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Influential feminist news site Jezebel shutters

By Maggy Donaldson / AFP Published Nov 10, 2023 8:22 am

Jezebel, the influential US feminist news site beloved for its pithy cultural commentary and astute reporting, is shutting down after 16 years online, its parent company announced Thursday.

In a memo G/O media—the New York-based holding company that owns outlets including Gizmodo and Quartz—cited "economic headwinds" in announcing the 23-person editorial staff would be laid off.

"While G/O Media is a lean, nimble organization, we are not immune to the economic headwinds rattling our business," CEO Jim Spanfeller wrote to staff.

"Unfortunately, our business model and the audiences we serve across our network did not align with Jezebel's."

He added that the move was "in NO WAY a reflection of the Jezebel editorial team" and that the company had made efforts to sell the publication.

But "despite every effort, we could not find Jez a new home," Spanfeller said.

Jezebel launched in 2007 under its first editor-in-chief, Anna Holmes, as part of Gawker Media.

It quickly grew a loyal audience attuned to its feminist editorial line, witty prose, and in-depth reporting focused on issues that impact women.

It took on issues of gender, power, and sexism long before most legacy media outlets began integrating those discussions into their editorial priorities.

Univision scooped Jezebel when Gawker closed down in 2016, and it later fell under the G/O umbrella beginning in 2019, when the private equity firm Great Hill Partners bought it as part of an acquisition from Univision, forming the holding company G/O.

Jezebel's closing comes amid anger over G/O's increasing reliance on AI-generated content.

More layoffs at Vice

The news came just a week after Jezebel's founder Holmes published an essay in The New Yorker reflecting on the site's legacy.

"I see Jezebel not as the beginning of the end of the digital-media era but as a moment—a spark—within an ongoing discussion about gender politics," Holmes wrote. 

"That conversation has led to new realities around sexual assault and harassment, pay inequity, and cultural depictions of women. It also makes some people uncomfortable—in part because it involves women expressing their anger in public and sustained ways."

In a statement, the Writers Guild of America, East—which represents Jezebel journalists—said it was "devastated though hardly surprised" at the news.

"Jezebel has been a pillar of fearless journalism and important cultural commentary since 2007 and made an indelible mark on the media landscape," the WGA said.

Also on Thursday, Vice Media Group announced a new round of layoffs, after announcing earlier this year it was filing for bankruptcy protection to facilitate its sale.

A one-time rising star of the digital media world, the now-beleaguered Vice plans to shut down several shows and lay off dozens of staffers, according to trade publications, who cited a memo to employees.

"We can no longer express shock and surprise that Vice has determined its only way forward is to lay people off," said the WGA East-affiliated Vice Union in a statement. "As has been the case in previous layoffs, Vice has once again decided to let go of the very same people who have worked tirelessly over the years to turn it into a respected, award-winning media company."

"Entire teams were gutted, and scores of people lost their jobs today." (AFP)