These are troubling times in the media world. That much was made clear last week when ESPN announced it was shutting down Grantland, the sports and pop culture longform baby of the exiled Bill Simmons. Now five months removed from The Boston Sports Guy’s departure, Grantland – the stepson ESPN never wanted – is gone too. “After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise,” ESPN said in a statement. “Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun.” I think one of the few problems with Grantland is that not enough people knew what it was; a result of ESPN rarely acknowledging its existence – beyond that contradicting press release – over the last four years. As Simmons has said before, it always seemed as if the World- wide Leader wanted the site to fail.
Which is a shame, because the content Grantland churned out on a day-to-day basis was thoughtful, intelligent, humorous and, if nothing else, unique in the way it went about its storytelling. Yes, the length of what was written was often extensive, but word counts should not matter when the writing is captivating and informative.
Sadly, I know not everyone feels this way about good writing. These days the consumers of media would much rather the 140-character tweet, aggregated summary, two-minute video or mindless television program over a 5,000- word article. Yes, there is a time for all of that, but the same applies to longform. Unfortunately, while asinine talking heads like Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless and Curt Schilling get paid up the ying-yang to go on about utter nonsense, talented Grantland writers like Jonah Keri, Zach Lowe, Andy Greenwald and Shea Serrano – these are just the ones I read with any regularity – get cast aside at ESPN. Yes, the network will honor all Grantland contracts, but the amount of exposure they will get there going forward is unclear.
In fairness to the network and anyone else cutting back on in-depth written work, this happened because a platform like Grantland cannot compare to the ratings of a mindless talk show like First Take or the click bait that Buzzfeed devours. People pay more attention to what is on TV or whatever the quickest read is, no matter the lunacy or lack of quality. While Grantland deserved better support from its parent company, part of the blame here falls on the consumer; which is why I am pleading for the digesters of media to step up. Stop giving your time and attention to the crap that is out there. I know it is hard – there is a lot of it – but we should all demand better. This is not just an ESPN problem or even a sports media problem. This is an all-media problem. This is a journalism problem. This is a problem about where we get our information and who gives it to us.
So when you come across something that makes you think or that you at the very least recognize as a solid addition to the media landscape, pay attention to it. Read it. Watch it. Listen to it. Talk about it.
Share it. Send the link to anyone that would find it interesting. Appreciate it. If you do not, Grantland will not be the first of its kind to get canned in favor of some idiot yelling through your flat screen or whatever gets the most mouse clicks. Gary Phillips is a journalism major from Ramsey, N.J. He can be reached at email@example.com. edu or on Twitter @GPhillips2727.