Digital publisher G/O Media has finally found an editorial director — filling a role that has been vacant for a year and a half — hiring veteran journalist and media exec Merrill Brown for the job.
As editorial director, Brown will oversee the newsroom and coverage of all G/O media properties, including Gizmodo, The Onion, The AV Club, Jezebel and Deadspin. Brown reports directly to CEO Jim Spanfeller.
In 2019, Spanfeller and private-equity firm Great Hill Partners acquired Gizmodo Media Group (formerly part of Gawker Media) and The Onion from Univision. After a mass resignation of the Deadspin staff in protest of new management demands that the staff write only about sports, Spanfeller hired former New York Daily News EIC Jim Rich to run Deadspin. Rich was then promoted to editorial director of G/O Media — before departing in mid-2021 over his dissatisfaction with “interference” by Spanfeller and other top executives in editorial decisions, the New York Post reported.
Brown’s media-biz experience includes consulting work for MedCity News, The Guardian, ABC News, National Public Radio, New York Magazine and TV Guide. Brown was the founder and CEO of News Project Inc., which was founded to provide technology and services designed to make it easier for investors, philanthropists, journalists and others to conduct digital news businesses. He also served as the inaugural director of Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media, as well as editor-in-chief of the media industry magazine Channel, senior VP of Court TV and the first editor-in-chief of MSNBC.com. At The Washington Post, Brown was a business reporter based in New York.
“Merrill’s deep experience across the media spectrum makes her an invaluable addition to the G/O Media family,” Spanfeller said in a statement. “His expertise will take our strong editorial product to greater heights.”
In a statement provided by G/O Media, Brown said, “I am thrilled to be joining such a vibrant company that is leading the way in the digital space. I look forward to helping the organization create great coverage of critical issues and driving growth while maintaining each site’s unique and strong voice.”
Brown has served as a board member for more than a dozen companies and nonprofits, including the International Women’s Media Foundation, Now Public, and the City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Brown is co-founder of the Online News Association and founding editorial director of News21, a university journalism initiative.
New York-based G/O Media claims it reaches more than 100 million unique visitors per month through its extended network of third parties. Its publication is Gizmodo; AV Club; onion; Deadspin; Jezebel; Jalopnik (car culture); Kotaku (gaming); Lifehacker (Lifestyle); Takeout (Food & Beverage); The Root (Black news and culture); Quartz (business); and inventory (ecommerce).