Last week, sports columnist Bob Kravitz went viral after going scorched earth on his former employer, The Athletic, regarding what it was like to work there and how they didn’t value him and writers like him.
In a post on his Substack, Kravitz talked about not feeling as though he mattered to the company and that he was held to unreasonable metrics standards at a time when he was recovering from major surgery.
“I had to produce 395 subscriptions in three months – or else,” he wrote. “That’s absurd, unfair, and outrageous, especially given my health situation. Well, I survived, producing more than 400 subs by working myself half to death, a great idea after open-heart surgery. But that soured me on the place forever. I felt it in my bones: They don’t give a **** about me as a human being.”
Kravitz stopped by the SI Media With Jimmy Traina podcast for Thursday’s episode and shared more about what it was like to work for the company and why he needed to write his post.
This was great fun. Thanks to Jimmy for having me on. https://t.co/FCOpafNPr0
— Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) July 27, 2023
“I’m 63, I got no more bridges left,” Kravitz told Traina when asked if he was worried about burning bridges. “At this point, I felt like if I don’t stand up for myself, who will? I’ve always tried to take the high road. At times I’ve failed in that capacity. I’ve tried to leave a place on good terms. But in the month that I had to think about it and stew about it and ruminate, it just kept coming back. I just felt morally compelled to write something. For my own sanity, if nothing else. I just had to get it out there.
“I don’t want to be viewed as a victim. I don’t want to be viewed as a guy who takes shots on the way out the door. I love a lot of people who work at The Athletic.”
In his post, Kravitz talked a lot about how his bosses at The Athletic put unreasonable expectations on him and other writers to generate new subscriptions. He expanded on that here, saying that it just never felt like what he was doing was enough.
“I remember talking to my editor at the time. I said, ‘How do they expect me to get 395 subs during a good time, much less a pandemic when there’s no sports?” said Kravitz. “I mean there was nothing. And I had to come up with stuff. I don’t know how I did it. I know I beat myself up pretty good. I struggled emotionally. I struggled physically because I was coming off a major life-changing surgery. How many months later it was, I don’t know off the top of my head. I just remember that I still wasn’t in the place that I needed to be. I don’t know if this is normal but I had to take all my PTO for the time that I was out.
“I understand that big corporations don’t care about their people, but they talk a good game about being different. I just felt badly about the whole situation. It made me feel like ‘Screw them, I’m doing the best I can.’ I had a quadruple bypass and it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the way they approach how they’re doing.
Traina then asked if he felt like the unreasonable subscription goal was an attempt to get rid of him.
“Yes. There’s no question,” said Kravitz. “In fact, when I got the 395, I heard from my immediate editor, who was thrilled because he was really fighting for me and trying to keep me employed. But I didn’t hear from anybody at the top of the heap there, saying “Hey, nice job man, 395, that’s a pretty awesome during a pandemic.’ I didn’t hear a word.
“395 told me they didn’t want me back.”
Kravitz also noted that The Athletic gave him a goal of generating 1,500 subscribers a year for the first few years he worked there, but that goal was reduced to 1,000 new subscribers this past year.
As for when he was eventually laid off, the longtime Indianapolis-based columnist said that it really emphasized how The Athletic is moving on from regional and local coverage.
“They did it in a humane way. They were very nice,” he said. “They told me they were ‘realigning’ and doing all the buzzwords. They’re not paying as much attention to the local markets, especially smaller local markets like Indianapolis.
“I mean, when I started in Indy at The Athletic, we had somebody covering the Pacers, college basketball, a few guys on the Colts, and me. Now, it’s down to one guy on the Colts, so that tells you how they felt about the local stuff. I hope they make a run of it by being more national in orientation, but it doesn’t do the readers here any good.”
Naturally, Kravitz did hear from some of his colleagues at The Athletic after writing his screed, though he says he didn’t get much pushback.
“I heard from some people who work currently at The Athletic and I heard from people who used to work at The Athletic,” Kravitz said. They’re not gonna call you and rip you, they called me to say ‘Hey, you spoke the truth. That’s the way it is at this place.’
“I don’t know if it’s different at other places with the concentration on metrics because I haven’t worked at SI or The Ringer or any of those places, I just know that, at The Athletic, metrics are king.”