottom line, from Axios Sports' Kendall Baker:

"As someone whose job is to highlight the best sports content on the internet, this stinks. Deadspin has played a vital role in the media landscape for years and has published some of the best freelance writing anywhere online. It also stood for something, and you saw that this week, as a bunch of people — many of whom probably can't afford to be unemployed — took down their own publication over perceived journalistic/moral differences with their bosses."

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