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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Sports Illustrated struggle shakes the sports journalism world

The recent struggles faced by Sports Illustrated have been a cause for concern in the sports journalism world. The wildly successful magazine’s potential downfall has spawned concern about the field. Photo Courtesy of Sports Illustrated via Flickr

In a world where physical publications are being overthrown by electronic media, brands like Sports Illustrated have been struggling to keep their copies on shelves, and for Sports Illustrated in particular, these harsh realities are becoming a little too real.

Sports Illustrated has been around since its first issue on Aug. 16, 1954, and it’s no shock that the publication blew up. The company became a household name, publishing weekly issues up until 2018 when the then-Meredith Corporation took over the magazine and converted the weekly recaps to monthly. 

Although all seemed well, Sports Illustrated has recently taken a turn for the worst. After losing its publisher to its parent company, the Arena Group, and spiraling through a series of massive layoffs, many sports journalists are starting to worry about what the future of sports journalism could be if top-name publications like Sports Illustrated continue to go under. This issue has sprouted recently in discussion at Drake University, where hundreds of students study journalism — and in many cases sports journalism — despite some worries of what the industry’s future holds.

As a nationally ranked school, Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication has been shaping young writers for years, and for many students, working in print media is the ideal end goal. For these students, the fear of a shrinking print-media landscape is alarming, and the story of Sports Illustrated only strengthens that panic.

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For Drake students going into the sports field, the journalism opportunities are constantly changing and evolving. For journalism Bulldogs like senior JD Snover, there is always the question of, “What if things make a change for the worse?” 

“As a sports fan in general and as a consumer of content overall, it kind of sucks to see the continuous death of print journalism as we know it. It is also scary to see as someone who is getting a degree in journalism and is three months away from graduating with that degree,” Snover said. “I grew up reading Sports Illustrated, and print like this is what made me want to go into this field. So seeing it shrinking and people at the top not caring about anything and making it not about the product, but instead the money, is a big fear.”

Snover isn’t the only person benefiting from the Drake curriculum and wanting more from the sports journalism field. 1987 Drake grad and Grand Rapids’ Wood TV Sports Director Jack Doles has spoken very highly about his time at Drake and what keeping this field alive means to him. 

“Drake did a great job preparing me for a profession in broadcast television,” Doles said. “I had some great professors and some classes that were interesting and fired me up to be in this business, and then when I got an internship at WHL, that to me was a clear path to getting me into television.” 

Many of those who fear the potential downfall of Sports Illustrated have a background with the magazine, a background that oftentimes stretches into their childhood. 

“I would hope that at some point there will be a solution for the newspaper industry because if that goes away, that is a huge loss to journalism and a huge loss to the world. We need journalism,” Doles said. “Papers like Sports Illustrated, you would read it, then hand it off for someone else to read, and for me it was always part of my weekly life for so long. I want to show my grandkids when I have them because I shared that magazine with my son.”

With the map of roadblocks that the parent company is facing at the moment, many believe that the Arena Group could go down with the ship — leaving the future of Sports Illustrated a mystery. Meanwhile, sports journalists like Doles will continue to hold out hope that a household magazine like Sports Illustrated will find ways to push forward. 

“One thing that all writers should do is read,” Doles said. “The more you read, the more you learn. The more different styles you are exposed to, the more you open up your creative process. So, when you have something like Sports Illustrated that makes people want to read and be engaged, you want to keep that around.”

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