My next guest on this episode of "Straight from the Source" is a veteran scribe in my hometown of Miami. If it happened in South Florida sports during the last 25 years, Ethan Skolnick was likely there. After years of covering the Miami Dolphins, he has spent the majority of his recent past covering the 3-time NBA Champion Miami Heat. We discuss how that franchise's success, along with the arrival of Dwyane Wade and later Lebron James and Chris Bosh, shifted the sports culture in the market, bringing in a new generation of sports fans. After years in the traditional sports media landscape, Skolnick has now started his own sports media company, Five Reasons Sports Network and we discuss how it's broken the mold, for who and how sports are covered. Hope you enjoy!
Ethan: I took a traditional route in this business. You know I went to college, I went to grad school at Columbia. I got an internship at the LA Times, I came back and worked part time at a desk in Baltimore covering high school games at the Baltimore Sun. And then I came back to Miami, Palm Beach actually so I could live with my folks and work for the Palm Beach Post and started covering major sports. I mean, not everybody has that route, but that was a more traditional route in those days. These days, that really doesn't exist. You don't cover high school games, for a newspaper. There is really no path. You look at the late 90's, when I was at the Palm Beach post, and you look at the list of people who were there at that point. Dan Graziano, Todd Archer, Jeff Darlington came in a little bit later, Joe Schad, Israel Gutierrez was kind of my mentee. He's far, far exceeded me at this stage. We had a big list of people who went national. We had 21 sports writers at one point at the Palm Beach Post, which to me was the best paper in the market. During that time there were more than 60 full-time sports writers, most of them traveling, in this town. Now the Palm Beach post has 3. They only cover the Dolphins. They don't cover the Heat anymore, which makes me sad because I covered the Heat for them for a while. The (South Florida) Sun Sentinel I think has six sports writers now. They don't cover the Florida Panthers. They barely cover the Miami Marlins. The Miami Herald has just started covering the Panthers again, but they I think they've got just six sports reporters full time. It's remarkable how it's changed, and radio and TV too. So for me, what we're tapping into in starting this new venture with Five Reasons Sports is that there's a lot of really talented people out there. But if you're the next Israel Gutierrez, like a young and hungry 22 year old sports creator, at this stage there's no jobs for you. It's tough because now, the young aspiring reporters and creators are smarter than they ever were. They create their own content, they know how to use YouTube, they know how to use social media, they know how to podcast, they just need a platform for it. That's kind of the direction that I've started to take things with the company.
Stefano: It's just funny how you mentioned how different it is now. You're talking about 30 sports writers at a newspaper. I mean, that's unheard of now. I didn't do the newspaper route, I did the local local news, sports department route when I started, right. But even then, I started over there in 2005. That was still a more traditional route. And even now, that's not a realistic, sustainable route. You don't get that opportunity at that young age anymore. Your company, Five Reason Sports, is giving that platform to young and talented guys, like you were mentioning. How did you first see this opportunity to really start tapping into some of the young talent that wouldn't get an opportunity otherwise?
Ethan: Well, I have always been really active, communicating with people on social media, particularly Twitter. Especially during the Big Three Miami Heat years, (Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh) which if you experienced that, there really was nothing like it in terms of having the best athlete in the world come here in his prime, with the rest of the country hating it for reasons I still don't understand. I never got credit for it, because Lebron stole it the next day, but I wrote a column, calling them the "Heatles" based on the insanity that followed that team around the country. Lebron then used it the next day, and then the term "Heatles" was on t-shirts everywhere, and that's why I'm here with you instead of it living Malibu on the beach with a hefty trademark deal. But yeah, they were THE show, but also it led to incredible engagement on social media. So during that period of time, I just got to know the readers. Like I knew who was going to tweet at me saying that Chris Bosh wasn't rebounding enough or whatever. I sort of knew it, at least in this market in Miami, who the people were that were influencers and who really weren't attached to any outlet. So with Five Reasons, it kind of started just doing a podcast with our friend Chris Whittyngham. Then there were three guys who I used to kind of follow and chat with on social media, but they used different screen names. Alfredo Arteaga was local. Simon Clancy was actually based in London. Chris Kouffman, who manages like a billion dollars in Tampa decides that he wants to break down film of the left guard that the Dolphins will draft 2025. Alfredo reached out to me and said they were thinking of starting a podcast. And I said, 'Okay, why don't we just join up. At least promote each other and that kind of stuff.' And that's sort of how it started. Then more and more of these creators kind of came to light. Now over the three years, I've changed Five Reasons a lot. It started as a podcast network, and we had a lot of traditional media guys who were looking to dabble in it. That kind of faded, they all sort of went back to sort of mainstream or team jobs. But at this point, I just started pushing the creator thing. Like, just find interesting people. They love the sports they talk about, and the content can be just as good as any professional, especially in today's sport media landscape.