Adam Rubin was known as one of the most dogged and committed beat writers in baseball, so it was a bit of a surprise when the longtime Mets reporter announced in February that he would be leaving ESPN for a job in PR.
But in an interview for Jared Diamond and Mike Vorkunov’s newletter The -30-, Rubin revealed there was slightly more to that story than we knew at the time.
As Rubin tells it, he was planning on moving on from journalism anyway when he received word that ESPN wouldn’t renew his contract.
I’ll break a little news here and reveal that ESPN declined to renew my contract, so I would have been out later this year anyway. ESPN seems to be bleeding money because of cord-cutting, so my salary was unattractive to them. And the new MLB editor at ESPN wants to get away from “thorough” beat coverage—that’s the precise word she used—and I suppose I was the sacrificial lamb to hammer home that point. Anyway, ESPN agreed to give me a buyout to leave now. And I get to do what I planned to do anyway. So it worked out tremendously.
Rubin wound up with a job in the athletic department at the New York Institute of Technology, which competes in Division II for most sports but Division I for baseball.
Since ESPN dismantled its local sites (ESPN New York, ESPN Chicago, etc.), its beat writers have been tasked with more feature-type content and less day-to-day minutiae, which was Rubin’s specialty. Later in the interview with The -30-, Rubin bemoaned that last season his editor prevented him from publishing a rapid reaction. He estimated that he drove 30,000 clicks a day to ESPN from his Twitter account alone.
We know that ESPN, no doubt feeling pressure from a decline in cable subscribers, is planning a round of layoffs for on-air and online talent. Whether or not Rubin was to be officially part of that initiative, the fact that he wasn’t offered a new contract might shedd some light on ESPN’s priorities these days. It makes sense, as Rubin points out, to de-emphasize reporting when aggregation is just as easy, and ESPN might be drifting more in that direction.
Or, maybe Rubin is wrong and ESPN declined to renew his contract for reasons having nothing to do with cord-cutting and aggregation.
Anyway, now Rubin can enjoy his new job at NYIT, ESPN.com can cover baseball the way it wants to, and we can monitor what that means for the site in the big picture.