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Some big news hit the media world Thursday when G/O Media, the new owner of the former Gizmodo Media Group, announced that it would be shutting down 2-year-old news and opinion site Splinter.
But at least one large news organization didn’t find the shutdown all that newsworthy: G/O Media itself.
In an email to staffers obtained by HuffPost, Paul Maidment, the media group’s editorial director, instructed editors not to publish posts about Splinter’s demise.
“I see no compelling reason for any of our sites to be writing about the decision to cease publishing Splinter,” Maidment wrote. “There is already external coverage, LeadPR will handle our external communications, and this is a time to be respectful of colleagues who have just received difficult news and for whom we will be trying to find new positions.”
He went on to issue a warning: “Any reference to Splinter in anything we publish needs my prior approval, as per our editorial policy. Please make sure all your staff are aware of that. You will be accountable if anything not approved by me gets published.”
Maidment had good reason to expect some critical coverage from inside. The G/O Media stable includes Gizmodo, Jezebel, Deadspin and other sites known for their self-awareness and biting media criticism that has historically included their own leadership.
The email went to the top editors of each site, according to source from G/O Media.
HuffPost asked Maidment via email if he thought Splinter staffers might like to see journalists at G/O Media report this bit of news, even if it is unpleasant and happens to be about them. Splinter, after all, often ran stories about the media. Maidment did not immediately respond.
Erik Wemple of The Washington Post reported in July that G/O management had tried to block the publication of a Deadspin story about G/O’s top brass, which angered Deadspin staffers. The company’s CEO explained that Maidment “comes from an editorial tradition in which news outlets don’t report on their own operations,” according to Wemple’s paraphrase. Numerous G/O staffers told the Daily Beast earlier this year that the new ownership was undermining their sites’ freewheeling culture.
Maidment sent an internal memo to staffers Thursday in which he praised the Splinter staff’s quality journalism and “hard work” but said the site had a hard time growing readership, according to the Daily Beast, which obtained the memo.
“Given that reality, the leadership team made the difficult decision to cease operation of Splinter and redistribute the headcount to the other sites to increase the impact the editorial department can have overall,” Maidment wrote.
He said Splinter staffers would be dispersed to other parts of G/O Media, but some of the staffers themselves said on Twitter that they were being laid off. The staffers’ union tweeted that seven members had lost their jobs and were negotiating their contractually guaranteed severance packages.
The G/O Media family of sites was formerly known as Gizmodo Media Group, before the sites were purchased from Univision earlier this year by private equity group Great Hill Partners. The portfolio was rebranded G/O Media under the helm of Jim Spanfeller, a former Ziff Davis executive.