SI Cuts Large Portion Of Staff As New Operator Takes Control
SI endured severe layoffs on Thursday, as upwards of "half the magazine's staff was cut" after Authentic Brands Group officially transferred the outlet's editorial operations from Meredith to The Maven, according to Austin Cannon of the DES MOINES REGISTER. Earlier Thursday on Twitter, the account Sports Illustrated United said that "more than three-quarters of the SI staff asked Meredith and Authentic Brands to 'save' the magazine." Meredith Chief Communications Officer Art Slusark said that The Maven has told Meredith that it "would like to enter a 'transitional services agreement' in which Meredith employees would continue to handle the production of Sports Illustrated for a time." Slusark said Authentic Brands has "sole control" over SI's business and employees since it bought the magazine (DES MOINES REGISTER, 10/4).
HOW IT HAPPENED: In DC, Bogage & Strauss write the cuts at SI "could decimate what was once the standard-bearer of American sports journalism." Sources said that the job losses are "worse than most inside the magazine expected." Even "die-hard optimists said morale was at an all-time low given the magazine’s recent struggles, and key managers were not given the opportunity to fight to save some of the organization’s most prized writers." SI employees were "invited to two separate 'transition meetings' Thursday, gatherings that were feared to split the magazine into one group that would lose its jobs and another that would not." Thirty former employees on the print side of the publication will "receive severance protection guaranteed through SI’s collective bargaining agreement with the NewsGuild of New York." Guild members are "negotiating to extend those benefits to other laid-off staffers, including full-time contractors" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/4). In N.Y., Marc Tracy notes SI staffers Steve Cannella and Ryan Hunt on Tuesday were "elevated to co-editors in chief" after Chris Stone was let go. Cannella and Hunt in an email to staff on Wednesday said, "Our goal is simple: to double down on the best of what Sports Illustrated has always been known for -- unparalleled journalism and powerful storytelling -- while creating a new company that’s built for success in the 21st century and beyond" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/4).
WHAT'S THE PLAN? A source said that SI now "employs roughly 160 people" and that The Maven is "planning to hire as many as 200 contract workers in coming months to cover sports" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/4). In N.Y., Keith Kelly reports SI's plan is to "unveil micro sites dedicated to individual pro sports teams and top college sports teams" (N.Y. POST, 10/4). In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal writes an "aggregation of freelancers and bloggers promises a potentially wide swath of coverage but hardly the depth and style that made SI the gold standard of an industry that now is in the throes of upheaval" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/4).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYIN': Chicago’s WSCR-AM’s Danny Parkins said, "It is a tough time for the media industry." WSCR’s Dan McNeil said he "would love to see Sports Illustrated prosper but anybody who says ‘comes out of nowhere’ and is in the print journalism business has had his or her head in the sand for a decade." McNeil: "I don’t know how any cutbacks would come as a surprise to anybody" ("McNeil & Parkins Show," WSCR-AM, 10/3). The Ringer's David Shoemaker said, "SI has been such a legacy institution that we’d like to think that you’d be safer there, in some kind of vague way, and there are a lot of people who’ve spent a big portion of their lives there. It’s hard to see that happen to good people who are doing good work.” He added, "There are people that are getting hurt by this all in the name of someone seeing greater value in SI as a branding operation than as a news outlet” (“The Press Box,” TheRinger.com, 10/4).