Wow, this one hits in the gut: G/O Media has effective immediately suspended publication of Jezebel, one of the oldest sites looking at “popular culture through a feminist lens,” to quote their masthead.
Per Ben Mullin on Twitter, G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller announced to the entire staff that they’re suspending publication in the fourth paragraph of a company-wide email.
While there are a lot of what I call “mouth noises” in this message about how great their coverage was (especially galling given that there was an election YESTERDAY that in part protected reproductive rights in Ohio, and yielded victories for many Democratic and left candidates who ran on platforms about worker rights, union strength, women’s reproductive rights, and trans rights, wow I’ve got some feelings about this decision apparently) and how truly excellent the staff has been, their “business model didn’t align with Jezebel’s.”
This announcement was accompanied by the layoff of 23 editorial staff, including the Jezebel team. According to Will Sommer, they lost email and were kicked off Slack immediately afterward.
Founded by Anna Holmes in 2007, Jezebel was a site that was formative for so many, SO MANY writers. By far my favorite of their former staff is Kelly Faircloth, who did so very much to change the narrative in how media sites and publications, and culture journalists themselves talked about romance. I did a podcast interview with her in Episode 346: Fuchsia has Followed Us Everywhere: Deep Diving Into Romance Cover Art with Kelly Faircloth, and earlier, in Episode 154. An Interview with Kelly Faircloth from Jezebel.
The decimation of media today isn’t limited to Jezebel: Tumblr is being de-staffed by owner Automattic. According to an internal memo shared by WaxPancake on Threads, Tumblr will be maintained by the Trust & Safety team (at least it has one?) and the other employees working on Tumblr will be moved to “other projects inside Automattic.”
And there were layoffs at PopSugar, which is part of Vice, prompting the VICE Union to release a statement of exhausted outrage: “We can lo longer express shock and surprise that VICE has determined its only way forward is to lay people off….”
Laura Hazard Owen at NiemanLab wrote about the ‘suspension’ of Jezebel and quoted the G/O Media head of corporate communications that “The hope is that G/O Media might still find a buyer, a partner, or enough advertiser support to bring it back fully.”
I’m not entirely hopeful about that, given the history of Jezebel, Gawker, and the fact that, as Laura Hazard Owen pointed out, prior employees including Laura Bassett, former editor in chief at Jezebel, left because of terrible working conditions for staff.
The loss of Jezebel is so complicated, too, in part because there are fewer and fewer media platforms that can continue function. It is, to be sure, desolate out here. The decorative icing on this massive bummer feeling is the number of sites that came up when I search for information on Jezebel that lead with some variation of “[site name] has ceased publication. This is an archive.”
Even going to find information was tricky because a lot of it is on Twitter, and for all I know that’s held together with dental floss and some egotistical bubble gum at this point, so who knows how long that’ll be a source of information.
This is terrible and crappy, and has coalesced into a mixture of feelings that I’m not fully able to describe aside from throwing my hands up in the air and thinking about noodles as a potential salve to the tired sadness that has taken up residence in my abdomen. Also I think I missed lunch.
The consensus on social medias (all the different ones my goodness) seems to be that this is a great shame but not a great surprise. To quote Maris Kreizman, “we have to figure out how media will survive after the private equity firms have obliterated all of the good sites.”
Do you have a favorite Jezebel story? Was Jezebel part of your literary snacking online? Are you bummed too? (Also: if it’s lunch time, don’t forget to have some food.)