The Scoop: Sports Illustrated’s future lies in flux after layoffs

Plus: Gosling speaks out after Gerwig and Robbie’s Oscar snubs for “Barbie”, USPS reveals electric mail trucks.

The most ubiquitous sports publication in the country has an uncertain path forward after a recent round of layoffs.

For many readers, there was nothing that made quite the same statement in the sporting world as a Sports Illustrated cover. A lament for the magazine’s history and the power of the visuals on its covers ran in the New York Times this week, following the news that SI conducted mass layoffs and that much of the remaining staff would have an uncertain future with the publication after 90 days, leaving the vaunted magazine to twist in the wind.

Sadly, the seeming decline of Sports Illustrated isn’t a shock. For years, the magazine has been slashing staff and cutting print distribution as reader consumption has changed with internet subscription models and changing media diets. But it’ll be an unquestionably sad day when the top athletes of the day aren’t gracing newsstands around America, once one of the top publicity accomplishments in the wide world of sports.

Why it matters: Beyond the many talented individuals who lost their livelihoods, stories like this one are increasingly common in the legacy and print media world, and PR pros should take heed. Something similar just happened at the Los Angeles Times with a round of departures and layoffs that took several high-level editors out of the picture, leading to strife about the paper’s path forward. When publications take these steps it can be difficult for them to maintain a consistent editorial vision and direction, leaving the organization on shaky ground going forward. These SI layoffs risk affecting the brand’s reputation and legacy,  as suggested when the exit of so many photographers can impact the frequency of SI’s celebrated cover images.

Incidents like this are a good opportunity for PR folks to take a moment to make sure the contacts in their media databases, like Muck Rack and Cision, are updated to stay on top of who is working where. Relationships don’t have to end when a journalist leaves a publication, and when a magazine or website shuts down, it’s on you to navigate where people end up after the fact to keep the media pipeline flowing.

Beyond the obvious cultural loss, moves like this one can have a lasting impact on PR relationships. Keep those virtual Rolodexes updated and stay on top of the shifting media landscape — this way, you can adjust your earned media and media relations strategies to redefine what top-tier publications you plan to target moving forward.

Editor’s top picks:

  • Ryan Gosling earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Barbie — . a film centered around platforming feminist theory. “But there is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no ‘Barbie’ movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally-celebrated film,” said Gosling, shifting focus back to his female costars and centering it back to the message of the film.  This statement is a model for showing grace while criticizing a larger institution. He gives thanks for the nomination but recognizes that his female co-workers made it all possible. Allyship on the biggest stage goes a long way toward influencing other individuals and organizations to do the same thing, and hopefully, his re-centering the focus will kick off a larger trend.
  • It’s a new era for the United States Postal Service, as the first electric mail trucks have been rolled onto the roads to deliver the nation’s mail. After initial resistance to the change and a commitment to get just 10% of the next generation of mail trucks running on electricity, 45,000 more trucks will be electrified by 2028. “We are grateful for the support of Congress and the Biden administration through Inflation Reduction Act funding,” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a release. This is a positive story for the USPS, after several years in which seemingly precious few of those were around given the mail delivery debacles from the height of the COVID pandemic. Additionally, the commitment to electrification could serve as a path toward innovation regardless of who wins the election in November.
  • Popular California-based fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger has never closed a location during its decades in operation — until now. In-N-Out announced the closure of its Oakland, California location, citing crime as the primary culprit behind the decision. This is another negative story for the usually highly-regarded chain, on the heels of news last year that it banned employees in five states from wearing masks on the job. But missing from the announcement is any information about efforts to curb the incidents, such as crime mitigation measures or partnering with local authorities. This could have been an opportunity for In-N-Out to take a negative situation and spin it into a positive by turning to community outreach or another social good for the local Oakland populace in terms of combatting the systemic crime issue. When organizations look to the positives of what they can do to help rather than what they can’t accomplish, there’s positive publicity and social good abound.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.


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