On Thursday, G/O Media announced it was shutting down the news and cultural commentary outlet Jezebel. As a major source for reproductive health news in the post-Roe v. Wade era, Jezebel’s closing marks another hit to feminist media, further shrinking much needed coverage on issues that disproportionately affect women at a time where it demands to be fortified.
With Jezebel being the former hub of some of the most active journalists on the reproductive justice beat — namely Susan Rinkunas, Kylie Cheung, and Caitlin Cruz — reporting on abortion and other feminist news will be worse off. Just last year, the revered feminist outlet Bitch Media succumbed to financial hardship and closed its doors after 26 years. In 2019, independent blogs Feministing.com and The Establishment shut down. Even mainstream outlets with dedicated websites on gender and identity were adversely impacted, as evidenced by the Washington Post’s The Lily and VICE’s Broadly sites being folded into their respective parent organizations.
Ironically, readers now have a greater appetite for women’s perspectives on news and culture. Roe’s overturning brought even more readers to feminist publications like Jezebel. Polling has repeatedly shown that the majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and recent news trends have shown that outlets like Jezebel experienced a surge in readership in the months after the Supreme Court revoked the federal right to an abortion. The New York Times reported that Jezebel “saw an 18 percent increase in traffic after a leaked draft of the decision was published by Politico in May,” while other outlets with a gendered perspective on current events like 19th News and The Cut experienced similar bumps in engagement.
Over the years, Jezebel was the first to report on numerous important stories, namely:
- Hulu threatened to suppress political ads from a progressive Democratic candidate because they discussed “sensitive” issues. The streaming service demanded that then-congressional hopeful Suraj Patel edit digital ads he hoped to place on Hulu because they concerned issues like “abortion, climate change or gun laws” to instead address less controversial topics such as taxes or education.
- The FBI sounded the alarm to law enforcement agencies about the supposed threat of “pro-choice extremists.” Although the majority of abortion-related violence is perpetrated by anti-choice activists, a domestic terrorism briefing given by the FBI in 2017 warned “that there are threats, particularly dangerous lone wolf-type extremists, on both sides.”
- Fashion brand Nasty Gal allegedly illegally discriminated against pregnant employees. A lawsuit claimed that the woman-led company fired four women without offering them unpaid parental leave required by California law.
Jezebel further contributed to developing stories like those of a South Carolina woman arrested on suspicion of taking abortion pills and sexual assault allegations made against photographer Terry Richardson. Jezebel reported on the sexual assault allegations against Richardson 7 years prior to media conglomerate Condé Nast blacklisting him.
If the 2023 elections were any indication of the energizing power of abortion in bringing out the vote in a typically unpopular off-year, it’s almost certain the 2024 presidential election will center abortion rights as a top issue. And while mainstream pundits have previously undersold the issue’s importance and right-wing media attempted to absurdly explain away conservative election losses, independent outlets like Jezebel are able to cut through the noise and bring important reproductive rights reporting to the forefront. Without Jezebel’s critical voice, voters will have fewer resources to help them wade through a deluge of confusing coverage to make informed decisions.
As the Gizmodo Media Group Union (which previously represented Jezebel reporters) wrote in its statement, “By laying off writers and investigative reporters who focus on bodily autonomy, technology, climate change, and culture, the company [G/O Media] has left itself unprepared to deal with the biggest stories of our modern world … These cuts affect not only our network, but every reader who relied on this expert coverage to understand their own changing rights and place within the world.”