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Slate: Sports Illustrated is broken, but here is how to fix it

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Double Down, Oct 31, 2007.

  1. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I'm sure for the folks who still care about journalism at the magazine, some of this essay stings.


    Take note though of the fact that, despite the fact that everyone on this board seems to trash SI, circulation is still strong, and it has even increased in the coveted younger demographic.

    The line about the magazine being as "hip as a 55-year-old with his hat turned backward" makes a pretty good point though.

    EDIT: I changed the topic header in my post from "awful" to "broken" because I think it better reflects Josh Levin's point.
  2. bruins2585

    bruins2585 New Member

    Great stuff from Josh. If SI is serious about improving, hiring him as a consultant would be a smart move.
  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I think it's hard to get readers excited when you start with the premise, "Let's be more like ..."

    Whether it was making newspapers more like TV, making newspapers more like magazines, making magazines more like the Internet, something always gets lost in the translation and winds up being lamer than the thing we've copied. We already have an ESPN The Mag. Nobody needs two of them.

    It's a hard sell -- like Seinfeld's "show about nothing" -- but the answer's probably scrapping format and formula, stop chasing your tail about trying figure out what people want, say fuck it, let's just get us some good stories, some people who can write with distinctive (not fake) voices, some editors who can write heds that make you think, some great photos and print it.
  4. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I've never basjed SI here.

    I am a fairly loyal reader, although I will say there's more room for improvement.

    I like some of the changes they have made, including the high school sports stuff.

    I prefer one long take-out not nescessarily) directly related to current sports (ie, a Gary Smith, S.L. Price, etc). I have always read the back page, back to Leigh Montville and even when it was rotating. I don't tend to read TV only because I don't always read it live.

    The photography is also a selling point.
  5. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    The 12-year-old who waited impatiently for his SI to arrive in the mail every Thursday --- his only true taste of sports journalism, with the added bonus of seeing Cheryl Tiegs and Christy Brinkley half naked once a year --- is now a 40-year-old who can read whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and naked bodies are only a mouse click away.

    That person --- his lost innocence and what he now expects from a magazine --- has taken a far worse turn than SI has.

    It staggers me that people don't realize this.
  6. Editude

    Editude Active Member

    Information is good. Sometimes there can be too much of it. Thank goodness (for now) for editors. ;)
  7. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Great story. Agree with Frank's take.

    Where is the leadership at SI? Are their editors powerless, too meek to say "we're SI and we can do whatever we want" or too afraid of failure? Copying ESPN today is easy. Being yourself takes more guts.
  8. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Here is another suggestion: Don't print lists, whether it is Peter King's rankings or a Fantasy Football draft preview (make that an advertorial or keep on the web). Many good points in the article. And I enjoyed Jenkins' piece on the purgatory of NFL practice players. Might it be that Time Warner is too wrapped up in corporate tie-ins that they have to avoid peeing in their own tent?
  9. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I believe you're right. But what do you suggest?

    I worked for an editor once who wanted to "add more sex to the paper," and I kept thinking this is completely unlikely to work on any level. We are not even capable of giving our readers a decent handjob, so why would we even attempt to compete in an arena in which there's NO WAY we're ever going as far as what they can find on the Net? For that matter, we're never going to go as far as the screeching lunatics on the blogospere, so we ought to reduce the space we devote to opinion, not increase it.

    So BT_Express, you didn't think it was hot a few months ago when Esquire had a cover with a naked woman on it -- well, naked except for a giant snake wrapped around her so we couldn't see the most interesting parts?

    Me neither.

    I like to rip on Esquire, but really it's my favorite mag and has been since I was 14. They have a couple writers now whose work I really loathe and I would read them only if they were writing the lone survival manual for next week's nuclear attack (although chances are I'd be dead by the time Klosterman or Junod got to the damn point anyway). But I have to hand it to Granger -- there is such a variety of writing styles and personalities that there is invariably something that's worth the cover price. And to me that's the key -- it doesn't seem to me that he's saying the mag needs to be this formula or that formula, it needs to have a good lineup of writers telling interesting stories.

    Although if I were that poor bastard whose story jumped across the bottom of almost every page recently, I'd probably want to poison Granger's latte. No way I was going to read that.

    The constructive criticism I'd offer to my favorite mag, though, is that when I was 14, the appeal in reading Esquire was that it wasn't addressing 14-year-olds, it was addressing 34-year-olds. I already knew the 14-year-old world; a magazine that catered to that world would have held no fascination for me. I didn't want to be a hipper 14-year-old, I didn't want to be freaking 14 period. And I don't think kids have changed THAT much.
  10. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    That article is dead on in its descriptions of how far SI has fallen.

    Haven't read the solutions yet; clicked on the link to the commentary about the "Why Miami Should Drop Football" story from 1995.


    The best part is that dude spends the first part of the diatribe ripping Wolff because he hasn't been a Miami Hurricane supporter, and what would a Yankee know about the South?????

    Then it reveals that the author now lives in San Diego, where he nonetheless continues to work for allCanes.com.
  11. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    <i>"...the mag has maintained its huge circulation lead over ESPN the Magazine, and a recent industry survey showed an increase of 14 percent in readers between ages 18 and 24 the last two years...</i>

    Woudn't that be a pretty good indication that the customers are happy with the product? What exactly would be the motivation to make the changes the author seems to want?
  12. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    SI seems dissatisfied with itself for some reason(s). Or it wouldn't keep changing the thing.
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