Background information:

A few weeks ago Kevin Manahan, the sports director over at NJ.com, put up a somewhat snarky and condescending job post on his Twitter account. He was looking for a super-motivated reporter to cover the 76ers for a monthly stipend, and the description of the gig was widely-panned because he just sort of sounded like a dick.

This job posting resulted in an internet-wide referendum on the sports writing business, with people conflicted over the concept of wanting to work a real job with real wages and real benefits vs. the potential of taking a fringe opportunity and turning it into something bigger. Most of us went down the latter path, working shit jobs for shit money until we could make a full-time living off of our work.

Laura Wagner at Deadspin wrote a story about the posting, titled “NJ.com Sports Director Advertises Shitty Job, Is A Real Asshole About It.” It was a short post ripping him for coming across like, well, an asshole. Manahan later pushed back while reiterating that he didn’t specify the dollar amount of the monthly stipend or the amount of hours this employee was expected to work.

Just when it seemed like all of this stuff had subsided, Wagner came back today with a 3,000 word follow-up, revealing that Manahan deleted his Twitter account while quoting local guys like Joe Giglio in an effort to get a read on whether or not Manahan was, in fact, a douche bag.

It’s an interesting read. Wagner says she spoke to “more than a dozen current and former NJ.com employees, people who worked with (Manahan) at other companies, and various other people in the industry who have come into contact with him.”

I wanna pull some of the most relevant parts of the story and respond to those, after the jump:

The website features tabs for the Giants, the Jets, the Knicks, the Nets, the Devils, the Mets, the Yankees, Rutgers football, Rutgers basketball, the Eagles, the Flyers, the Red Bulls, the Rangers, the Phillies, Seton Hall, and the 76ers. It’s unclear how many of these teams are covered by part-time staff and how many are full-time. (It’s worth noting that full-time staffers are paid competitive salaries and receive benefits.) In an email to the president of NJ Advance Media, Steve Alessi, I asked about the size of the sports department; Alessi did not respond.

Several people pointed to Manahan as the reason there is so much turnover at NJ.com. Some leave because they get other jobs; Manahan sours on some; others won’t put up with him and quit. In the past year alone, at least seven employees have left the NJ.com sports department for various reasons.

Among them: Eliot Shorr-Parks, who went to 94 WIP, and Chris Sheridan, who did the Sixers beat for something like two weeks before parting ways with the company.

Former 97.5 the Fanatic host Matt Lombardo is still with NJ.Com, but swapped the Eagles beat for the Giants beat, which resulted in Zack Rosenblatt sliding over to NovaCare this season alongside Mike Kaye, who formerly covered the Jaguars and spent some time with Bleeding Green Nation. Anthony Gilbert, who does a variety of freelance gigs, was brought in to be a 76ers guy in place of Sheridan and Rosenblatt.

Of all the people I spoke to, and all the people I reached out to to ask about their experience working with Manahan, good or bad, only one person spoke about him glowingly. Joe Giglio, whose NJ.com bio describes him as a “Sports Engagement Specialist,” emailed me saying:

“Kevin’s been nothing but a good boss to me. I’m not available (two little kids and two jobs!) for a longer conversation, but nothing but positive things from my perspective, on or off the record. Thanks for reaching out.”

Joe was writing articles for NJ.Com while covering shifts at WIP a few years back. He also did radio in New York, similar to how Jody Mac splits time between NY and Philly. Giglio is now anchoring the evening shift on a nightly basis at 94.1, so his role at NJ.Com is limited to NFL picks and predictions along with some baseball free agency and trade rumor posts as well. Most of Joe’s writing is national in scope these days.

The defining pattern that emerged through all these conversations? People were wary of allowing specific anecdotes to be included in this story because they feared Manahan would have the ability and the vindictiveness to identify them and seek revenge.

This is what happened when we wrote the NBC Sports Philadelphia story. People were worried that Michelle Murray and the bosses over there would spend more time trying to identify who spoke to us, rather than considering what people had to say about morale.

Why Manahan has been able to attract talent even when offering poor pay to work under bad conditions is clear enough: Young writers are understandably eager to jump at the chance to cover a pro sports beat. Thirty, 20, or even 10 years ago, when newspapers still reigned supreme, there were plenty of entry-level sports reporting jobs to go around, and the career track was clear: A writer would make his or her star at a small local paper, move on to a bigger regional paper, and then maybe make it to the big leagues, writing for a national publication. As newspaper jobs have dried up, that traditional paths has changed. Places like the Athletic, whose stated goal is to make local newspapers’ sports coverage obsolete, primarily hire people with sizable social-media followings, meaning that to make it there, reporters have to have built a following somewhere. One way to do so might involve writing for little or no money and no benefits at somewhere like an SB Nation team site; another might involve working for a monthly stipend and no benefits at a place like NJ.com. One sportswriter recounted a conversation in which Manahan was frank about the realities of the industry, and about the ways he understands the dynamics involved.

Yeah. Welcome to the club.

That’s why most of us were freelancers. We worked 2-4 jobs and combined our salaries into something feasible. A vast majority of younger writers go this route because we know we’re not ripping off a full-time job with full-time benefits in the post-newspaper landscape that Wagner writes about.

For me, about 85% of monthly income came from working at CBS 3, while 15% came from writing about the Philadelphia Union and reffing youth soccer games. As the years went on, that number came closer to 20%,  25%, and 30%, so you start to tip the scales as you build a following and gain more experience.

It was the stability afforded by channel 3 that allowed me to grow my side career as a writer, which I think is how most people operate these days. It’s true that some people are propped up by their parents or spouse or live in their mom’s basement or whatever, but that’s certainly not the story for every middle-class college-educated kid. It’s not even close. Most of the sports writers I know had supplemental income that they themselves created. I used to wait tables and do consulting gigs on the side. That was the hustle. You weren’t propped up by your parents, you were propped up by the three other gigs you worked while trying to “make it big.” This is the same exact path that aspiring actors and musicians follow. Stunningly, there are fewer legitimate opportunities for non-essential careers.

“He essentially said why would he pay a Yankees writer $100,000 when he could pay two kids $50,000 apiece and run them into the ground for a few years,” the sportswriter said. “Then when they move on to something better or burn out, he can replace them with more young, cheap labor.”

This is common practice in every industry in the United States. I also don’t know many writers approaching anything close to six-figure salaries, but if you find them, let me know.

The reason Manahan posted the 76ers job description in the first place, according to people familiar with the situation, was that the incumbent writer, Anthony Gilbert, had been let go after only a few months for not drawing enough traffic. (His bylines are still appearing on the site every day, as he is apparently finishing out his month’s contract. Gilbert declined to comment.) Such a short amount of time doesn’t seem like enough to judge a new writer’s ability to work sources, develop their beat, or even see if they’ll be responsive to the training Manahan’s supporters claim he offers. Manahan’s primary interest, though, seems to have to do with none of that; he seems strictly focused on raw page views and on getting them on the cheap.

It’s not enough time. Not nearly enough time, especially in a city like Philadelphia where people have been working the Eagles beat for 20+ years.

It takes time to earn trust and build a following and earn respect. It usually takes years to develop sources and break your first story. If Anthony was let go “after only a few months,” then that’s really shitty on Manahan’s part. Instead of just cutting ties and moving on, maybe sit down and talk about a strategy to improve traffic. Identify stories that are doing well and stories that aren’t doing well. If you run through reporters with this frequency, then maybe you’e the problem, not the writer.

Plus, Philly can spot a fake. Anybody can walk into a new beat and start throwing hot takes around and force page views that way, but nobody is truly taking you seriously. The best beats in this town, guys like Sheil Kapadia and Zach Berman and Rich Hofmann and Derek Bodner over the Athletic, they understand the value of building your reputation via solid content without the need to throw shit at the wall, just to see if it sticks.

The $50,000 the sportswriter said Manahan bragged about paying to writers he’d then run into the ground is, for instance, far more than Manahan paid a “kid” recently to cover a beat for NJ.com. For writing 15 or 16 articles a week and doing video hits after home games, this young writer was paid $2,300 a month.

I need to know what beat this is. A lot of people are doing similar work for less than $2,300 a month, which amounts to $27,600 a year. If you work this gig in addition to something else on the side, you can easily hit $40,000, which is what most kids in their early 20s are earning as their introduction to the business.

It’s true that the industry is fucked: Sports media is chock full of companies like the previously mentioned SB Nation (which is facing a collective action lawsuit for not paying its worker as employees) and Sports Illustrated’s FanSided (which no one takes seriously), which exert downward pressure on wages by selling young writers on “exposure” and telling them it’s normal to work for little or no money. The scam digital sweatshops are running, though, is simply the logical extension of the similar one newspapers have been running since time immemorial, one that has in addition to exploiting workers for corporate profit worked to keep sportswriting far richer, far whiter, and far more male than either society generally or the part of society it covers. This is part of why it was so strange last week to see not just veteran sportswriters who’d worked with Manahan defending him, but others defending the system of which his shop and his shitty listing for a non-job are merely expressions.

It sucks, but it’s free market capitalism, so I don’t know what Wagner and other people expect. If you don’t like it, don’t work for Kevin Manahan, don’t apply for a gig at SB Nation and don’t read FanSided.

Look no further than the creators of The Athletic, who decided to build a different model and try to operate that way instead of just complaining about the industry on Twitter. This blog was created in a similar fashion, because Kyle wanted to do his own thing and had his own ideas. That’s really what America is, isn’t it? If you don’t like the way things are done, do it your own way. Build a better product with a different revenue model.

In June, NJ.com held a meeting intended for women to speak about the challenges of being a women in media, and to help the men in the newsroom understand these obstacles. That, at least, was the goal, until Manahan derailed it.

“After ONA [the Online News Association conference] this year, some female reporters from the newsroom came back and hosted a reporting/sourcing as a female workshop here. It was a space where men were also welcome and encouraged to listen and learn how to help out their female colleagues,” one newsroom source said. “About halfway through, we were talking about how it feels to be a female reporter in male-dominated spaces, and how that often happens in sports. Manahan took over and started talking over the women who were present and didn’t listen when they tried to explain how it can feel to be a female reporter in a men’s locker room, or how to navigate being condescended to.

“He was essentially [saying] that being condescended to was part of the job, while being condescending,” the source said. “The fact that he talked for so much of the meeting and was so tone-deaf in what he was saying was kind of talk of the newsroom that day and among the female staff.”

This source’s description of the event was confirmed by a second newsroom source.

“He spoke for 20 minutes,” this person said. “And ended it with, ‘ESPN keeps taking my female reporters to fill their quota.’”

Yeah, well, that’s not a great look.

Time’s yours.