It’s the end of an era for the New York Times as it disbands its sports department. Moving forward, the outlet will rely on recent acquisition The Athletic for its online and print coverage of the topic.
The Times’ executive editor Joe Kahn and deputy managing editor Monica Drake called the move “an evolution in how we cover sports.”
“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 pair wrote in an email to NYT staffers on Monday. “At the same time, we will scale back the newsroom’s coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.”
Monday’s decision comes after the NYT’s sports staff sent a letter to leadership asking about the future of the section, according to the Washington Post.
“For 18 months, The New York Times has left its sports staff twisting in the wind,” the letter read. “We have watched the company buy a competitor with hundreds of sportswriters and weigh decisions about the future of sports coverage at the Times without, in many instances, so much as a courtesy call, let alone any solicitation of our expertise. 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 Athletic, which was acquired in January 2022 for $550 million, posted a total operating loss of $35.9 million over the course of 2022, according to the New York Times’ earnings reports. In the first quarter of 2023, the Athletic reported an adjusted operating loss of $7.8 million.
According to a separate note from NYT chairman A.G. Sulzberger and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien, the 35 journalists and editors currently working on the sports desk will transition to other desks around the newsroom.
“Many of these colleagues will continue on their new desks 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,” the pair said. “There are no plans for layoffs and newsroom leadership will actively work with all our Sports colleagues to ensure they land in the right roles.”
Sulzberger and Levien said the move was made after “careful deliberation and with deep admiration for our colleagues in Sports.”
“They have long produced some of The Times’s most distinctive journalism — from investigations into urgent topics like concussions and doping, to must-read features on a women’s soccer team in Afghanistan, a tragic avalanche in Washington and much more — and we have no doubt they will continue this tradition from their new desks in the future,” they added. “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.”
Under the company’s plan, its digital homepage, newsletters, social feeds, the sports landing page and print section will “draw from even more of the approximately 150 stories The Athletic produces each day chronicling leagues, teams and players across the United States and around the globe.”
“We believe that these plans will put us in an even stronger position to deliver on our mission and serve our readers,” the note concluded.
Shares of the New York Times popped 1% at Monday’s open, with the stock trading at around $40 per share.