The Philadelphia Inquirer is Adding More Sports Jobs (Plus a Buyout Update)

We mentioned recently that The Philadelphia Inquirer was adding a new sports job despite seeking 40 more buyouts across the company. Our understanding is that a handful of sports employees did apply for those buyouts by the May 31st deadline, so we’ll see what news breaks in the coming days.

The original job posting from 12 days ago was for a “beat writer,” though it wasn’t specified what team the new employee would be covering. Then, over the weekend, they added two more gigs for a “Team Editor” and “Night Editor” –

Here’s the blurb for the Team Editor:

“The Philadelphia Inquirer is looking for an editor who can lead a team of writers covering sports in a city and region famous for its passionate fans. A candidate should embrace newsletters, SEO, and digital storytelling as core to the mission of our newsroom.”

And for the Night Editor:

“We’re looking for an editor who can lead our night digital Sports operation. Candidates should be fast on the keys, and quick to react to breaking news and viral stories of interest to Philadelphia’s passionate sports fan base. Skills in SEO and digital headline writing are a must, as is a commitment to teamwork.”

(Edit – I should point out that the sports copy desk was basically nonexistent recently, so these were jobs they needed to add regardless)

It’s good to see new jobs being added by the Inquirer, but this whole transitional phase really is rough and borderline unfair to a number of people who have been with the paper for a while now.

To jog your memory, there was an employee revolt after an insensitive headline was published last summer at the height of social unrest in Philadelphia. The editor, Stan Wischnowski, resigned, and later sports editor Pat McLoone was also let go. The Inquirer commissioned a diversity study from Temple University which basically said the paper was too white and too male and that it needed significant changes.

All the while, the company had been trying to drive more subscriptions in a changing media landscape. Older sports staffers took buyouts and/or retired. We saw the departure of Bob Ford, Sam Donnellon, Rick O’Brien, John Smallwood (RIP), and several others. Now a few more of those folks are going to be on the outs sooner rather than later.

The thing about the buyouts is that you have to meet a certain threshold to even apply.  In this case, you need to be a certain age and/or have put in something like 8-10 years, I think. And when you apply, there’s no guarantee the buyout is even accepted. If, for instance, the company needs 40 buyouts, but 39 people from sports apply, they cannot accept all of those buyouts from one department. So even if you make the tough decision to call it a career, there’s no guarantee that wish is even granted or that you get to finish out the season covering whatever team you cover.

It’s a tough situation, because a lot of those veteran writers over there have been loyal and hard workers for decades. The newspaper needs more diversity, yes, but the 60-year-old white dude who has done everything asked of him shouldn’t be nudged toward retirement just to force the transition. If anything, the people over there who have put in the time and effort should be allowed to go out on their own terms, which unfortunately doesn’t speed up the diversification or transitional process. You end up playing a slow game of attrition where nobody really wins.

The other thing to consider is that sports is a bigger driver in this market than news or politics. Whereas the guy in Boyertown will read Jeff McLane’s story about Howie Roseman, he might not give a shit about the Larry Krasner vs. Carlos Vega race. And so he sees no reason to subscribe to the Inquirer because there’s hyperlocal and/or partisan editorial stuff that just doesn’t resonate with him. That burdens the sports department, because they get lumped in with the other sections of the paper that people might not be interested in, yet they’re sold as one package.

There’s a lot to think about. It’s a tough job over there, trying to diversify and adapt to a changing media landscape while (hopefully) doing right by the people who have spent many years contributing to the product.