In the era of “fake news” and shrinking media sources, name-recognition has become vital for media consumers to decipher what stories are credible. While sports are not the same intensity as politics when it comes to a need for a lack of bias, credibility is still important.
Last Thursday, Oct. 3, the world of sports took a credibility hit. Sports Illustrated was purchased by Authentic Brands Group in May of this year but was not supposed to take control of editorial decisions for two years. Now, Maven was contracted by Authentic Brands Group to run Sports Illustrated and has fired approximately half of its editors and writers.
Layoffs are certainly a reality that people in media must consider. It is a sad and scary reality in a world of bottom lines and shrinking media organizations. This, however, was not the case for Sports Illustrated. Back in May, a spokeswoman said the magazine was profitable with a 27-issue-per-year schedule. So, why now? Why purge half of your staff?
The new model Maven is laying out will put the reputable name of Sports Illustrated to shame. Rather than hiring quality journalists with credentials and integrity, it will use fans to create hyperlocal content similar to SB Nation. These fans are without credibility and will not get paid for their contributions. This move disgraces the job that many sports journalists take great pride in. Sports writing is so much more than ranting or raving about your favorite team. It is about sharing stories unknown to the common person. Sports Illustrated writer, Charlotte Wilder wrote a story in 2018 documenting the NBA draft’s “green room,” where players wait to get drafted. The story is titled “The Unbearable Tedium of Waiting to Hear Your Name Called at the NBA Draft,” and is an absolute tear-jerker. She saw, first-hand, what the players went through, getting skipped over pick after pick in favor of other players.
This first-hand account cannot be documented by these “team communities” that Maven is highlighting. For the near future, Sports Illustrated will still have some excellent writers and staffers like Wilder. Some of the great journalists may remain, and this is not a slight on them. Wilder and the other writers do a tremendous job, and none of this is their fault. It is the extra garbage that Maven is morphing Sports Illustrated into that is an utter disgrace to sports journalism.
Aside from these biased fan-based writers, what hurts the most is the focus on search engine optimization, traffic and quantity over quality. As writers, it is our job to inform. We want to share stories that are important, ones we are passionate about. Once clicks are brought into the equation, we lose our voice and creativity. Stories go from discussing the unknown fairy tale story to hot takes and nonsense. And as for quantity, anybody can throw words on a page. It takes time to craft a well-thought out story, one that brings you on a journey and evokes a variety of emotions. According to Deadspin, Maven expects their team site managers to not only run the website and find writers, but also, mandate them to post three videos per day, all for $25,000-$30,000 a year. These managers are doing three jobs in one for a fraction of the cost. People cannot expect good journalism from these websites or from the new Sports Illustrated and that is not even the biggest tragedy.
On Twitter last week, some of your favorite sports writers had to share the horrible news that they were fired. But it was not just the writers. Editors, producers and those behind your favorite Sports Illustrated content were released. Perhaps the small bit of good to come out of this was the sense of unity on Twitter. Sports writers flooded their timelines with retweets and the rallying cry to combat Maven’s attrocities, #SaveSI.
Maven has altered sports journalism in one swift move, and it seems like all they care about is a quick cash grab.
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