It’s a sad day for long-time readers and editors of the feminist online publication Jezebel. G/O Media, Jezebel’s parent company, is shuttering the brand and laying off its staff after failing to find a buyer for the site.
“As of this week, we are making the very, very difficult decision to suspend publication of Jezebel,” G/O chief executive Jim Spanfeller wrote on Thursday in a memo to staff obtained by CNN. “Few decisions over the course of my career have been as excruciating, and I want to make clear this is in NO WAY a reflection on the Jezebel editorial team.”
In total, 23 employees will be laid off during a broader editorial restructuring at G/O. Merrill Brown, G/O’s editorial director, is also parting ways with the company after less than a year. It’s been a generally rocky few months for G/O, which owns other websites including Gizmodo, Kotaku, and The Root. The company sold its advice-focused publication, Lifehacker, in March, as well as letting 13 staffers go in June. And while Spanfeller said he hasn’t given up on finding a buyer for Jezebel, it seems unlikely that the website will find new life anytime soon.
Staff tensions played out publicly
Even before the news of Jezebel’s closure, there seemed to be some tension in the wake of its 2019 acquisition by G/O. Laura Bassett, who resigned as the site’s editor-in-chief in August 2023, tweeted at the time that her “reluctant” departure was because “the company that owned us refused to treat my staff with basic human decency.” Many of the site’s current editors have also taken to X/Twitter to express their grievances after today’s announcement.
Since its founding in 2007, Jezebel (then anchored under the Gawker blog umbrella), has built a passionate following. The publication emerged before the explosion of social media, providing a community for many readers who often didn’t see their viewpoints represented elsewhere. Jezebel took an unflinching look at issues like sexism in the workplace, abortion rights, and the #MeToo movement. And while the publication has faced criticism for its so-called “angry” tone and fiery comments section, founder Anna Holmes wrote in The New Yorker just last week that the expression of women’s anger is a part of Jezebel’s legacy that she’s ultimately proud of.
“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.”
Jezebel’s closure comes as yet another blow in a year that’s been generally tough for the media industry. Advertising revenue and subscriptions have been on a downward trend for several years, leading job cuts to soar to an unprecedented height this June—even surpassing pandemic-era downsizing. Early this year, The Washington Post laid off 20 roles across departments and slashed its gaming-centric vertical, Launcher. Paper Magazine is currently rebuilding after laying off its entire editorial staff in April, the same month that BuzzFeed News closed down. And as recently as this morning, Vice Media Group announced another wave of staff layoffs following multiple other cuts in 2023.
Now, Jezebel’s former staffers are mourning their own loss. According to a tweet from staff writer Audra Heinrichs, “Jezebel altered my life in ways that I’m currently unable to articulate. I’m gutted. For me, but for anyone who loved it.”