The End of Two Eras: Losing Sports Illustrated and Pitchfork

This past week delivered a double gut punch to my longtime passions – sports and music journalism. Within days of each other, storied publications Sports Illustrated and Pitchfork essentially ceased operations as we’ve known them.

As a child of the 80s and 90s, Sports Illustrated was synonymous with sports writing for me. I eagerly awaited the weekly arrival of each new issue, devouring the long form articles and dramatic photography capturing iconic moments in sports history. Often when I think about my memories of events, those thoughts partner with the writings of SI. Writers like Gary Smith, Rick Reilly, and Frank Deford set the bar for this kind of insightful, emotional storytelling.  They captured the emotion and drama of routine sports but without inserting polarizing opinions like a sports talk show host.  Even as the internet era made print less relevant, SI was still breaking new ground with early experiments in digital reporting.  For the longest time, I went to SI over ESPN to avoid the fake emotion.

Similarly, Pitchfork symbolized the bleeding edge of music criticism in the 2000s. As indie music left the underground, Pitchfork grew to national prominence for capturing this cultural moment. Beyond just reviews, Pitchfork nurtured a new generation of distinct voices while expanding the critical conversation through in-depth profiles, investigations, and Sunday classic album reviews. Pitchfork epitomized music writing in the digital age.  Indie music’s day in the sun may have just set.

So to see both these publications swept up and essentially discarded this week by corporate consolidation and cost-cutting has been crushing. While economic realities in media were bound to catch up with them eventually, it’s painful as a loyal reader to see storied names like SI and Pitchfork hollowed out, now mere branding shells for faceless conglomerates.

The demise of publications like Sports Illustrated and Pitchfork also underscores the decline of insightful journalism and criticism in the social media era. As attention spans fracture and the push for emotional virality dominates, we lose spaces for smart, reasoned perspectives on sports, music, and culture. While bits and pieces of their DNA will live on via TikTok and Twitter hot takes, social platforms reward reaction over reflection. As retail brands and celebrities bet big on leveraging fans’ emotions, I worry about losing room for publications willing to challenge their audiences with rigorous reporting, profiles, and criticism. We all may crave the rush of reactive content now, but the loss of SI and Pitchfork’s voices still feels like a crash into a cultural void.

Going forward, the loss leaves a huge void. As writers, editors and readers alike lament the end of these eras, the bigger question is where the ethos and sensibilities cultivated by the best of SI and Pitchfork – investment in talent, commitment to the reader, willingness to evolve – carry on from here. Something will inevitably emerge to take their place. But this past week still feels like the curtain dropping on my childhood, as two pivotal publications fade into history.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *