New Deadspin Editor-in-Chief Jim Rich: ‘I’m the Farthest Thing From a Stick-to-Sports Sort of Guy’

He tells TheWrap he hopes “to rebuild the staff and rebuild a strong union presence in our newsroom”

Last Updated: January 23, 2020 @ 4:38 PM

Deadspin finally has a new editor-in-chief, three months after a mass staff exodus left the G/O Media site without any staff, and he tells TheWrap he has no plans to shy away from non-sports stories.

Jim Rich, a Pulitzer-winning editor and veteran journalist who spent time at the New York Daily News, HuffPost, and the New York Post, will take on the role Monday. Currently based in New York, he’ll lead the site from Chicago in spite of protestations from the GMG Union, whose members said last week they “vehemently object” to the move.

“I am thrilled to be joining Deadspin as Editor-in-Chief,” Rich said in a statement Thursday. “No doubt there are challenges ahead, but I look forward to building a team that will once again make Deadspin the must-read it deserves to be.”

He expanded on those challenges in a subsequent phone call with TheWrap, saying his goal is “to rebuild the staff and rebuild a strong union presence in our newsroom.”

“I’m hoping to get going as quickly as possible on trying to get as many talented and smart people around me as I can,” he said, but he added that reception to any new hires is out of his control. In November, after every staffer had walked out, a freelancer named Alan Goldsher published one piece at Deadspin, but quickly vowed never to do it again after a public Twitter campaign that called him out for being a “scab.” Rich called that “unfortunate,” but said he understands where passionate former employees and readers are coming from.

“Both of my tenures as editor-in-chief of the Daily News, I parted ways and I left because I disagreed strongly with the direction that two separate owners were going,” he said. “I know that none of the people who walked out of here at the end of October did so lightly.”

The exodus last fall came after deputy editor and interim editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky announced on Twitter that he had been fired for “not sticking to sports.” Leadership at G/O Media had issued a memo to staff that Monday, emphasizing that the site’s “sole focus” would be on sports content — and only on sports.

“I have no sense of constraint,” Rich said of the mandate. “When it comes to my editorial vision here — which is the reason that I took the job — anybody who knows me and has followed any of my work throughout my career knows that I’m the farthest thing from a stick-to-sports sort of guy. Moving forward and until something changes, I’m going to go at all of these issues and all of these stories with no limit.”

A rep for the GMG Union tells TheWrap, “Deadspin has been an integral part of the GMG Union, and our EICs are an integral voice within our unit. G/O Media management has an obligation to negotiate with the WGA East on the decision to remove this position from the unit. After scheduling a meeting with the WGA-E to discuss the future of Deadspin and its planned move, G/O management has gone back on their word and attempted to remove the EIC position from the unit before our scheduled meeting. This is not a decision that can be made unilaterally by G/O Media management. Jim Spanfeller, in another gross display of mismanagement and impulsiveness, is attempting to circumvent our union process, and we expect to negotiate the impact of these changes with management in the coming week.”

The statement concludes, “‘Rebuilding a strong union presence in our newsroom,’ presumably, should not involve removing positions from the union. We look forward to integrating Jim Rich into the GMG Union, as this is a union position.”

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