Members of the Writers Guild of America East react to today’s news that G/O Media’s Jezebel website is closing after an unsuccessful attempt to sell the site. The closure came amid news that parent company G/O Media had laid off 23 employees, including the Jezebel team.
The company attributed the cuts to part of its restructuring to deal with economic headwinds and the difficult digital advertising environment. The New York-based company also announced the departure of G/O Media managing editor Merrill Brown.
“We are shocked though not surprised by G/O Media and Jim Spanfeller’s inability to manage our site and their callous decision to shut it down,” WGAE’s statement said. “Jezebel has been a pillar of bold journalism and important cultural commentary since 2007 and has left an indelible mark on the media landscape.
“Jezebel’s closure also highlights fundamental flaws in the ad-supported media model, where concerns about ‘brand safety’ limit the monetization of content around the biggest and most important stories of the day — stories that create huge traffic because people read and share them.” The statement continued. “A well-run company could have moved away from the advertising model, but instead shut down the entire brand due to its strategic and commercial ineptitude. Jezebel was a good site.
Jim Spanfeller, CEO of G/O Media, announced the closure and layoffs in a memo to employees Thursday.
“As of this week, we are making the very difficult decision to suspend publication of Jezebel,” Spanfeller wrote. “Few decisions over the course of my career have been this painful, and I want to be clear that this is in no way a reflection on the Jezebel editorial team.
“Unfortunately, our business model and the audiences we serve across our network did not align with Jezebel’s business model,” Spanfeller added. “As this became clear, we conducted an extensive search for a new, and perhaps better, home that might provide Jezebel with a way forward. It became a personal mission for Leah Goldman.” [G/O Media deputy editorial director], who worked tirelessly on the project, speaking with more than two dozen potential buyers. It’s a testament to Jezebel’s heritage and dedication that we had so many players participate. However, despite all our efforts, we were unable to find a new home in Jez.
Launched by Gawker Media in 2007 with founding editor Anna Holmes, Jezebel features news and cultural commentary geared toward women. After the breakup of Gawker Media, the site was purchased by Shnivision Communications and later acquired by G/O Media.
In July, WGAE demanded an “immediate termination” of AI-generated articles on G/O Media’s websites, which also include AV Club, Deadspin, Gizmodo and others.
The union called automated journalism an “oxymoron” and noted that “G/O Media has published AI-generated articles on several union properties, embarrassing employees who work hard under indefensible conditions to populate websites with relevant journalism.” Accurate and attractive.
WGAE members at The Onion also issued a statement blaming G/O Media management for today’s layoffs.
“Our hostile and incompetent management has made no effort to work with the union to find a less harsh alternative arrangement or reduce salaries on its own,” the writers said in the statement.
“HeyYour fellow affected people are talented artists, satirists, and journalists. This harsh layoff has everything to do with G/O Media’s ineffective management and nothing to do with the talent of our fellow employees, who should remain here with us.
“s“Since the formation of G/O Media in 2019, Onion Inc. Union has shrunk by 61%, two websites have closed, one has been sold, and layoffs have occurred,” the statement continued. “Despite these formidable obstacles, G/O Media’s editorial staff has continued to produce award-winning journalism and invest in these publications with a dedication that stands in stark contrast to our indifferent and hostile ownership.”
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”