As we continue to move forward in the process of creating The Undefeated – a new ESPN site focusing on race and sports – we have collectively decided to make some structural adjustments that will maximize the skill sets and strengths of our team, leading to the best possible output for the site and for all of ESPN.
To that end, Jason Whitlock will now be entirely focused on what he does best: creating distinctive and compelling content, which will live across various ESPN platforms. Jason’s thought-provoking perspective has always been a hallmark of his work and this will allow him to completely devote his time and energy to that. As a result, he will make significant contributions to multiple ESPN entities and programs. Since returning to ESPN, Jason has been instrumental in assembling the foundation of a strong editorial team, formulating the vision for the project and collaborating with our digital product team to develop the blueprint for the site.
Leon Carter – an experienced leader in journalism who officially joined the site in January after leading staffs at the New York Daily News and ESPNNewYork.com – will assume all day-to-day management of the site’s editorial processes and personnel on an interim basis.
Our immediate read on all this without having Whitlock’s response:
Those who assume this means Whitlock has already crashed landed as editor-in-chief likely don’t know how difficult a process it is to move from writer to manager of any kind of start-up. Acknowledging that now instead of later is more of a survival instinct for himself and the site.
We could sense in talking to him that he was ready for this challenge, but that doesn’t mean one is also equipped to handle it without some intense management training classes and buying into the day-to-day work that involves hiring, editing, team meetings, etc.
Some may be better as an offensive coordinator than a head coach. And Whitlock does not need to be “the face” of a site that deals with race and culture and sports for it to be successful.
“Hire slowly and fire quickly,” Whitlock told us about what’s he had to quickly learn as a manger.
If this is a painful “firing” of himself as the chief overlord, which could not have been easy, it might just be the right team-related move for everyone involved, and he can focus on writing, more his true passion.
Neither Whitlock nor others employed by the site have returned texts or emails for more insight, so until then, it’s difficult to speculate much further.