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Popular Blog SB Nation Furloughs Writers With Few Sports to Cover During Pandemic

Wrigley Field's marquee displays Lakeview Pantry volunteer information in Chicago on Thursday, after MLB announced the 2020 season will be delayed because of the coronavirus.
Nam Y. Huh
Wrigley Field's marquee displays Lakeview Pantry volunteer information in Chicago on Thursday, after MLB announced the 2020 season will be delayed because of the coronavirus.

With few to no sporting events taking place because of the coronavirus crisis, sports journalism is feeling the crunch.

Vox Media announced Friday that it would furlough around 9% of its workforce for three months starting on May 1, according to a staff email from CEO Jim Bankoff obtained by NPR. Several of those furloughs are hitting the media group's flagship sports website SB Nation.

Staff writer Natalie Weiner tweeted out the news that she was furloughed, adding that she was "mostly hurting for my colleagues, who work harder than anyone and whose many years of loyalty to the site are being repaid this way."

Vox Media also owns websites The Verge, Vox, Eater, Polygon and Curbed, in addition to SB Nation. Bankoff indicated in the email that editorial furloughs would only take place at SB Nation and Curbed. Several writers and editors at both sites, including SB Nation's only copy editor Sam Eggleston, are among the furloughed.

According to the staff email, many employees will also see pay cuts. The Vox Media Union said via Twitter that it fought for no staff cuts to take place and helped ensure that no furloughed employees would lose their health insurance. The union said hundreds of staffers across the organization offered to cut their own pay to save jobs, but Bankoff noted in his email that furloughs were financially unavoidable.

Plenty of furloughed staff members at SB Nation praised one another's work in the wake of the company's move. Editor Alex Kirshner tweeted that his co-worker Ricky O'Donnell is "one of the great bloggers in world history. I don't even care about the Bulls but his blogs about their front office are appointment reading because that kind of fine-pointed destruction is nutritious." Editor Spencer Hall also shared that writer Zito Madu is "an impossible human being who is as trainable as a concussed cat but fortunately ... is a beautiful writer who can make a story about literally anything sing."

Other sports outlets across the country are also hurting because of the coronavirus crisis. Two weeks ago, Sports Illustrated laid off 6% of its editorial staff, according to The Washington Post. Several local sports reporters have been laid off as well. In California's Bay Area, the entire sports staff of the San Jose Mercury-News and East Bay Times have been furloughed.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Austin Horn is a 2019-2020 Kroc Fellow. He joined NPR after internships at the San Antonio Express-News and Frankfort State-Journal, as well as a couple stints in the service industry. He aims to keep his reporting grounded in the experience of real individuals of all stripes.

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