LAST WEEK Paul Fichtenbaum was named Editorial Director for the Time Inc. Sports Group, which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED leads. In this new job he will concentrate on the continuing integration of all print and web operations. One of the best things about Paul as an editor and digital leader is that he doesn't talk too much about content, which now means so many things that it often means nothing. And that goes double when you put either amazing or incredible in front of content. I have noticed that the "content" I'm told is "amazing" or "incredible" is rarely either. Editors should not talk like that. My point is that Paul is jargon-free, which is one of the many things that stamp him as a serious journalist.
Paul joined SI in 1989, working his way through numerous beats, including MLB, the NBA, the NFL, college football, tennis and soccer. In 2004 he moved from NHL editor (one of the "Top 100 influential figures in hockey," according to The Hockey News) to take over as the managing editor of SI.com. Over the ensuing eight years Paul built a powerhouse site, winning four consecutive MPA Website of the Year awards, multiple other honors and in 2010 a National Magazine Award for its pro football coverage. In 2007, well ahead of the social media wave, Paul pushed the editorial blueprint for the acquisition of FanNation, SI's community and social platform, and in 2009, SI.com began an ambitious digital video initiative which now pulls nearly 20 million video views each month. Of late, he designed the linkage between the site and SI's tablet and mobile apps, including LIVE FROM LONDON for the Summer Olympics.
THE SELECTIONS for the annual Best American Sports Writing anthology were also announced last week, with SI contributing five stories. S.L. Price will have two pieces in the compilation, to be published by Mariner Books on Oct. 2: a profile of Novak Djokovic during his run toward a possible undefeated season, and "The Heart of Football Beats in Aliquippa," about a Pennsylvania mill town racked with racial conflict, violence and economic despair but united around high school football. Also selected were Tim Layden's "The Forgotten Hero," which uncovers the poignant story of Williams College linebacker Mike Reily; Thomas Lake's "Bad Nights in the NFL," an investigative narrative of the fatal shooting of Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams; and Tommie Tomlinson's "Something Went Very Wrong at Toomer's Corner," a study of the football culture that drove Alabama fan Harvey Updike to poison Auburn's beloved oaks.
Taken together, Fichtenbaum's promotion and these literary honors meld SI's recent history of innovation with ongoing excellence in literary nonfiction, enforcing the tradition of sophisticated writing across all our platforms. It was a very good week.