Before I make my pre-introduction of someone who will be introducing himself shorty, I offer this article’s pre-context: I have built my reputation on AN (such that I have one) on being honest and not “toeing the company line,” and so my endorsements are authentic just as my silence can be damning.
As you know unless you joined the site yesterday, AN was dealt a crippling blow when its revered site manager, Alex Hall, was abruptly and unceremoniously laid off by Vox at the end of the July. It was unequivocally unacceptable at the time, remains so to this day, and will always be thus.
It also left AN with just a smattering of part-time writers and no leader, not even “6 characters in search of an author,” but more like “3 half-characters in search of keeping a leaky ship afloat”. Whether AN “survived” this or not is a matter of opinion, but here we still are so technically we must have, although it was painful to see daily game threads and recaps become “as best we can” day-to-day adventures and spotty coverage of daily and breaking news.
Before addressing the future, I want to give a public deep appreciation to Daniel Tatomer and Connor Ashford, without whom I think AN would not even have risen to the diagnosis of “in critical condition,” along with Walter, Cody, grover, and others whose contributions kept us going without a daily contributor or a manager.
Moving Forward: Pre-Introducing Kris Willis
I am genuinely thrilled to announce that Kris Willis has been officially hired to serve in a role similar to the one Alex Hall held: someone who will be a regular contributor with an eye on breaking news and developments, and who will also be managing the group of writers. With authority to hire, and a budget re-emerging, one of Kris’ first moves will be to add 3 or so paid contributors to the front page so that AN has, again, a real team and the ability to match news and games with the content our front page deserves.
While the anger over Alex’s departure, how it went down and how it impacted our community, persists I do want to say that I think Kris’ arrival is a very positive development and I want to let the community know why. I will do it in “FAQ” form because I think I have an idea of what some of the Q’s might be and I want to try to address them as openly and honestly as possible.
Who is Kris Willis?
I will let Kris introduce himself more fully, but if you are not familiar with him it is true that unlike Alex and other front page writers Kris does not arrive as a former AN community member and writer. He is, however, a veteran SB Nation writer and manager with roots in Atlanta and he is a longtime A’s fan (his “AL team since the late ‘80s”) who is also a lifelong Braves fan.
No doubt there will be some immediate skepticism around anyone coming in from the outside and not “bleeding only green and gold all his life,” but if Kris comes on and quickly proves to be both knowledgeable and committed (and really, shouldn’t anyone who wants to write for AN be committed?), I trust the community will be appreciative and welcoming because the site has been obviously skeletal since the beginning of August, 2022.
Why didn’t they just hire Alex back?
I’m bringing this up because who wouldn’t have this question cross their mind? Why layoff the best person only to hire back a similar position a half-year later and not bring back the person who never should have been laid off in the first place?
A little inference here: I am assuming that in recent weeks Vox came to realize what you and I knew all along: that a site can’t really run without daily contributors, enough writers, and actual leadership. WHO KNEW???
The trouble with the “Uh...I guess we do need him” epiphany is that 5.5 months later the landscape has changed. I can’t speak for Alex, but one has to wonder whether someone would even want a gig they never should have lost and then were offered back like nothing happened.
Also, I have tried unsuccessfully to stay in touch with Alex and I am unsure whether he is even reachable if someone wanted to suggest he was the perfect candidate or that the role was being funded again. What I do know is that by his own admission he would not currently be in a position to take on this role, or one like it, even if it were offered.
So realistically it is “someone else or no one” and we know how “no one” has worked out.
Why does Kris have my endorsement?
If I know AN, it will be tempting to focus on the “outside” and “Braves fan” slices of the profile pie. However, I have talked and met with Kris and I came away convinced he both understands what AN needs and is ready, willing, and able to provide it.
Specifically, just adding a daily presence on the front page and hiring additional writers will give AN the capacity to provide the content we have grown to expect from the site. And Kris’ background with SB Nation communities and front page writing makes the transition smoother.
It’s also worth noting that behind the scenes, in these past 5+ months Kris has already been working with AN’s front page writers to help coordinate schedules in anticipation of possibly taking on this role if and when it was back on the table. So while this is the first AN readers are hearing about Kris, he has been a presence internally since August.
And for what it’s worth, back in early August when I first heard Kris’ name as someone who was going to step in and support the writing team best he could in Alex’s absence, he received an endorsement from Alex himself as a good choice.
So Alex likes him, the front page writers already know and like him, and I liked him from our meeting to start strategizing together around how best to move forward. Now Kris can take it from here, both introducing himself to the community and then proving his mettle.
What’s the “bottom line”?
The bottom line is that AN, reduced to a shell of itself for 5+ months, will be getting back to being armed with a team of writers, a site manager, daily game threads and recaps — the AN you have come to expect and that you have every right to expect.
It won’t be perfect and the way we got here will never be ok, but I do think it will be good and I’m genuinely excited for AN to return to form. And I would be remiss if I didn’t end with a sappy level of gratitude towards each and every one of our readers and commenters who have stuck with us through thick and thin. I truly, truly, truly appreciate you.
I also strongly encourage you, anytime you disagree with anything Kris Willis writes, to consider the reply, “WHATCHOO TALKING ABOUT, WILLIS?” Because that’s really droll and I’m sure it’s never been done.
If you have questions for Kris, feel free to put them in the comments as he will be keeping up with this thread as well as preparing his own introductory post.