Grantland founder Bill Simmons left ESPN recently, taking many of his top staff with him to support him as part of his new role at HBO. Grantland, a specialty sports and pop culture site owned by ESPN, was subsequently shut down on October 30th. Many are mourning the site’s discontinuation, as it was regarded by some as “an ambitious leap into the future of journalism on at least two fronts.”
Erik Rydholm’s model of journalism defines the practice as three distinct methods of reporting: “what”, “so what”, and “now what”. In an era of instant gratification where news sites are trying to break news before anyone else, it would appear that the “what” method of reporting is the most important. What set Grantland apart from other sports outlets, including parent site ESPN.com, was their choice to focus on the latter methods.
Simmons imagined a sports site where instead of trying to report on the latest scores or injuries, their content would be more concerned with the career effects of being drafted after the first round or the exact value a star player brings to their team. Grantland’s intentional choice to avoid reporting on scores or trades helped create a unique voice that stood out from the myriad of other sources all scrambling to be the first to break the news.
Grantland was also unique in journalism in that it acted as an open platform for its writers to share content they were excited about. This could range anywhere from sports to comic books to sitcoms. Bill Simmons and the Grantland team valued interesting people just as much as interesting content. While Simmon’s departure from the company wasn’t exactly on good terms, ESPN executives claimed the reason for their decision to shut down Grantland was simply because it made sense for their business.