The sports world was quiet on Friday afternoon.
It wasn’t too far out of the ordinary for the end of the week. Game three of the World Series was several hours away. “College GameDay” wasn’t until the next morning.
They say the best time to announce bad news is on a Friday. If someone gets fired at the end of the week, at least they have the weekend to grieve. Plus, it’s harder for those involved with sports media to get stories put together when games on Saturday and Sunday take place.
The sports world was quiet on Friday afternoon. That is, until Grantland died.
For those who only read The Daily Pennsylvanian’s sports section because they go to Penn, they have a child who plays for Penn or they just really like our content, the decision by ESPN to shut down Grantland may not seem like a big deal. After all, given the climate in today’s media industry, publications that have been far more entrenched in American culture have ceased to exist over the past decade as print journalism fights to survive.
Tough, but fair. But as one of the most relevant sports and pop culture sites with a national reach, you should care about Grantland’s death. Because, whether you realize it or not, that publication directly impacts the DP.
The college newspaper and the journalism that accompanies it is the most pure form of media in existence. We are students. We do not get paid. Like the athletes we cover, we do this because we — sometimes — are good at it and we love the game. There are no Pulitzer Prizes in our office.
On top of that, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. And, at least from the perspective of this section, no higher compliment can be paid from us to a place like Grantland than that our writers and editors consistently strive to be like it, to replicate its quality.
“If you ask most writers what they think about writing, they will say the same thing: It sucks!” said Andy Greenwald, one of the Grantland writers suddenly out of a job, on Twitter on Monday. “Writing is hard — not coal-mining hard, but hard. And deeply lonely.
“The thing everyone loves is having written and, despite impressive technological advances, it’s still impossible to skip straight there.”
But for us, Grantland showed that the process, the steps taken to get “straight there,” were all worth it. The experience of working to a point where an article is good is invaluable.
Genuinely, as the DP’s senior sports editor, it’s my overarching goal to make sure that everyone involved with the section enjoys what they are doing. And no site demonstrated that a publication can still be well-regarded and taken seriously while also having fun like Grantland.
Where they had Shea Serrano writing weekly about the Houston Texans on “Hard Knocks,” we had a writer last week delve into why Penn women’s soccer is wearing bucket hats. Hard hitting journalism? No. But bringing to your attention the fun aspects of Penn sports is equally as important for us as informing you if the field hockey team is still in the Ivy title race (Note: They are.).
I’ve been writing for this newspaper for almost three and a half years now. I’ve covered a lot of different teams, games and events. And in virtually every one of those articles, I’ve tried to emulate Grantland’s quality. Would Bill Simmons use this kicker? Am I breaking things down as well as Zach Lowe would? Is my story relatable in a way Rembert Browne would make his?
On top of that, as a senior, I’ve put a lot of thought into my future (although, given the dearth of interviews with prospective employers on my calendar, clearly not enough thought). I’ve mentioned to people that, at worst, I could try and find a job working in sports media. I’ve been told that that is a stupid decision.
Yet it struck me over the weekend — as idols of mine in the industry lost their jobs while I, a far-less-deserving 21 year old, have the avenues to write this column — that trying to explore creative passions in the journalism world is an incredibly brave thing.
We are told frequently that journalism is a dying industry. A colleague and I have tried to figure out when the DP will only publish stories online. He says within two years, I say not until 2020.
But there are kids in high school and college who are good with words and skilled with the pen that will not go into journalism because of ESPN’s decision to shut Grantland down. There are good writers who will fail to find the inspiration to continue honing their craft because, hell, if Grantland — one of the best websites for quality journalism — can fail, anything can.
This summer, Serrano and I had an email exchange. I asked him how to maintain my own voice in stories and not simply copy what others do. I wanted to be able to pass that advice on to my writers.
He gave me good advice and made points that were sensible. And he ended his email saying, “I hope something here helps out some.”
He was talking about his email. He could have been talking about Grantland. Either way, he wasn’t wrong.
The journalism and sports worlds are sadder places without Grantland, as well as the multitude of writers losing their jobs in the industry across the country, including people at media outlets here in Philadelphia.
Our jobs are to make sure that those jobs aren’t lost in vain. We at the DP are lucky to continue to have that opportunity.
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