Nearly five months after any new article has been posted on the site, Deadspin is showing signs of life.
On Tuesday, veteran sportswriter Jesse Spector announced on Twitter that he is taking a position with the “soon-to-relaunch” Deadspin. Spector will work under editor-in-chief Jim Rich, with whom he worked at the New York Daily News during an eight-year tenure. Rich was hired by G/O Media in January.
*some personal news…* pic.twitter.com/6VZfdwTsAu
— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) March 11, 2020
Spector has worked as a freelance writer since November 2016, when he was laid off by Sporting News. At that publication, Spector was a national writer following the NHL for two years before moving over to cover baseball in 2013.
Earlier this year, Spector publicly expressed doubts about finding another full-time position in sportswriting and wondered if he would have to follow many colleagues who left the industry.
It’s been more than two years since I got laid off. I appreciated and appreciate all the people who said “you’ll land on your feet” and especially those who helped me land freelance gigs. But I also haven’t been close to a job. And I know lots who have left journalism entirely.
— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) January 24, 2019
As he said while announcing his move to Deadspin, he was “pretty close to getting out of sportswriting” and realizes this could be his last great opportunity in a harsh, difficult business. But even when faced with the prospect of a new, exciting position, Spector was aware of the territory he was entering. Many former Deadspin staffers and readers are still upset about the site’s downfall since G/O Media took over ownership of the former Gawker Media sites, which has undoubtedly made some hesitant about looking for work there.
Joining Spector at the new Deadspin is Sam Fels, best known for his work covering the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Cubs for a variety of outlets, including Baseball Prospectus, Fansided, NBC Chicago, The Committed Indian and Second City Hockey. He also wrote a book about the Blackhawks titled Madison St. Station. Fels announced his move in a post at Faxes From Uncle Dale, where his work has appeared since 2008:
“The time has come for me to move on. It’s probably been so for a while, and finally an opportunity came up that I felt like I had to take. And that opportunity is that I have been hired to help resurrect Deadspin.
“I know. I know the face you’re making. I made the same one when I got the first call. And believe me, this was not an easy decision. You know everything that would have gone into it, and I wrestled with it for a long time (and made McClure’s life hell with my Hamlet-like demeanor). Still, if you’re here, and you’ve read this site in its various incarnations for 12 years, you know me. You know what I do. And you know I wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t been promised I would get to do everything I’ve done this entire time. And over several phone conversations and emails, that’s what I’ve been promised and assured. If that changes, we’ll deal with it.”
— Faxes From Uncle Dale (@RealFansProgram) March 10, 2020
Last November, after the entire Deadspin resigned en masse following the dismissal of deputy editor Barry Petchesky, freelance writer Alan Goldsher wrote a piece for the site about Kevin Durant, seemingly excited for a new opportunity and large platform. But Goldsher was almost immediately with a wave of outrage from Deadspin fans who called him a “strikebreaker” and “scab,” feeling strongly that he shouldn’t work for management that ruined the site and treated staff so badly. Less than an hour after promoting his Deadspin debut, Goldsher announced he wouldn’t write for the site any longer.
Risking the wrath of Deadspin fans and former staffers, Spector made a point of mentioning that he had the blessing of friends who had resigned from the site.
“They encouraged me to go for it,” Spector said, “noting that I’m not crossing a picket line, as everyone had resigned, not gone on strike.”
That’s an important point to note, considering much of the vitriol directed at Goldsher. And for anyone concerned that the new writers might somehow be leaned on to write a certain way or follow a particular style, Fels mentioned that he was promised he’d “get to do everything I’ve done this entire time.” Hiring writers for what they’ve done before and letting them do the kind of work for which they’re known seems entirely reasonable.
The soon-to-relaunch Deadspin will almost certainly be viewed with skepticism. Is there any chance that a new version can revive what the site’s fans loved, providing “Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion” and what often felt like the most honest coverage available? Obviously, there’s a considerable upward climb for Rich, Spector, and Fels. But it’s nice in this current media climate to see writers being hired instead of laid off. And bringing on established talents with distinct voices and style is an encouraging step in the right direction.