Back to Pre Snap Reads: Another Career Crossroad
I write about my career every so often because when I was at the very start of my career the only people that wrote about it were old and out of touch with what it was like trying to break into the industry.
The fates had some fun with me this week.
Being a child of the 90s, the fates to me are three hooded women with no eyes who tried to kill Hercules in that Disney film(sidenote: Why was Hercules ginger in that film?). The fates had some fun with me because at the start of the week I was thinking about shutting down Pre Snap Reads because I no longer needed the site.
I was finally settling somewhat into my role as a freelance writer, writing often enough for enough outlets that I could make a decent living. Pre Snap Reads was never a money-making venture for me and the little spare time I had outside of work was spent with family and/or friends.
Of course, within a matter of hours, I found out that Bleacher Report was letting me go.
Bleacher Report was a good place to work. They paid me relatively well and were the only company who employed me for the full 12 months of the year. They also accommodated me when I needed time off at the last minute for an unscheduled family event in 2015. Between 2014 and 2015, I was also fortunate enough to move up within the company.
I was still a just Featured Columnist, but my workload went up from two articles each week to three. My salary rose with my workload, more than doubling from my first day to my last. Everything was going in the right direction and every suggestion within the company from editors and other writers suggested that they saw me as a long-term option. Consistent comments and regular ‘Articles of the Week’ listings offered optimism for growth within the company.
My philosophy on work changed after I first found myself completely unemployed around three years ago. I stopped caring about praise and criticism, only valuing it from specific people rather than those who weren’t truly invested in me or my work. Because of that philosophy, and my general skepticism about the plaudits that were being offered, my attitude was always ‘Focus on the work and let everyone else sort out the rest.’
That is still my philosophy today because even though Bleacher Report repeated its mistake by letting me go again, they’re going to struggle to replace me.
I’ve been fired in the past and I’ve deserved to be fired. I’m completely confident in myself but I’m general pretty self aware also, so when I’m mailing it in I can acknowledge that I’m mailing it in. Since I was last completely unemployed, my goals have been to outwork and out-write everyone. Everyone.
Those goals have helped me get employed outside of Bleacher Report and they have helped me grow my audience so that I’m in much better standing now than I was three years ago. Those goals are what make me completely confident in my work and my ability to be successful in this line of work. However, those goals have limited reach.
I can’t control the opportunities that are available and right now, it doesn’t look like there are many available.
When Grantland was shut down by ESPN, it was a sign of something most of us already knew. Nuance and balance was no longer as important as blunt sensationalism. Outlandish claims attract a greater audience than detailed analysis, which is why you’ll see how headline writing continues to evolve further and further away from factual statements and towards strong opinions.
Fortunately, I’ve already spent months writing sensationalist nonsense that I didn’t actually believe. I did that when I was first starting out in Journalism seven years ago because I was a pretty bad writer, but also because that’s the direction I was pushed in. Doing that kind of work is draining. It’s something that makes you dread sitting down to write and leaves you feeling completely unfulfilled at the end of the day.
The appeal of being a sports writer, at least to me, was that I got to write about sports. I got to have a job like no other where I could enjoy myself so much more than anyone who was dragging themselves to a 9-5 every day.
For the past two years, that’s the life I’ve lived. I’ve got to wake up, watch football, analyse every play I could find and then discover new ways to write about the sport. Everything about that is/was my dream job. The problem is, that kind of thing is now niche. There aren’t many adequate-paying opportunities for exhaustive analysis, instead you can get obnoxiously rich if you embrace debate.
I’m still very fortunate in many ways. Most significantly, my goals over the past two years have allowed me to earn contributing roles with Football Outsiders, Football Guys and Sports on Earth where I will continue to write as of today. Secondarily, I’m still only 24 years old and have saved a lot of my money because I understood the nature of this business. If I ultimately chose to go in a different direction with my life, I can still go back to college without being the doddering old man in the class of kids.
In truth, I don’t know what I’m going to do at this point. That’s the state of this business right now. It’s a scary prospect. I know I’ll be okay if I decide to walk away because I got to live it long enough to enjoy it and satisfy my curiosities.
Thankfully, I didn’t shut down Pre Snap Reads.