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Today Is An Extremely Uncomfortable One In The Sports Illustrated Newsroom

  • Matt Rudnitsky

On June 15th, the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir and Christine Haughney reported that Sports Illustrated might be trimming its editorial staff in the very near future. Today we’ll know more, because today is the day that some of SI’s writers and editors might be leaving voluntarily.

Terry McDonell, the editor of the Time Inc. Sports Group, asked his staff to volunteer for buyout packages by June 21st (today), and depending on how many people volunteered, he’d decide if layoffs to the magazine’s 210-person editorial staff were necessary.

It’s a tense moment for the most important sports magazine in the country, and the mood in the SI newsroom is likely an uncomfortable one right now. We reached out to a number of SI employees for comment, but they were understandably hesitant to give their thoughts, even anonymously (one popular staffer told us he wouldn’t touch the story “with a 10,000-foot pole”).

Sandomir’s article referenced the last round of cuts, in 2008, when 40 of a then-staff of 250 people were asked to leave. But while nothing is set in stone, it seems as if the number will be lower this time around.

That, at least, is the scenario being presented by Time Inc.

“It’s not sweeping change,” said Time’s spokesman Scott Novak, when we contacted him by phone. “It will not be insignificant…but the sort of mad changes that perhaps might be thought of here or might be thought of when you hear layoffs, buyouts and whatnot, that’s not the case.”

Up to this point, SI has had one editorial staff for the print magazine and one for the website. The reason for the cuts, according to Novak, is to integrate the two staffs while maintaing economic efficiency.

Novak said that SI will be “evolving into a fully integrated digital editorial staff, where individual sport-specific beats, or verticals, if you will, will be able to focus on generating content across all new channels and distributions that are out there in a seamless way.” Per the Times, that means having a “czar” who runs the coverage of each sport, across all platforms. Novak added that he doesn’t “believe the reader will see any substantive change,” and that “this is all about producing more content in more places, within the Sports Illustrated standards of quality.”

To sum up: SI will be making some cuts to its staff and integrating its print and online operations. How many jobs are lost as a result of that integration is still unclear, but today is a complicated, tense, and important day for the magazine.

You can email Matt Rudnitsky about this piece here. Any tips will remain anonymous.