On August 16th of last year, Univision won the bankruptcy auction to purchase Gawker for $135 million. By November, Fusion began to integrate with Gawker, and many wondered if Fusion would still be around given the impending cuts and inevitable overlap between the two. Right after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the ax dropped and Fusion cut roughly a third of its workforce, with 70 employees headed out the door. However, this purge had already begun. In November, right around the time speculation began to mount as to the inevitability that came a few months later, Fusion laid off journalist Marisa Kabas, six months after they hired her.
On January 27th, Marisa Kabas launched version one of the RESISTABLE newsletter, which highlights protests from around the country. Her inspiration for launching it was the massive women's marches that served as something of a counter-inauguration to Donald Trump's inauguration.
Photo by Marisa Kabas
Per the inaugural newsletter on 1/27:
This newsletter was launched in the wake of the overwhelmingly successful post-inauguration women's marches all over the country. The turnout at these events made it clear that it's more important than ever for citizens to remain active and engaged in civic life, and to not just SPEAK UP, but SHOW UP. That's why I've started gathering event listings, like the ones you'll see below.
A little about me: My name is Marisa, and I'm a 29-year-old writer based in New York City. I'm also a proud Jew, granddaughter of immigrants, and firm believer in the right of all people to come to this already great country and help make it even greater.
So far, the response to this newsletter has been overwhelming. And while I'm committed to moving this forward, I can't do it without your help! Whenever you see an upcoming protest, rally, or march, please send it over to RESISTABLEnewsletter@gmail.com. The more you send, the more people will show up in their local cities to fight the resistance.
Speaking to Paste, Kabas confirmed that the “overwhelming response” she referred to was 700 subscribers in the first day of simply announcing the project.
She has since released 13 newsletters with information about weekly protests planned across the nation. This crowd-sourced document has now reached 3,210 subscribers according to Kabas. Nearly a month after its inception, Carla Javier of Fusion posted a guide to finding protests without any attribution to Kabas. In a seemingly endless line of similarities, Fusion has tagged this post in the upper left hand corner with #Resistancehandbook. Kabas informed Paste of her knowledge about this saga:
I received a tip from a current Fusion employee about two weeks ago that a plan was in the works to create a protest listing/newsletter directly inspired by my project. Now Fusion is directly refuting this, but all i know is what I was told/I still believe this was my idea first.
There had been coverage of RESISTABLE from well-known outlets prior to Fusion posting their initial story on 2/22. A quick rundown:
In Bustle on 1/30.
In Glamour on 2/1.
In We Hunted The Mammoth on 2/17. (41,266 in US Alexa rankings)
In The Daily Dot on 2/20.
Perhaps most interesting, on 1/31, writer EJ Dickson, whose work has been seen in Romper, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and GQ tweeted this:
Carla Javier—the author of Fusion's protest series—follows EJ Dickson on Twitter.
Granted, Twitter is a chaotic place and we all miss the vast majority of tweets flowing through our feed, and we don't know if these weekly posts were even Javier's idea, but needless to say, none of this is a good look for Fusion. I reached out to Javier to see if she was aware of this tweet that most certainly made its way into her newsfeed, and she said that she was unable to comment and referred me to their Editor-in-Chief.
Upon realization of this striking similarity yesterday, support soon flooded Kabas' Twitter feed, including from people like Mic's tech editorial director.
A reporter from Politico.
A writer for the New York Times and senior editor of Hey Revelist.
And a former writer for Fusion and current editor at Entity.
According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Univision was losing between $20 million and $35 million per year on Fusion alone last year. Univision is in the process of planning a massive IPO this year, which has been rumored to be around $1 billion. They are no doubt under immense pressure to generate clicks, and protest is very much a significant part of this moment, so a resource pointing people in the direction of local protests is a good and somewhat obvious idea—as the relative success of Kabas's newsletter has demonstrated in the span of a month.
No one has a monopoly on announcing public events, but it's difficult to not see an inherent conflict here. Fusion cut staff at least in part, to streamline profits with an eye on Univision's IPO later this year, and the remaining staff is now publishing a weekly article that is almost exactly like what a former staffer created while not on Fusion's payroll—all while presenting it as if it were a completely original idea from Fusion. Per their first article:
At Fusion, we've decided to highlight some of the countless protests taking place around the U.S. every week, so that you can inform yourself about what's going on in your area.
At the very least, they could acknowledge that a former staffer has a nearly identical idea that was featured in widely read outlets prior to Fusion ever putting something up. If this truly was an original idea grown out of Fusion’s coverage, what’s the harm in getting out in front of an obvious conflict of interest?
To recap, Fusion’s weekly column is nearly indistinguishable in style and substance to Kabas’ newsletter, with the lone formatting difference being Kabas placing the location of the protest on the same line as the name, whereas Fusion puts it on the line underneath the name of the protest, and above the blurb that is virtually the same length as the blurb in Kabas’ newsletter.
RESISTABLE was featured in well-known outlets, and was even publicly endorsed on Twitter by a writer that the author of the Fusion article follows. This is not proof that would hold up in a court of law, but when you’re accused of copying an idea that has been in place for a month prior to yours, you need all the ammo you can get to deny it in the court of public opinion. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of Kabas, and in fact, there is quite literally zero evidence that this was Fusion’s original idea outside of their assertions that it was.
Kabas isn’t trying to leverage any type of monetary gain out of this battle, but rightful attribution, as she told Paste:
The overall goal of resistance is so important, and we need as many people as possible spreading the word about events. I’m all for sharing ideas, but it’s important to respect where the ideas come from.
Paste has reached out to Fusion’s Editor-in-Chief and will update this post if we get a reply.
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.