About one week ago, Sports Illustrated laid off basically their entire staff. A titan in the sports journalism industry for 70 years, gone in just 5 due to chronic mismanagement, unnecessary cost-cutting, unethical practices, and overall, just bad business. It is utterly heartbreaking what happened to SI, however not exactly unexpected. Pat Forde was running the corporation into the ground long before the Artificial Intelligence scandal, to be honest, but that's beside the point. You can read more on that issue here. If a pillar of the sports journalism world can ruin its reputation and eventually its business within a decade, what can sports journalism do differently to save itself? That is the Burning Question I pose to you today.
My Humble Opinion...
ESPN, FOX Sports, and SI have long since been cost-cutting, laying off employees, and taking shortcuts. While many chalk it up to it "just being business", that's exactly what journalism and media shouldn't be. Corporate, a slave to the dollar, and rigid, and that has been the problem that has plagued these big brands. Ethical, authentic, and honest journalism stays away from corporate slants, bribery, and an agenda. Mind you, it's not the writers and boots on the ground that aren't at fault for this, it's the corporate bigwigs and those who chase the dollar over the passion and the truth. That's exactly what the biggest businesses have done in sports journalism and really just journalism in general, and it's killing them. People don't trust these big brands anymore, because that's exactly what they are. Just brands, and they need to go back to practicing authentically and ethically, with regard to the little guy, the common fan, and to even their own staff. Outlets like Mike Vernon, College Football Dawgs, sports YouTubers, and others are outdoing ESPN and others because they are actually invested in the real work, while these bigger brands steal scoops and pose them as their own. It's incredibly disingenuous and incredibly disappointing. Giving credit where credit is due is arguably the most important rule in journalism, and the biggest brands aren't doing it.
Also, while it's unrealistic to expect international brands to consistently be original, niche, and attentive to every single small detail, it IS realistic to expect a solid product, which is what ESPN, FOX Sports, and SI have all lacked for some time now. New ideas don't exist anymore at these levels, the production value has gone downhill, and overall, the biggest brands have gotten exceedingly lazier. Shows like First Take, PTI, and others have gone from shows I genuinely enjoyed watching because of the information they had and presented, to screaming matches and talking heads mindlessly regurgitating information and making click-baity claims with no credibility. ESPN took the Pat McAfee Show and watered it down to where Pat McAfee is unwatchable now. The Age of Information is stronger than ever, and these businesses have not caught up because they beat dead horses, aren't up to date with their constituents, and are too busy selling out. The time to catch up is now, and you can only catch up if you include the little man, those who are authentic and passionate about the truth, and don't water down the product.
However, what do you think on this issue? Has corporate sports media taken a turn for the worse? Can they save themselves and build back up their reputations? Let me know in the comments below, and support the small-time journalists like myself who genuinely care about their product and the authenticity of their message.