Sources: FSD cutting all writers, including Tom Gage
As part of wide-reaching cutbacks on a national scale at Fox Sports, Fox Sports Detroit's entire roster of sportswriters is being let go on June 30, two sources confirmed to The Detroit News on Saturday night.
The list includes veteran baseball writer Tom Gage, who joined FSD's website in March after more than three decades at The Detroit News.
Gage is set to be inducted into the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in July.
FSD's website and the websites in Fox Sports' other regional markets are expected to remain live, but there's no word what content will be featured or who will write it.
"We're shifting our digital strategy away from traditional editorial to focus more on producing short-form video content, which is more closely aligned with our core sports video business," Fox Sports said in a statement. "As a result, we have made the decision to significantly reduce the use of freelance writers who have been contributing to our local websites.
"These changes will not impact our regional game telecasts."
The list of ousted writers at FSD includes: Gage, Dana Wakiji, Dave Hogg, Keith Gave and Dave Dye. Wakiji and Dye previously worked at The News. The five of them account for more than 100 years of sportswriting in Metro Detroit.
Michael Happy, digital content director at FSD and also formerly of The News, is expected to stay on with FSD. He declined comment on the situation.
Fox Sports spent huge dollars to launch its national sports network, Fox Sports 1, in August 2013. It had hoped to become, slowly but steadily, a rival of ESPN, but the ratings haven't come close to living up to the hype.
Fox Sports 1 does very well on days and nights it has baseball broadcasts, especially during the 2014 postseason, and as a result had drawn higher ratings for "Fox Sports Live" — FS1's answer to ESPN's "SportsCenter" — which airs after live events.
But, according to a report by Awful Announcing last November, on a late-October 2014 night when the network aired no baseball game, "Fox Sports Live" viewership reached a low of 23,000. The average for viewership without a game lead-in, Awful Announcing said, was just 75,000.
There's no sugarcoating it: That's bad, and as a result, a significant hit to Fox Sports' bottom line. Fox Sports is hoping televising one of golf's marquee events, the U.S. Open, starting this year, will help.
Earlier this spring, Fox Sports cut its budget for the "Fox Sports Girls."
Now comes word of the writer layoffs, which have been rumored for months — and appear to be nationwide.
Fox Sports has 17 regional networks, including the one in Detroit since 1997, when it replaced PASS Sports.