Sports Illustrated firings

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

7 October 2019

The mass Sports Illustrated firings didn’t have to be

Among all the terrible news last week (and I could list many), the mass Sports Illustrated firings of nearly half its staff were the saddest for me.

I wrote months ago that SI was in trouble with its new owners. But I won’t get into the complicated deal struck by Authentic Brands and its licensing deal with digital publisher The Maven here.

But let’s just say the Sports Illustrated firings represent one more mainstay of journalism taking a major tumble.

As I’ve noted before, I’ve been a subscriber for nearly 40 years. I anxiously awaited reading the back page columns of Rick Reilly, the cranky NFL musings of Dr. Z and the stylistic features of Gary Smith.

I could go on.

Sports Illustrated firingsBut now SI sits in tatters. Gone are longtime editors and many reporters whose careers I’ve followed. If you look at the SI website today, it’s been gutted to bone and sinew.

No wonder. The Sports Illustrated firings leave the outlet with a new direction of replacing full-time staff with low-wage freelancers and unpaid bloggers.

That should fix the problem.

“It’s ironic that the Sports Illustrated firings were orchestrated because of a deal made by a company called Authentic Brands. If anything, the brand of SI has been mismanaged for years.”

Sports Illustrated firings a result of brand mismanagement

But I don’t want to be a hypocrite here. I failed to renew my subscription last year because the site itself gave me all I wanted. And online competition simply makes SI borderline irrelevant.

In fact, I subscribe now to The Athletic, home to many of the nation’s best sportswriters, including many former SI scribes like Seth Davis.

It’s ironic that the Sports Illustrated firings were orchestrated because of a deal made by a company called Authentic Brands. If anything, the brand of SI has been mismanaged for years.

It once meant the best sportswriting in America, along with having the courage to tackle difficult subjects. In recent years, it’s been plagued by an onerous website cluttered by pop-up ads like a retail site from the 90s. And, if anything, ESPN’s online presence has featured more investigative sports journalism than SI.

So, I guess the Sports Illustrated firings are not surprising. But, man, I can feel a pain in my gut about it. And it didn’t have to be.

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