Marquette Wire

BECKER: ESPN layoffs worrisome to those entering field

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The news started breaking Wednesday morning. I was sitting in my capstone class when I saw Ed Werder’s tweet that he had been laid off after 17 years covering the NFL for ESPN.

“The worldwide leader” laid off roughly 100 employees, many of which were well-known talents. In addition to Werder, ESPN let go of SportsCenter anchor Jay Crawford, two of the NBA’s best insiders, Marc Stein and Chad Ford, and a whole boatload of noteworthy names.

The news was a punch in the gut for a number of reasons.

First, it’s never fun to see people lose their jobs, regardless of industry. Second, several of my favorite content creators are out of a job, and it’s hard to know when, where and even if they will be back. And third, but most upsetting as someone hoping to enter the industry in a matter of weeks, the layoffs are a statement about the state of sports media.

When even those at the top of the game are deemed nonessential, how does someone with three unpaid internships and a bunch of student media experience expect to find a job?

The layoffs were no surprise — media reporters have been discussing the looming doomsday for months. It was the sheer weight and variety of names who received the axe that was most disheartening for me.

There was little rhyme or reason to who was sent packing. There were men, women, young, old, print figures, television personalities, multi-skilled journalists, beat writers, columnists, news breakers, play-by-play announcers and digital experts. The lesson was that nobody is safe.

For some people this message may have brought about a change of heart — a realization that a long career in this ever-changing, often shrinking industry requires more emotional stamina than they can bear.

That’s not what happened for me.

I read the posts of those who had been let go, and saw the same sentiment in so many of them. “I look forward to the next adventure,” and “Onto the next one” and “I’m excited for what’s next.”

After tasting the business’s bitter lemons, so many stayed so positive.

Then, I thought about why I wanted to study journalism in the first place and the moments that made me double down on it.

I recalled shooting collegiate summer baseball league highlights for a local TV station in Mankato, Minnesota last summer. I remembered late nights in the editing booth working on a documentary about lacrosse last fall. I looked back just a month ago to sitting in a hotel room in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at 2 a.m. piecing together my final Marquette men’s basketball recap story.

I reflected on those times and many more from these incredibly early stages of my career, and I thought about how lucky I’ve already been. I’ve had four years of fun, and I’ve yet to make one penny from a professional news organization.

So I scrolled through the list of those who received bad news last week, sent a few tweets to those whose work had an impact on me and I carried on.

I opened up what may as well be my homepage during my job hunt and I tracked down the name of the news director at the CBS station in Bozeman, Montana. I crafted a cover letter, explaining why what I learned over the last four years made me the best candidate to fill the station’s general assignment sports reporter position. I attached my resume and reel, hit send and hoped.

It’s not about the money or the job security; it’s about the stories, the people who live them and the shared experience of sport. There will be more layoffs, and there will be more bad days for the industry — but I intend to be there, riding the wave.

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