Jason Schreier leaving Kotaku over G/O Media ownership

Jason Schreier announced he is leaving Kotaku after eight years with the website, most recently as news editor.

As for the reasons for his departure, Schreier alludes to “what happened to Deadspin.” Deadspin is a sports website owned by G/O Media since last year. In August 2019, Deadspin top editor, Megan Greenwell had to resign over the disagreements with G/O Media on how to run the site, followed by the exodus of its entire editorial staff. Specifically, Greenwall was told to “stick to sports” after years of covering media, politics, and culture beyond sports.

Kotaku has also been owned by G/O Media sine 2019, when the the company bought the site along with Deadspin, Gizmodo and other journalistic properties that were once part of Gawker Media.

“I’ve been through a lot with this company. Since 2012, we’ve been through a whole lot of management shifts and resignations and firings and drama,” Schreier told The Washington Post. “I’ve been through a lot of cataclysmic shifts because it always felt like, through it all, we were guided by people who always cared about journalism, and unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s the case anymore.”

When reporting on the G/O Media interference with the former Gawker properties, Daily Beast wrote that “G/O Media has also not been afraid to drastically change how the former Gawker websites look and feel. The company has clogged the mobile versions of its sites with display ads, suggested brand-new website taglines, and on several occasions seemed to suggest shaping coverage in a way that benefits potential ad buyers.”

Moreover, G/O released a new staff handbook that authorised the company to search employees’ “personal vehicles, parcels, purses, handbags, backpacks, briefcases, lunch boxes.” Among other changes, the handbook allowed reviewing all electronic communications made on company property and disclosing them to others at the management’s discretion. At the same time, employees were required to stop using encrypted email programs. An attendance policy and a dress code were also established.

Ultimately, the direction of the parent company is threatening the editorial independence across its outlets. On Wednesday, Kelly Bourdet said she is stepping down as editor in chief at Gizmodo. As for Kotaku, some recent notable departures include reporter Cecilia D’Anastasio, who left in December 2019, and reporters Gita Jackson and Joshua Rivera, who quit in January 2020. All of them cited the new management and their stance on any sort of investigative journalism.

Speaking of investigative journalism, Jason Schreier, in particular, is known for his coverage of the “crunch culture” and mismanagement at video games companies, something that he will now do elsewhere. The journalist didn’t elaborate on his plans, only saying that he’ll be “doing brand new things at a brand new outlet.” Other than that, he will take several weeks off to finish his second book, which is something of a spiritual successor to his bestseller “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made.” In the meantime, Schreier will continue podcasting on Triple Click with former and current Kotaku journalists Kirk Hamilton and Maddy Myers.

Schreier has been with Kotaku since 2011 after initially working at WIRED Magazine.

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