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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The majority of Deadspin's staff — nearly 20 writers and editors — resigned this week after the site's interim editor-in-chief, Barry Petchesky, was fired for refusing to "stick to sports."

Why it matters: In the last month alone, two prominent American sports publications have been gutted and look destined to become shells of their former selves.

  • A few weeks ago, Sports Illustrated's new owners laid off half the newsroom — the first step in their plan to turn it into a rickety old content mill staffed by contributors making as little as $25,000 a year.

How we got here: Deadspin was founded as a sports blog in 2005 and was originally part of Gawker Media, which was sued out of existence thanks to a lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan (and funded by Peter Thiel).

  • After bouncing between a few owners, Deadspin and its sibling sites like Gizmodo, Jezebel and The Onion were acquired by private equity firm Great Hill Partners earlier this year.
  • Since then, new ownership has tried to change the tone of the site on the fly, urging writers to avoid hot-button issues or polarized political topics.

The big picture: Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley describes this growing class of "zombie" publications, which extends far beyond sports media:

  • "Trustworthy brand-name publications are being hollowed out and refilled with unpaid 'community' contributors or low-paid, less experienced professionals who don't have the stature to challenge editorial imperatives or productivity quotas."

What they're saying:

  • WSJ's Jason Gay: "'Stick to sports' has become a pernicious rallying cry over the past few years, the idea being that for a sports media company to discuss political events is to somehow risk alienating your audience. ... [T]he net consequence is usually a chilling effect, limiting discussion of anything political or even complicated."
  • The Ringer's Bryan Curtis: "In 2008, author Buzz Bissinger faced off with [Deadspin founder] Will Leitch on HBO. Bissinger freaked out that real, honest-to-god reporters like him were being undercut and replaced by snotty bloggers. ... Now we've lost the snotty bloggers."

The bottom line: 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.

Go deeper

No one in Washington is happy with Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Oversight Board's decision Wednesday to uphold Facebook's suspension of former President Trump found few fans in Washington and exposed the company to a new round of attacks.

Why it matters: While the board urged Facebook back to the drawing board to better define its rules and processes around political speech, political actors on both left and right agree that the social media giant already has too much power.

21 mins ago - Technology

Oversight Board knocks Facebook for "lazy" Trump referral

Axios: Sarah Grillo

The independent Oversight Board sent the case of former President Trump's suspension from Facebook back to the company Wednesday because it found Facebook's original referral of the case to be "lazy," a member of the board told Axios.

What they're saying: "[W]e felt it was a bit lazy of Facebook to be sending over to us a penalty suggestion that didn't exist in their own rulebook, so to speak, in their own community standards," said former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, an Oversight Board member, at an Axios event.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
36 mins ago - Economy & Business

2021: The year of surprise shortages

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American consumers and businesses face an array of shocking shortages in 2021 — the result of corporate miscalculations in the early days of the pandemic. The shortages range from labor to lumber to rental cars.

Why it matters: As vaccinations rise and the economy grows back to its pre-pandemic size, Americans are tantalized by the prospect of the country reverting to something approaching the familiar old normal. While that might happen eventually, it could take a surprisingly long time for a new equilibrium to establish itself.

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