Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Joe Posnanski Moves To Sports Illustrated

You could see this coming when Joe Posnanski started writing for SI and as a "contributor" -- he is far too talented not to be scooped up by SI on a full-time basis. And so he was.

We could talk about how it is yet another supremely talented sports journalist (arguably the best newspaper sports columnist in the country, actually) abandoning* newspapers.

But I was actually struck by something Joe wrote about the move, which he called his "dream job":
I have been offered what I honestly believe is the best job in American sports writing. I’ve been offered the role of Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated.... I’ve been offered the job, the chance at Carnegie Hall, the opportunity to write at the magazine I grew up reading, the place where my heroes worked.
A mid-40s career newspaper sportswriter considers SI to be a "dream job... the best job in American sports writing." Given his age and generation, that sounds about right.

My question is this: What is the "dream job" for the 30-something sportswriter, who grew up on SI but also spent college and post-college with the Web as their primary source of reading.

What is the "dream job" for the 20-something sportswriter, who probably considers SI to be his father's (or grandfather's) magazine (or a Web site where Hot Clicks' Jimmy Traina is more influential than Rick Reilly ever was) and spent their entire life as a fan/consumer online.

I appreciate the impact of nostalgia on Joe's decision-making. (Economic realities of the newspaper industry probably contributed a bit, too). And this isn't a pure magazine play: To his credit, few newspaper writers have embraced online media and blogging like Joe.

(And it is a pretty cushy job: You write what you want to write about, basically when you want to write them. That doesn't seem to exist in media -- sports or otherwise -- anymore. Although Joe seems a bit too compulsive -- in a good way -- to not continue his furious pace of filing for and blogging at

Back to my question: What does the 20-something or 30-something sportswriter consider the "dream job?"

I suspect that if we took a poll, the plurality (perhaps majority) would say a columnist gig with ESPN -- but hardly a "magazine" job: It would be "cross-platform," with a presence on, in ESPN The Magazine, on ESPN Radio, in ESPN Books, on ESPN social media platforms, and -- of course -- on TV.

(I guess one "ideal" is to get a "Simmons" or "Reilly" deal where you get to basically do whatever you want -- Reilly is on the hook for, what, like 30 700-word columns a year? -- and get paid extraordinary sums to do it. That's not fair to Bill, who to his credit has picked up his stake in the Mag and put his energy into his podcast and being a TV producer -- "30 for 30" -- in addition to being a public-facing "talent," with his writing as the centerpiece.)

But more generically, it seems like the "dream job" for a generation of 20- and 30-somethings is national exposure that allows for a combination of freedom to write about any topic and the freedom to express that on any number of platforms where fans want to be reached. And getting paid just enough that you don't have to worry about getting paid.

(Cynically, you could say that a "dream job" for a sportswriter right now is "having a job, period" or "still having a job in sports media when I'm Joe Posnanski's age." But let's not be cynical.)

A "dream job" is a pretty awesome thing. You can tell that Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon recognize they are in "dream jobs" with PTI, even though it has meant that they necessarily had to walk away from the newspaper industry where they honed their talent. (Similarly, you get the sense that guys like Jason Whitlock and Mike Lupica carry the inferiority complex that comes with missing out on their "dream" of a daily national TV superstardom -- that they can never watch PTI without going "What if...?")

One reason I am having this reaction to Joe's news is that I think I can relate:

The year I turned 30 -- having spent the first 20 years of my life consumed with "traditional" sports media (like Joe) and my 20s consumed with "new" sports media -- I created and sold my own "dream job": A national daily sports column writing about virtually whatever I wanted on sports media's biggest platform.

I did it every day for nearly four years. And it was enormously satisfying. However, I recognized and appreciated not just the job or the opportunity or the audience (or, yes, the money) but the mere feeling of having a job I dreamed about. It was ambient -- everpresent.

We can have a larger debate of "What does it all mean?" about the state of newspaper sports journalism.

But for me, Joe's earnest enthusiasm for this new chapter of his tremendous career is what is worth cheering about. In this economy or any other, who doesn't want their "dream job?"

Given the shifting media landscape, I wonder what a young 20-something writer would consider their "dream job." Like Joe when he was an impressionable 13-year-old turning the pages of SI, where will today's 13-year-old future sportswriter get their inspiration?

-- D.S.

(* - Joe will still write for the KC Star, but probably out of a sense of pity -- sorry, loyalty -- more than anything.)


John said...

I just finished at Medill, and as someone who is in their mid-20's (but actually did grow up on SI) and is very tech savvy, I'd say the "dream job" really is the multi-platform journalist at a place like ESPN. At least that's where I'd like to be someday, but it looks like the path is going to be very winding to get there.

Lake The Posts said...

You mean LTP isn't it?