Last month, in a story that was poorly reported to the then-staff of the site Sports on Earth, to say nothing of the general public, it snuck out that, in some order, USA Today had pulled out of its partnership with MLB that supported the site and ninety-five percent of the site’s staff had been let go. The soldiering-on of “senior writer” Will Leitch (which is far from nothing) aside, SoE exists today at best as a sort of undead shell of the vibrant self Leitch and its former staff had built in what I called an important “second chapter” of the site’s history.
As David Roth, Keith Olbermann, and even Leitch himself have commented, the whole thing came as a surprise even to the writers, many of whom found out about the great “unwinding” for the first time on Twitter.
We have tracked the rise of Sports on Earth since its birth, and we’ve highlighted plenty of their many well-done stories in the past. From a technical standpoint, SoE was designed for optimal reading on a tablet, and, for me, it held the position of go-to breakfast-table reading for a long time.
I was just a reader. For The Classical’s David Roth, the whole thing was more personal, as he was friends and colleagues of many of the dispatched writers, many of whom also had written for The Classical. I learned about Sports on Earth’s demise from Roth’s extended obituary, which also expounds upon the challenges of sustaining and supporting interesting sports writing in today’s media landscape.
Awful Announcing documented more of the gory details of August 5, 2014, the fateful day for Sports on Earth, which AA described as a “complete thrashing.” That site’s follow-up interviews with Leitch and Dinn Mann, the MLB media manager in charge of overseeing content, were not illuminating with respect to the SoE site and its future. The additional changes I have noticed in the past month are the departure of Mike Tanier, initially thought to be hanging on with Leitch at SoE but now working as Bleacher Report’s “NFL National Lead Writer,” and an influx of what appear to be borrowed MLB.com writers into SoE’s masthead.
One of the most vociferous tilters at the windmill known as the NCAA, Patrick Hruby, also apparently remains on staff as a “contributor,” although he hasn’t posted anything there in a month and appears to be doing all of his more recent writing for The Atlantic, which has its own history of NCAA-busting.
Sports on Earth continues to be the best place to read Leitch, and I’ll reserve judgment on the remaining replacement writers until I’ve actually read them. Unfortunately, in this boom of online sports writing, waiting to read someone often turns into simply not reading them. For now, even if Sports on Earth no longer is an essential stop on your regular tour of the non-ALDLAND sports web, mention of work for that site in the biographies of its former writers, many of whom now are working elsewhere, should be considered a mark of good quality.