New York Times to pull the plug on its sports desk
The New York Times will eliminate its 35-member sports desk and plans to produce journalism on that topic from staff at The Athletic, a sports news startup the media outlet bought last year.
Two of the newspaper's top editors — Joe Kahn and Monica Drake — announced the changes Monday in a staff email, the Times reported. CEO Meredith Kopit Levien told staffers in a separate memo that current sports staff will be reassigned to different parts of 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," Kopit Levien said in the memo.
Levien acknowledged the decision to axe the paper's sports desk may disappoint employees, but said "it is the right one for readers and will allow us to maximize the respective strengths of The Times' and The Athletic's newsrooms."
The company said no layoffs are planned stemming from the strategy shift, noting that newsroom managers will work with editorial staff who cover sports to find new roles.
The Times bought The Athletic in early 2022 for $550 million at a time the startup had roughly 400 journalists on staff. The Athletic has yet to turn a profit, the Times reported. The operation lost $7.8 million in the first quarter of 2023, although subscribers have grown from 1 million in January of last year to 3 million as of March 2023, according to the paper.
"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," Kahn and Drake said in their memo. "At the same time, we will scale back the newsroom's coverage of games, players, teams and leagues."
The Athletic reporters will produce most of the sports coverage, and their bylines will appear in print for the first time, the Times said.
Khristopher J. Brooks is a reporter for CBS MoneyWatch covering business, consumer and financial stories that range from economic inequality and housing issues to bankruptcies and the business of sports.