A short time ago, TheScore let a handful of its feature writers go. This was very distressing to me, for several reasons which I will go into here.
It wasn’t just that they were some of my favourite sportswriters going today, or that being of “my generation” meant they spoke in a tone I understood, and wrote at a level that many other more professional sports outlets in Canada (TSN, Sportsnet) couldn’t match. It was because them writing (and writing like I would WANT to, were I much more talented) was important to me.
I was having a conversation with Kari a while back about work, and she asked me what I would be doing in an ideal world. After some thought, I gave her the same answer I gave anyone: I’d be writing. About sports, probably, but as this blog demonstrates, I’m capable of drifting from topic to topic.
TheScore letting those writers go- feature writers, in-depth writers, who analyzed and probed and poked rather than reported news- was a directional shift for them. As someone who loved their work, I hated it. As a pragmatist, I could see their logic. They were focusing on their mobile experience. People clicked on news. People clicked on updates, delivered quickly, able to be consumed on a five-inch screen. One rarely sits down to read a well-thought out article on their iPhone.
“So, are you planning on writing the next great Canadian novel?”
A former boss asked me this, just before she was about to offer me a full-time, better paying job than the one I had.
I laughed. She knew about my yen for writing, and was probing to see where my head was at. The pragmatist in me was weighing it quietly, even as she continued to speak, to “sell” me on a job where I would, in some ways, sell others.
I love writing. I can’t remember not loving it. Did becoming a banker mean giving that up? Only if I let that happen. I could always write “on the side”, even as I had a respectable 9 to 5 job that earned me money to live on.
I took the job, and wrote on, maintaining this blog-ish site where I have several drafts that have yet to see the light of day. Less than I’d like, but adult responsibility creeps in, and I have no regrets about where my time is spent, for the most part.
So back to theScore’s “restructuring”. The idea that someone COULD make a career writing, and writing well, was something that I still held onto and dreamed on, even as I continued in my other work. Even as media changed, there were people out there who were working hard, being creative in a medium I enjoyed, and making a living wage.
I’m not smart enough to comment in too much depth about changing journalism, though it’s a subject that’s fascinated me for some time, as we’ve seen the evolution of the internet, of mobile devices, of content being free or paid and different theories on which is right.
There was a logic to theScore’s decision: why pay someone very talented to write long-form posts when content farming news people could make five posts in the span that they made one? Who’s reading long essays on their iPhone? Just tell me where Lebron ended up.
I think back to that office, my manager offering me a job, one with much more security than my admired writers had. Writing is easy: anyone can fire up a blog and have it online and readable in the span of an hour. Writing well is hard. Real journalism is hard. When I thought about it, I figured that for me, writing was better fit as an indulgence than as a career. Did I want the pressure of needing it to put food on the table? Did I want to have to compromise my writing for the purpose of whoever I was working for? Was I good enough to make it in an evolving industry? I didn’t know the answers.
But seeing that others were writing, and doing it well, was something that kept me going, gave me some comfort and enjoyment as I appreciated their work. Seeing that change, the writing pushed aside for practicality… it hit home, a little more than I’d care to admit. Would we make the same decision? Did I?
Not entirely. I’m still writing, after all.