Rumors of Jemele Hill’s impending departure from ESPN have been circulating for weeks.
Today, Hill announced her departure from the Worldwide Leader:
Over the last several weeks, there have been a lot of rumors about my job status. Today is my last day at ESPN.
More from me on closing one of the most special chapters in my life: pic.twitter.com/jReaH5sWhW
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 14, 2018
Hill proclaims that the past 12 years at ESPN was “where I became the best version of myself, both personally and professionally.” That’s a fairly glossy summation.
Professionally, Hill’s biggest chance at ESPN came when the network entrusted its six o’clock SportsCenter — traditionally one of its most coveted slots — to her and co-host Michael Smith. “SC6” never really took off, though, and lasted just over a year.
Well, the show did, anyway.
Toward the end of the show’s ill-fated run, Smith had to soldier on without Hill after she got herself suspended for her social media commentaries. In January, Hill left the show (and Smith out to dry) because per a Washington Post report, she “missed writing, reporting and commentary.” That same report continued this beauty of a quote from Hill: “While I have grown in every way imaginable this last year on the 6 p.m. ‘SportsCenter,’ deep down I knew it wasn’t my calling.”
Oh. Well, maybe you might have told someone that before the network made a concerted effort to get you over:
On the personal side, Hill can thank Smith all she likes on her way out the door. But saying “nobody sold tapes out the trunk quite like us,” while intended to put a happy spin on their failed partnership, is actually a fairly apt analogy. Like, nobody ever made a living selling tapes out of the trunk. Not in one place, anyway, and not a good one.
By the time Smith’s departure from the six o’clock SportsCenter was announced, as CNN put it, the show was “already as good as dead.” It would be pretty interesting to hear Smith’s completely honest and unfiltered opinion of Hill now, as once again she leaves with him drifting alone in her wake.
Her thanks to John Skipper for his “steadfast belief in me” also carries a really unpleasant if unintended undertone. Skipper left ESPN under very sad circumstances, and only after he had been in charge during a wide-ranging and life-altering series of layoffs for many of ESPN’s employees, many of whom were household names.
The year wasn’t a total loss for Hill, who was named the National Association of Black Journalists’ Journalist of the Year for 2018. Hill called receiving this honor “the biggest accomplishment of my career.” Unquestionably, Hill’s body of work, her notoriety, and this most recent award will make her an attractive candidate for another media outlet in due course.
Still, going from one of ESPN’s most touted stars to going on to other opportunities in less than two years because she couldn’t stay off Twitter makes her a moderately risky hire for whichever employer brings her on. It’s pretty ironic that both she and her most prominent target, the sitting President of these United States of America, have the same self-destructive habit.
Hill’s departure also undermines ESPN’s self-promotion as a creator and supporter of a diverse workforce in a business that has long been dominated by white men.
That’s funny, because ESPN’s message to Hill these past few months as they largely kept her off the air was more like this: