A fired Sports Illustrated journalist who wrote for the title for almost 25 years and its new publisher have both moved quickly to tell their sides of the story about the termination. And of course, it played out on social media.
Grant Wahl, a prominent senior soccer writer at the magazine, said on Twitter on Friday that he had been fired by Seattle-based Maven Media, which purchased the publishing rights to the title from Meredith Corp. last year. “No severance. Nothing,” he tweeted.
About 20 minutes later, an internal memo to staffers from Maven chief executive officer James Heckman started circulating on the social media site, stating that he wanted to address the termination, which will “no doubt be a source of some one-sided punditry in the days to come.”
“This person made more than $350,000 last year to infrequently write stories that generated little meaningful viewership or revenue. Yet he trumpeted that he thought it shameful to be asked to participate in helping his fellow workers,” he said. “To complain about a personal pay reduction when 31 others have just lost their jobs is incomprehensible in light of the sacrifices others made to help limit layoffs and maintain viable salaries for our staff.”
Heckman did not name Wahl in the memo, but the latter confirmed it was referring to him when he responded to a tweet with the memo.
“1) I told Maven I was taking a 30 percent pay cut during the pandemic. But it was shameful to try to push through a permanent 30 percent cut beyond the pandemic,” said Wahl, who is also a Fox Sports correspondent. “2) My base salary was far below that, but I got a bonus because my bosses said my work was very good. 3) I write frequently,” he continued.
Last week, Maven, like many media companies, took drastic action as it grapples with a coronavirus-related dive in advertising revenues. It laid off 31 people, the equivalent of 9 percent of its staff, and shrank executive pay by almost a third. Around 6 percent of Sports Illustrated journalists were impacted.
At the time, Wahl criticized Maven for its handling of the cuts.
Ever since Maven bought the publishing rights to the iconic sports title, the relationship between executives and the magazine’s writers has not been smooth sailing. In October, Maven instructed Meredith to lay off more than 40 staffers as part of the sale — a move employees believe puts the future of the publication at risk.
In response to this, the majority of Sports Illustrated staff revealed their intention at the beginning of the year to form a union with the NewsGuild of New York.
“Decisions made by new management over the last few months have put SI’s reputation and long-term health at risk. The October layoffs at Maven’s direction gutted our newsroom,” staff said at the time in an open letter to management. They also questioned Maven’s directive to launch a network of team reporters on Sports Illustrated’s platforms without “sufficient vetting or editorial oversight,” which they believe harms its credibility.
Maven and Wahl did not immediately respond to request for comment.
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