When Sports Magazines Did Great Journalism

—From an April 30th Washington Post story, “ESPN the Magazine is closing down,” by Ben Strauss:

In the spring of 1998, ESPN launched a magazine, with a cover featuring young stars primed to take over their sports. Kobe Bryant led a cast that also included Alex Rodriguez, Kordell Stewart and Eric Lindros. The quartet stared straight ahead, steely-eyed, aside a headline that read “Next” in big red letters. It was a reference to the aspirations of the magazine, too. . . .

Twenty-one years later, ESPN the Magazine—at least the print version—will be canceled. ESPN announced an internal reorganization Tuesday under senior vice president of content Rob King, part of which includes ceasing publication of the magazine in September.

“Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, and this requires ESPN to evolve as well,” the company said. . . .

Steve Bornstein really had the vision that, ‘Look, we’re going to create a multimedia company,’ ” said Skipper, who launched the magazine along with John Walsh, another former ESPN executive. “ ’We want to be in the radio business, we want multiple channels, we want a magazine.’ Steve desperately wanted a weekly magazine to [battle Sports Illustrated].”
—From an About Editing and Writing post about the Graham family and Inside Sports magazine:

Back in 1979, Don Graham was behind the Post Company’s effort to start a monthly magazine, Inside Sports, that was to compete with the weekly Sports Illustrated.

Inside Sports was part of the Graham family empire that included Newsweek, while SI was a sister publication to Time. For many magazine people, taking on SI with a monthly didn’t make much sense and when I was talking with Don in 1979, I bet him a lunch that Inside Sports wouldn’t last five years.

It lasted three and Don was nice enough to call and say he’d buy lunch. We sat in a booth at a downtown DC restaurant and had a very pleasant time. When I got back to the office, everyone wanted to know what Don was like close up. I told the other editors how nice he was and how enjoyable it was. But as I tried to remember what we’d talked about that would interest other journalists, I realized that Don was a master at being friendly without saying anything that could be quoted.

Here’s a great oral history, by Alex Belth, about the rise and fall of Inside Sports:

Inside Inside Sports: The Oral History




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