A Bad Place Full Of Bad Jerks

Check out this shit from Jack Kelly of (You don’t say!) Forbes.com:


I got hooked into this by the title, which is a true statement, and something of a surprise coming from Forbes. It’s also a gigantic bait and switch, as the rest of the article makes no further mention of overbearing managers or why they ruined Deadspin. Instead, Kelly gets right to work demonstrating to us his deep understanding of what Deadspin was about:

Deadspin, the punk-rock, sports news and culture site spectacularly imploded last week.

“Punk-rock”? Did this guy research Deadspin by picking three blogs at random, one of which was a DUAN?

The entire staff, consisting of around 20 writers and editors, abruptly quit in a communal huff. They angrily claimed that the rich, private-equity, white-guy “suits” who run the place had the temerity and unmitigated gall to request that the intrepid journalists stick with writing about sports, which was kind of supposed to be their thing.


So the bosses are the victims here. There’s the quality analysis from Forbes dot com that I’ve come to know and ignore.

The writers were outraged, demanding that they were more interested in writing “woke,” culture-related pieces and would fight for their right to write whatever they damn well pleased.


This is exhausting. No one said they were “more” interested in anything than sports. They said that Deadspin without the culture pieces is just another sports blog, and not one that they cared to work for.

Senior-level staff asserted that the data showed their interests in topics outside of traditional sports coverage garnered significantly more clicks and views compared to the stale old sports stories. Also, saving the world is much cooler than a tennis match.


The irony in this particular straw man is that Deadspin actually DID frequently publish blogs about tennis matches. They did this not because some private equity herb required them to, but because they employed a diverse group of talented writers and allowed each of them to follow their own interests, and some of them (Giri in particular comes to mind) WANTED to write about tennis matches. It’s almost like the business model worked on its own.

All parties refused to yield and stood their respective, lofty ground. CEO Jim Spanfeller clamped down on the mutiny and demanded that the writers stop their social-warrior crusade and stay on topic with their mandate—sports. One of the blog’s top editors was discharged of his duties for “not sticking to sports.” After that, the heroic writers revolted by quitting. A freelancer was brought in to offer some life support, but was hectored and bullied into resigning and forced to grovel with an apology to the Twitter trolls.


That guy’s apology was actually pretty moving and, at least in my reading, sincere. However, I do concede that Twitter sucks.

When tens of thousands of people are downsized from stuffy, non-blog corporations, tears are not shed in the media. It’s not national headlines when random 45-year-old white-collar professionals are let go on a daily basis due to automation, cost cuttings, globalization and jobs relocated to lower-cost cities and countries.


Who even cares about Deadspin anyway? Certainly not me!

The behavior—on both sides—at Deadspin was not standard business practices, to say the least. In what bizarre universe could a tax accountant refuse to file tax returns because they’re boring? The accountant who spends his working hours telling clients all about his political views on taxes, rather than crunching numbers, will be given a stern lecture. If his behavior continues, he’d be shown the door without any severance or a good reference. If GM wants its factory workers to make trucks, the assembly-line folks can’t revolt and say they’d prefer to produce electric scooters instead.


The Forbes.com writer who spends his working hours firing off spicy anti-labor takes, rather than bland pro-management ones, will be given a stern lecture. Also, NO ONE REFUSED TO WRITE ABOUT SPORTS. I swear it’s like trying to explain Deadspin to a sentient pile of oregano.

The now-departed staff somehow didn’t—or couldn’t—comprehend the basics of corporate life—it sucks up a lot of your time and you will need to do things you don’t want to do. There are expectations and requirements that come along with receiving a paycheck. Most of the time, you have to do things that aren’t fun, sexy, cool, hip, virtue-signaling or meaningful. That’s why they call it “work.”


[frantically re-checking card] Woke, virtue-signaling, social-warrior crusade, forced to apologize, that’s why they call it work ... BINGO!

It is, however, the actual job of the executives to be the adults in the room. They are literally charged with the responsibility of motivating employees, helping them reach their full potential, effectively handle internal disputes and create a harmonious office environment. This takes time, patience and understanding of what drives and motivates employees. Executives must listen to their employees and customers. If the readers prefer the nonsports commentary and the journalists like writing on a greater variety of topics, management should take heed. It’s wise and commendable for management to backtrack in the face of facts that suggest that they may be incorrect in their analysis of the situation and aggressive demands.


This is as close as we get to fulfilling the alleged premise of the article, which as the title claims is a cautionary tale for overbearing managers. We arrive here after 8 paragraphs about how the writers were spoiled brats who don’t understand business. Gotta hear both sides I guess. Maybe we’ll go in just as deep on management now?

The employees violated a cardinal career rule—never quit in haste, as you’ll regret it later.


Oh, that’s the next sentence. Never mind.

Managers think that if you talk poorly about your last employer, the odds are high that you’ll badmouth her, too. No one wants to be the subject of derision by former employees.


An excellent way to prevent this is to not push out 20 employees at the same time in an embarrassing and completely avoidable manner.

This is a case study and cautionary tale of how not to act—on both sides. It played out as an over-the-top pro-wrestling match rather than a professional business dispute.


Yes, but is pro-wrestling a sport? Asking for a herb.

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