It’s been a dark, dark day for ESPN, with approximately 100 employees getting laid off, from reporters to on-air personalities to everything in between. Some big names have gotten the axe, including Dana O’Neil, Eamonn Brennan, C.L. Brown, Brett McMurphy, Ed Werder, and Len Elmore. Watching the news and the reaction to it on Twitter has been like watching the Worldwide Leader in Sports slowly crumble to the ground; a proud giant now forced to cut away some of its limbs in order to stay relevant. Even though you could see it coming for months, it’s just sad.
As someone who used to watch ESPN religiously in high school and college, I confess that I very rarely have it on these days, even though I am a sportswriter. In fact, the only time I do watch ESPN is during a game, “College GameDay,” or “SportsCenter” if John Calipari’s going to be on. That’s mostly because all of the content is online now, and much easier to access via social media. Why waste (more) time watching TV when I can just go on Twitter and get the news?
Sportswriters everywhere are lamenting this as a sad day for the profession, and it is, but more than anything, it reminds me how lucky I’ve been with my own career. Before I started my long journey with KSR, I actually applied for a job at ESPNW, the site’s women’s portal, but was turned down for lack of experience, which totally made sense because I have an English degree, not a journalism degree. I can’t tell you how often I perused the “Jobs at ESPN” page in the years after college. Same goes for The Tennessean, the local newspaper here in Nashville. Now, both entities have been hammered by major layoffs. When most people hear what I do now, they ask if I want to work for ESPN one day. Once, that answer was “absolutely.” Now, I’m just grateful to be where I am, writing about what I love for a living.
It’s sad to see such talented reporters lose their jobs in lieu of the increasingly popular “hot take” jockeys (Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, etc.), but in today’s changing landscape, I think it serves as a reminder that you don’t need a journalism degree to make it in this industry. You need really good writing skills, a level head, a tireless work ethic, and the humility to work for free to get your foot in the door. Also, a few great people to take a chance on you along the way.
So, really, today has just reminded me to say thanks.