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.

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