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Jezebel Is Set to Rise From the Dead

This reporting is featured in this week’s edition of Confider, the newsletter pulling back the curtain on the media. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.

Jezebel readers can come out of mourning: The iconic feminist website is already set to be revived under new ownership, Confider has learned.

Four potential buyers came out of the woodwork following the shock news earlier this month that the site was shuttering. And from that pool, two bidders have submitted seven-figure offers to bring the iconic site back to life, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The frontrunner to resurrect Jezebel is believed to be an angel investor-turned-media buyer, we’ve been told. If the deal goes through, former Jezebel EIC Laura Bassett would return to run the site, and most of the dozen-plus staff who were laid off by G/O Media would be hired back.

G/O’s CEO Jim Spanfeller, often derisively referred to as “The Herb” by his employees, has told confidants he is happy that the narrative around Jezebel’s demise has been “woke don’t sell,” as opposed to what staffers said was his inability to resource and monetize the well-known site (“completely false,” a G/O Media rep told Confider).

News of Jezebel’s potential rescue—which the flack declined to comment on—comes as Spanfeller has told remaining G/O staff he has “big plans” for the future of journalism—particularly with the assistance of artificial intelligence. The media bigwig’s latest “big” idea: Roundups of the previous week’s top posts to publish on the weekends in the hope of juicing traffic. (“The idea came from staff and is something we are currently testing and is something commonplace in digital publishing,” the G/O rep said.)

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In his four-page Nov. 10 memo announcing Jezebel’s closure, Spanfeller touted the creation of an “office of editorial oversight,” which sounds straight out of 1984, and in Orwellian fashion it appears to be an office of one, with Big Brother Spanfeller taking on all editorial responsibilities after sacking editorial director Merrill Brown. “This is completely false,” a G/O Media rep claimed. “Details of this are still in development and will be shared with the staff in the near future.”

It’s just the latest in a series of seemingly bizarre ideas from Spanfeller, who, as Confider previously reported, concocted a convoluted “scorecard” to mark staff performance. He also is pushing to reduce from six to four the number of days per month that staffers—whose demands for an all-hands meeting have been ignored by management—can work from home.

“He [Spanfeller] doesn’t want anything to do with us,” one G/O staffer told Confider. “He wants to treat us as widgets.”

Meanwhile, Deadspin senior writer Julie DiCaro is preparing to file a federal lawsuit against Spanfeller and G/O alleging she was discriminated against based on her gender and paid less than her male equivalent when she was acting EIC of the sports site, two people with knowledge of the situation told Confider.

The one silver lining for G/O Media’s embattled staffers? Despite having shut down a beloved website and fired 23 employees, Spanfeller wants to hold a lavish holiday party to celebrate the year’s achievements.

“G/O Media’s intention is to add to headcount in the coming months,” the G/O flack noted to Confider. “Despite the union’s best efforts to negotiate issues through the press, G/O Media management prefers to discuss these topics at the bargaining table.”

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November 2023