The Athletic lays off Longhorns writer Kaelen Jones and others in another blow to pandemic-era sports journalism
The Athletic, a modern, digital-only site that covers sports primarily in the United States, laid off 46 people, including its Austin-based University of Texas beat writer, Kaelen Jones.
The sports journalism business continues to be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, although sports across the world are beginning, gradually, to come back to competition.
Jones announced that he'd been laid off via Twitter on Friday, writing that he had an "extremely fortuitous career path. Unfortunately, my time with The Athletic is up. Couldn't be more appreciative of the opportunity covering one of the most iconic college football programs."
I've had an extremely fortuitous career path. Unfortunately, my time with The Athletic is up. Couldn't be more appr… https://t.co/n2bORc1Nvz— Kaelen Jones (@Kaelen Jones)1591377359.0
Stewart Mandel, who is editor of The Athletic's college sports coverage, posted on Twitter that "Kaelen is one of the most talented young reporters I've ever met. He took on a huge challenge, moved to Austin TX to cover a major college team and wowed us all. He will be a star for many years to come."
Kaelen is one of the most talented young reporters I've ever met. He took on a huge challenge, moved to Austin TX t… https://t.co/IvvP2kdTWx— Stewart Mandel (@Stewart Mandel)1591382747.0
The Athletic layoffs represented about 8% of the workforce for the company, which was created in 2016. An Athletic editor posted on the site after the layoffs were announced that UT coverage would be a point of emphasis with the staff's national college writers.
But with few events to cover—and news outlets struggling around the country—the sports journalism industry is bleeding jobs.
Also on Friday, at least 10 editorial employees with the sports site SB Nation confirmed they had taken a buyout from Vox Media. The company had furloughed 9% of its workforce in April for three months. Most of the impacted employees worked for Vox's sports-specific site.
The Maven, the company that bought and has attempted to remake iconic Sports Illustrated magazine last year, told the Securities and Exchange Commission in a Friday filing that it would be instituting temporary, staff-wide pay cuts.
Locally, the Austin American-Statesman laid off a sportswriter and six others in late April.
But sports are beginning to come back after coronavirus-mandated hibernation.
On Monday, UT upperclassmen football players who lived off campus began orientation to prep for new COVID-19 workout guidelines. Underclassmen will take the same orientation next week.
The Big 12 is allowing voluntary off-season workouts to begin June 15, intending to start the season on time.
The PGA, after a more than three-month competitive hiatus, will have its first tournament this week—the Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth's Colonial Golf Club.
The NBA and Major League Baseball still are in the process of deciding when to restart.
The Athletic was supposed to be a new digital news business model that would be profitable.
Instead, with few live sports to cover, the digital site also ordered pay cuts for the remaining staff. Alex Mather, the CEO of The Athletic, told his staff that new subscriptions had dropped by 20-30% and advertising for the company-branded podcasts had been "severely impacted."
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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
As Austin FC took the stage for their first-ever match, they appeared more experienced than their track record. The club held LAFC to a scoreless first half, keeping about equal possession of the ball.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks.
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!
Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.
5 p.m: Kickoff!
It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!
4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home
Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.
4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium
Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!
~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds
With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.
~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA
(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)
Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.
Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.
11:45 a.m: We landed!
View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)
Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.
We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.
8:20 a.m: LA bound
Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.
A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.
As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.