ESPN’s on-air and online talent could see a big hit in the network’s forthcoming layoffs. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

Job cuts, whether they’re called layoffs or buyouts, are an unpleasant fact of life, and when they hit a sports-media company that bills itself as “the Worldwide Leader,” they’re a hot-button target.

Plenty of social media users, unhappy at the network’s emphasis on debate and de-emphasis on news, were happy to see misfortune strike the company. Of course, the people affected have lives and families and mortgages and pets, and the company’s Bristol, Conn., campus was “in shock” and “frozen” by the departures of what could be 100 colleagues. Others in media, where layoffs and cuts are frequent, felt their pain, lashing back at the lack of compassion on social media.

Never mind that, for years, ESPN was the ultimate destination for sports journalists, many of whom made ungracious exits to go to Bristol. This was a rugged day. James A. Miller, who co-wrote the definitive book on ESPN, tweeted, “If you’re shocked that a solid journalist like @Edwerderespn is on the list, keep your seat belt fastened.” There was a definite sense that the network was complicit in its own problems.

ESPN’s Jemele Hill and Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman fired back at those who were reveling in the cuts.

Part of the schadenfreude comes from ESPN’s broadened approach to coverage. It no longer just reports, it constantly has people debating. Often, those debates center on the employment of athletes and team management, and everyone has favorites there.

There was plenty of criticism from users who believe the network lost the thread of sports, becoming along the way “MSESPN,” as Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis put it. “Stick to sports” is a mantra the network has ignored, he says.

“Middle America wants to pop a beer and listen to sports talk, they don’t want to be lectured about why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero, Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson of sports, and Colin Kaepernick is the Rosa Parks of football,” he writes. “ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.”

ESPN will, of course, move forward with more personality-driven spirited debate and opinion shows more prevalent than ever.