NEW YORK, NY – Sports will no longer be part of The New York Times.
The newspaper is eliminating its sports desk and folding such coverage into The Athletic, the subscription-based sports outlet the Times purchased last year for $550 million. The paper’s sports writers and editors will be moved to different roles in the newsroom and no layoffs are planned, executive editor Joe Kahn and deputy managing editor Monica Drake announced in a memo to Times staff.
“We plan to focus even more directly on distinctive, high-impact news and enterprise journalism about how sports intersect with money, power, culture, politics and society at large,” the two wrote, according to The New York Times. “At the same time, we will scale back the newsroom’s coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.”
The Athletic, which operates separately from the Times newsroom, named Steven Ginsberg as executive editor last year. Ginsberg was previously a managing editor at The Washington Post.
Nearly 40 reporters and editors make up the sports desk at the Times, and it’s unclear where these staffers will migrate to within the newsroom. The Athletic newsroom (comprised of more than 400 staffers) is not unionized, though its publisher David Perpch told The Wall Street Journal he would not oppose one, while the Times guild ratified its latest contract earlier this year—on the promise of no layoffs.
It was that promise that partly inspired sports staffers at the Times to send a letter to Kahn on Sunday pressing him for information on the status of the desk.
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“For 18 months, The New York Times has left its sports staff twisting in the wind,” the letter read, according to The Washington Post, claiming the Times continued to make decisions regarding its sports coverage without notifying sports staffers.
“The company’s efforts appear to be coming to a head, with The Times pursuing a full-scale technological migration of The Athletic to The Times’s platforms and the threat that the company will effectively shut down our section,” the letter added.
Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and New York Times Company CEO Meredith Kopit Levien wrote in a separate memo that the staffers who move to new desks would continue “to produce the signature general interest journalism about sports — exploring the business, culture and power structures of sports, particularly through enterprising reporting and investigations — for which they are so well known.”
“Though we know this decision will be disappointing to some, we believe it is the right one for readers and will allow us to maximize the respective strengths of The Times’s and The Athletic’s newsrooms,” the pair wrote.
The Athletic has operated at a loss since its purchase by the Times, posting a $7.8 million loss earlier this year while growing its subscriber base by double since the acquisition.
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