Welcome to this week’s edition of Confider, the media newsletter that pulls back the curtain to reveal what’s really going on inside the world’s most powerful navel-gazing industry. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
EXCLUSIVE — G/O DUMPSTER FIRE: The top editor at one of G/O Media’s most famous properties has quit, Confider has learned, as staffers say CEO Jim Spanfeller has become unhinged and impossible to work for. Jezebel editor-in-chief Laura Bassett resigned from her post on Friday, becoming the seventh EIC in a portfolio of ten sites to quit G/O over the last eight months—the second EIC in as many weeks. She was absolutely unsparing towards management in her resignation note, which was obtained and reviewed by Confider. “If I’m not allowed to replace my deputy editor, give any of my writers raises or promotions ever for the great work they do, or fill any of the half dozen open writer slots I’ve had for a year, it’s clear that any pathway for growth I had here has been deliberately cut off and that I’ve done all I can do to make this site what it could be given reasonable resources,” she wrote. Bassett took over Jezebel in September 2021 and now joins a running list of G/O EICs to have bailed: Eric Barrow, who exited as EIC of Deadspin in December; Vanessa K. De Luca, who left as EIC of The Root in April; Bob Sorokanich, who left as EIC of Jalopnik that same month; Zach Seward, who quit as EIC of Quartz in May; and Patricia Hernandez, who exited as EIC of Kotaku just last week. It all comes as Spanfeller, whom many current and former employees derisively refer to as a “herb,”pushes ahead with an expanded use of artificial intelligence in the newsroom and has introduced a “scorecard” to mark staff performance. Under this system, people familiar with the matter told Confider, writers and editors are assigned points value based on an algorithm that Spanfeller concocted, which is 25 percent based on output, 50 percent based on traffic generated, and 25 percent on engagement. The scorecard, which has been strenuously objected to by staffers, ultimately dings feature and investigative writers who don’t produce as much content as someone covering breaking news or churning out slideshows. Spanfeller, who insiders claim is obsessed with the number of articles each site publishes in a day, grills editors at a weekly traffic meeting about their respective site’s performance. “He is too focused on small details of headlines and when an article went up to understand an online news site,” one G/O staffer told Confider. Making matters worse for morale: Spanfeller hired his daughter to a sales position and then promoted her within a year, according to two people familiar with the matter, all while continuing to block internal promotions. The bigger mystery, however, as staffers told Confider, is what G/O’s ownership at private equity firm Great Hill Partners plans to do with all of this. “They are not going to get the valuation they planned for,” one insider told Confider. “The media market has collapsed in the time they’ve had this asset.” A spokesperson for G/O Media emailed Confider about the EIC exodus: “When there is a change in editorial management there is frequently some turnover in the senior editorial ranks. We couldn’t be happier with the new EICs of our sites and the overall editorial direction of G/O Media.” And regarding the use of AI, the spokesperson continued: “We see AI as a supplement to our editorial workflow, not a replacement. We do not plan on laying off editorial staff due to AI activities.” And on Spanfeller’s scorecards, the spox added: “These performance metrics are consistent with metrics used by other digital media companies. G/O Media is committed to long form journalism across all of our portfolio of sites.” A spokesperson for Great Hill Partners did not respond to a request for comment.
BYE BYE RONNY: With Ron DeSantis’ poll numbers cratering ahead of the first GOP primary debate, Fox News looks to have all but abandoned the Florida governor for another “anti-woke” Donald Trump alternative. Vivek Ramaswamy, the 37-year-old fame-seeking biotech entrepreneur who honed his populist culture-warrior persona on Fox’s airwaves, has surged in recent polls and is suddenly vying with DeSantis for second place. It appears the conservative cable giant smells the desperation from DeSantis’ camp—apparent in a leaked debate strategy memo urging the guv to “hammer” Ramaswamy—and has noticeably pivoted to Vivek. The network had already grown increasingly tough on DeSantis over the summer, but the change has been remarkable: Over the past week, Fox News has mentioned Ramaswamy at least 200 times, according to media monitoring service TVEyes. He’s also appeared for a half-dozen interviews, during which the network has applauded his rising popularity or gushed over his “respectful” handling of an interaction with a pansexual activist at the Iowa State Fair. Fox hosts simply cannot get over Ramaswamy’s ability to rap Eminem lyrics, believing he tapped into “music that really appeals to Gen-Z’ers.” Fox & Friends has seemingly set the tone for the network’s shift away from DeSantis in its quest for an electable GOP hopeful who isn’t the quadruply indicted Trump (especially as he skips the Fox-hosted debate and rages against Rupert Murdoch for being insufficiently loyal to him). While repeatedly declaring Ramaswamy “brilliant” and hammering away at DeSantis’ embarrassing debate prep, the Friends crew declared that Vivek has the “perfect message”—e.g., he’s a young guy who likes everything Trump did and wants the twice-impeached ex-president as a mentor. Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins helpfully revealed that his 91-year-old mother is “really impressed” by Ramaswamy, who has played footsie with 9/11 trutherism. “The Ramaswamy/Murdoch ‘get-to-know-you session’ is really paying off today lmao,” a Fox News producer texted Confider on Thursday during Ramaswamy’s Fox News blitz, referencing a private meeting between the two men this past spring. Murdoch has sought a GOP savior to allow the party (and his media empire) to move on from Trump, including reportedly encouraging Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to jump into the race. And while Ramaswamy enjoys hours of free press on Fox News, the network’s smaller rival Newsmax has reportedly tried to shake him down for its support. With Newsmax already airing paid programming from little-known gadfly candidate Perry Johnson—who claims he has now qualified for the Fox debate—Semafor reported that network CEO Chris Ruddy told Ramaswamy that he should emulate Johnson if he wanted better coverage on the channel, a claim Newsmax has vehemently denied.
EXCLUSIVE — THE ABCs OF HIRING: It’s hard to find good help. Just ask ABC News boss Kim Godwin who is without an assistant after her third minion in just two years has exited the role, Confider has learned. To fill the gap, Godwin’s right-hand man Jose Andino, who has the lengthy title of “Vice President—Office of the President and Process Management,” has stepped in to help—and is even sitting in the assistant’s old chair, three people familiar with the matter tell Confider. And what are some of the primary responsibilities of an executive assistant to the president of ABC News? “Review your leader’s schedule to build-in time for things like thinking and traveling to their next meeting,” was one of the primary responsibilities listed in a job posting. “Booking and managing regular travel, often creating multi-city travel itineraries and taking into account time zones, weather delays, traffic and fatigue,” is another key responsibility for assisting Godwin, who is well-known for her love of work travel. The vacancy for Godwin’s assistant role comes as two other key ABC positions remained unfilled after months of head-hunting: The SVP of comms and the SVP of talent. A spox for ABC declined to comment.
CUOMO UNLEASHED: As his $125-million wrongful firing lawsuit against CNN drags on, Chris Cuomo took to a web show to unleash his fury. “I never lied about a fucking thing to anybody about helping my brother. And I never did anything to lie about,” the former CNN star raged from the front seat of a car while video-calling into Charlie LeDuff’s No BS News Hour. The network fired Cuomo in December 2021 after an internal probe found that he’d heavily assisted his brother’s battle against sexual harassment allegations, including allegedly calling on media contacts to help dig up dirt on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s accusers. “The fuck I did. Where is the media that I worked for my brother? You don’t think they would stand up and say, ‘He called me, he asked me to do him a favor’? Why? Because they’d protect me, because they’re my friends? Come on,” Chris ranted to LeDuff. The ex-CNN host also appeared to blame the nebulous “media” for his ouster, claiming “they” were just envious of him. “The people who took me down were the people I trusted the most. I knew the media was pissed off at me for having my brother on the show during the pandemic. I know, I get it. I get what the conflict was, I get why it bothered them. I get why the ‘Love Guv’ stuff and the Brothers Cuomo stuff made them jealous and upset. I get it,” he declared. “I just never thought that Andrew was going to get in that kind of trouble so that they would have that kind of ammunition to use against me to say he’s a bad guy because he’s helping a bad guy. I just didn’t see that coming because I didn’t see that coming for my brother. And I didn’t see the people I trusted most deciding to save themselves by saying I lied to them.” Watch the interview here.
Tips? We’re all ears: firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text us 551 655 2343.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: Someone claiming to have recently resigned from the NBA used the league’s Facebook account this morning to anonymously rage against how “the NBA overextends it’s [sic] social media employees greatly to the detriment of their health and social lives for a salary of less than $50k annually after taxes.” Interestingly, ESPN, which has reportedly held talks with the NBA on a minority stake in the outlet, has not covered the now-deleted incendiary tweet.
MORE FROM THE BEAST MEDIA DESK
—Two years ago, Jeff Bezos handed Van Jones a $100 million check to use as he saw fit for his various causes. This summer, Jones left the board of one of his main nonprofits, Dream.org, and not by choice. “Quite a few people have questions about the fiscal stewardship that Dream.org has had,” one former staffer said. Read the full story here.
—Mass layoffs at Project Veritas have left the right-wing media org gutted. Under former boss James O’Keefe, the company’s various debacles made sense—He “was a CEO who was drunk on power and loses control,” as one recently laid-off staffer said. But under new boss Hannah Giles, “I don’t know what the fuck happened here.” More here.
—Asked whether he feels vindicated by Chris Licht’s firing at CNN, former host Don Lemon told Kara Swisher: “I do.” He further touted Jeff Zucker as the only person worthy of the CNN CEO gig: “There isn’t a better person alive who could run CNN, and I don’t know if there’s anyone who could do it. Look, someone can do it. I don’t know if they’ll do it well, but I think the best person to run CNN was and would be [him].“ More here.
—It’s been a parlor game in media circles for some time: Who will succeed Mike Bloomberg when he steps away from his eponymous company? The answers may be found in a Monday media memo. Read more here.
—Pugnacious troll Dave Portnoy is back in charge at Barstool Sports and is apparently ready to “name names” and lop off some heads at his company, he told the New York Post in a friendly new profile. More here.
—The Washington Post got a hold of the confidential affidavits detailing the rationale for the now-infamous police raid of the Marion County Record. Read about it here.
***WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?***
Whenever you bring on a Christian rapper, whose biggest claim to fame is a song called “Reclaim the Rainbow,” to rage about how “left-wing gender ideology” is destroying the country, you already know where this will go. During a Wednesday night appearance on Newsmax, right-wing commentator Shemeka Michelle fumed that conservatives weren’t being bigoted enough towards the LGBTQ community. “We need to be more homophobic,” she ranted to disgraced Fox News host Eric Bolling. “We need to take it up a notch because these people have continued to do this because we failed to shame them.” Already hopping mad that a gender clinic endorsed the term “egg producers” for expectant mothers, Michelle told Newsmax viewers to “put our feet down and stand tall” because this was “a war between good and evil.” Read about this apocalyptic tirade here.