Stephen A. Smith concerned for sports media's future: 'Where the hell is it going?'

The irony is not lost on us that Stephen A. Smith is concerned about the state of sports media. But for better or worse, the First Take host is the face of it and will be the foreseeable future.

In a recent discussion, he explained the motivation behind his three-part series, Up For Debate, which delves into sports media’s changing landscape and future. He expressed some anxieties about the industry’s direction, even while praising figures like Shannon Sharpe and Joe Rogan.

“The flip side to it is no one knows where the hell it’s going,” he explained. “There’s nothing policing anything, it seems. You got out there, you have a voice, it resonates. What is this industry turning into? What has it transformed into? This is why it was important to talk to Mad Dog (Chris Russo) for this project. It was important to talk to a guy like Michael Wilbon and others for this project.

“I watch sports from the days of Howard Cosell. To me, it all originated from him in terms of sports commentary. And we saw SportsCenter folks become personalities. We saw Mike and the Mad Dog all of a sudden become huge personalities, and talk radio boomed because of it. And the advent of the podcast world and what have you has come into focus. And so, looking at the industry, where it was, where it is, where the hell is it going? This is something that I think the sports world really, really would be very, very interested in and beyond. Because it’s not just sports with podcasts, it’s a bevy of other industries as well.”

Smith felt his docuseries was appropriate for the times we’re currently living in.

“The word fear is appropriate here from the standpoint that you look at the whole stratosphere of podcasting and what have you and a lot of people believe it’s not policed enough,” Smith continued. “That everybody has the freedom to have a voice, but you can say anything; you can almost get away with anything. That wasn’t what the world was like. And as a guy that was raised in the newspaper industry, I tell people this story all the time. In 2003, when I was named a general sports columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I was the 21st African American in this nation’s history to become a general sports columnist. That means you have a license to give your opinion.

“Prior to that, only 20 people who happened to be African American could give their opinion. Now, anybody can have an opinion. So, I came up at a time where you had to earn your stripes and earn the right just to express yourself. Doggy was in talk radio being a pioneer, spearheading the way and provoking the advent of sports talk radio, which ultimately now has really, really transitioned more to podcasting than anything else. That’s why it was so important to have him as a part of this series, but there were lines that were drawn in the sand.

“Now, we don’t know where it is — it’s a bit foggy. And it’s got an industry; it’s got Madison Avenue scared. It’s got a whole bunch of people up on their toes, wondering where all of this is going. I decided to tackle that issue in concert with religion and sports. I’m very, very proud of what we’ve done…”

It sure sounds like Up For Debate serves as both a reflection on the industry’s journey and a glimpse into its uncertain future, with Smith himself standing as a fascinating embodiment of its transformation.

[First Take]

Source link: Stephen A. Smith concerned for sports media's future: 'Where the hell is it going?'