The New York Times said Monday it would dissolve its sports department and rely on its website The Athletic’s coverage of teams and games, both online and in print.
Joe Kahn, executive editor of The Times, and Monica Drake, deputy managing editor, heralded the change in the newsroom as “an evolution in the way we cover sports.”
“We plan to focus even more directly on distinctive, high-impact news and business journalism about how sports intersect with money, power, culture, politics and society at large,” the editors wrote in an email to the The Times newsroom on Monday morning. “At the same time, we will reduce newsroom coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.”
The closure of the sports section, which has more than 35 journalists and editors, is a major change for The Times. Coverage of the gaming department, athletes, and team owners, and its Sports of the Times column in particular, were once a mainstay of American sports journalism. The section covered the biggest moments and personalities of the last century of American sports, including Muhammad Ali, the birth of free agency, George Steinbrenner, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, steroids in baseball, and the deadly effects of concussions. in the National Football League. .
The move represents further integration into the newsroom of The Athletic, which The Times bought in January 2022 for $550 million, adding a publication that had some 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams. It publishes around 150 articles every day.
The Athletic staff will now provide most of the coverage of sporting events, athletes and leagues for Times readers and, for the first time, The Athletic articles will appear in The Times print newspaper. Online access to The Athletic, which is operated separately from the Times newsroom, is included for those who subscribe to two or more of The Times product packages.
Reporters on the sports desk will transition to other roles in the newsroom and no layoffs are planned, Kahn and Drake said. A group on the business desk will cover money and power in sports, while new beats covering sports will be added in other sections. The moves are expected to be completed by the fall.
When The Times bought The Athletic, executives said the deal would help the company appeal to a broader audience. They added it to a subscription package that includes the Times’ main news site, as well as Cooking, product review service Wirecutter, and Games.
As a business, The Athletic has yet to turn a profit. It reported a loss of $7.8 million in the first quarter of this year. But the number of paying subscribers has risen to more than 3 million as of March 2023, from just over 1 million when it was acquired.
Last November, The Times named Steven Ginsberg, a top editor at The Washington Post, executive editor of The Athletic. In June, The Athletic fired nearly 20 reporters and moved more than 20 to new jobs. Its leaders said the outlet would no longer assign at least one reporter to each sports team.
The acquisition of The Athletic raised questions about the future of The Times sports department, which has included many distinguished journalists. The Sports of the Times column was started by John Kieran in 1927, and would later include a distinguished group of writers, including Robert Lipsyte, William Rhoden, Harvey Araton, George Vecsey, and Ira Berkow.
Three Sports of the Times columnists, Arthur Daley, Red Smith and Dave Anderson, have won Pulitzer Prizes for their sports writing. Mr. Daley wrote more than 10,000 columns for The Times over 32 years. (Another sportswriter, John Branch, cattle a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for his reporting on a deadly avalanche in Washington state and Josh Haner won the 2014 Feature Cinematography Award for documenting the recovery of a Boston Marathon bombing survivor).
In recent years, with the rise of digital media, The Times sports department began to downsize, as did many other national and local newspapers. The section lost its independent daily print section. Not all home teams were assigned a reporter. Box scores disappeared.
On Sunday, a group of nearly 30 members of The Times sports section sent a letter to Mr Kahn and AG Sulzberger, the publisher of The Times, berating the company for leaving its sports staff “twisted in the wind”. since the purchase of The Atlético.
Sulzberger and the company’s chief executive, Meredith Kopit Levien, wrote in an email to staff Monday that the company’s goal since acquiring The Athletic was to become “a global leader in sports journalism.”