If there’s one thing that defines our day and age, it’s the idea of “accessibility.” We live in a world where every need is seemingly accessible, where the means by which you can acquire something are very simple, but in actuality, just exist as a mirage.
Think of health care, where technically every person in the US has the ability to go online and buy a plan, but the actual getting of the health care—from the premiums to the deductibles to the co-pays, you immediately find yourself rationing care or flat-out bankrupting yourself in the pursuit.
Or transportation, where you can fire up Uber and get a ride across your city, but you don’t even have the cash to afford the $2.75 for subway fare, let alone for $50 cross-city trips.
Jobs are available, as well... in theory. Unemployment is at its lowest levels in two decades, yet real wages have essentially stagnated; when considering those rising costs in living expenses, the idea of a stable life is in theory available for purchase but according to the rules most people live by, almost impossible to actually attain.
The same could work with any other should-be right, like the freedom of speech, or the press, or of religion. If a religion is technically legal but somehow the state or private developers restrict permits to build houses of worship, to give an example, the practicality of that freedom is limited. If there’s freedom of press but there’s only one newspaper, the freedom is in name only.
OK yada, yada, so where does this silly blog come into play? We’re talking about Deadspin, of course. The blog, birthed in the early Web 2.0 era and ultimately death-spiraled after the Gawker Hulk Hogan-Peter Thiel suit, was first sold to Univision and then to Great Hill Partners, who under the guidance of Jim Spanfeller helped force every writer into mass resignation after a ‘stick to sports’ mandate just this week.
The LA Times then ran a story contradicting the internal logic of Great Hill, who said that sports posts would be more profitable. In fact, the non-sports posts trafficked significantly higher. Yet we know it had nothing to do with that; simply, these writers were considered pests who could write a post such as Jim Spanfeller Is A Herb, and they shone a light on the very people that run these massive media conglomerates and private equity firms in a way that could be more damaging to them than any drop in clicks would be.
Media consolidation didn’t start here; it’s been a long-held staple since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 fundamentally changed the game in terms of how much the corporate infrastructure of media could expand. It may have taken the lawsuit of Gawker to instigate such an event for Deadspin itself, but they’re ultimately just a drop in the collective, sad media bucket—193 TV stations are owned by Sinclair, for example, and you could go down the list of AT&T, Disney, Gannett, Tronc, and other mergers as being the battles lost as smaller media outlets and local newspapers have suffered.
That’s scary for a number of reasons. The first thing people generally like to popularly imagine as the horror of monopoly is that only one company (Disney) will make a movie, which is definitely a legitimate, cultural concern when you think about what kind of art, and the variety therein, people deserve to enjoy.
News is the saddest, though. If recent years have shown anything it’s that a few news entities like The New York Times and The Washington Post will remain profitable and thus even more relevant in their centrality, but most of the chaff will be culled to the point of AI-related nonsense.
I mean, look at what Deadspin was posting after their staff mass-quit, such as “Uluru Climbers Thwarted by Strong Winds and Changing Rules” or “Founder Of The Invictus Games Supports Injured War Veterans Of His Nation’s Team.” Go to the near-zombified Sports Illustrated and it looks eerily similar, like “Jim Cramer’s Bull Market Fantasy: Everything You Need to Know for Fantasy Football This Week,” which is just a redirect to thestreet.com, or “Slip-n-Sliding Nationals Fan Does Shirtless Chest Bump With Local Weatherman,” a post that totals approximately 100 words.
The freedom of the press doesn’t die with Big Brother creating state media; it’s actually much more terrifying than that. It looks exactly like how every rotten part of our socio-economic structure looks like, accessible content with absolutely no substance, news that isn’t really news. It’s a healthcare.gov page that’s really just an article about This One Bug That Will Cure Hangovers Forever. Want to know what the internet looks like in five years; or, at this point, two? Go to, say, msn.com and grab a look at the sponsored posts section:
Five Incredible Quick Tips And Kitchen Gadgets From Oprah That Dr. Oz Says Will Make You Live Ten Years Longer To Refinance Your Mortgage Now.
These are not human sentences, as we know. I’ve talked about hypernormality already so I won’t delve too deep, but if this was Deadspin.com or SI.com or beyondtheboxscore.com and this was the only content, some would probably just take their pill and go to sleep. Hell, I get requests to make the site look like this all the time:
We are, for the record, not news, nor are we some first amendment vanguard. I’m not trying to be Deadspin; God, I am not trying to equate here. But as Just A Guy, I can say that being able to have a platform where I can talk about pretty much everything Beyond the box score, literally, has been an immense privilege. I can’t say it hasn’t been informed by Deadpsin and writing like it, and it actively informs the inherent antagonism I have towards sports and its largely malevolent institutions.
It helps to hold these opinions when you have a day job, something we should readily consider when you hear of a mass walkout. Part of the actual freedom of the press is that journalists should not have to worry for their livelihood based on whether they piss off a private equity executive or not, which poses an ethical problem when that increasingly becomes the face of the boss at media organizations.
Which is why for someone in my position, and that should be every person in a similarly privileged spot not only for their employment but also race and gender and sexuality, one should carry on that legacy of punching up, at a bare freaking minimum. There’s always going to be someone who is mad I don’t stick to sports or that we don’t do real analysis here; everyone ultimately has to make choices about what is more and less important to cover.
Yet when sites continue to fold like this, sites that provided astute commentary that meaningfully shifted public opinion are essentially gone, succumbing to ‘stick to sports’ is as terrifying as just handing the keys of journalists to the robots, while the people in power continue to do what they do in near-total secrecy. If there’s no Deadspin, then everyone just has to become it to keep the fire going.