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July 10, 2023

New York Times to disband sports desk and use Athletic content

Articles from The Athletic will begin appearing in the print NYT for the first time.

By Bron Maher

The New York Times is disbanding its sports desk with its coverage to come solely from journalists on The Athletic.

The newspaper reported that its sport department employs more than 35 editorial staff, but none are set to lose their jobs as a result.

The New York Times bought The Athletic in early 2022 and the dedicated sports title has gradually become more intertwined with the flagship newspaper brand.

What’s happening to The New York Times’ sport writers?

New York Times executive editor Joe Kahn and deputy managing editor Monica Drake emailed the NYT newsroom on Monday morning saying: “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.

“At the same time, we will scale back the newsroom’s coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.”

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They said that staff currently assigned to the sports desk will be moved to other departments, for example business, where they will continue to work on sports-related beats.

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Day-to-day sports coverage, meanwhile, will be handed to The Athletic, and for the first time Athletic articles will begin appearing in the print New York Times.

That contravenes previous attempts to keep the brands distinct: The Washington Post reported in October that, despite the new proprietors, The Athletic’s founders had asked staff not to identify themselves as New York Times employees, allegedly at the behest of some NYT sports reporters.

The Post said: “One Athletic staffer, who had snapped a photo in front of the Times building in Manhattan and called it his new office, was asked to take it down.”

In other ways The Athletic had already been brought in line with the Times: Defector reported in June 2022 that Athletic staff were expected to adhere to NYT staff guidelines on social media use and editorial standards.

Some 20 Athletic journalists were laid off last month, around 4% of its newsroom, with the company saying the decision was driven by lower demand for coverage of some sports, such as baseball and ice hockey.

On Sunday The Wall Street Journal reported that the Times’ sport desk had sent a letter to management asking for greater transparency around the paper’s plans for their section.

The Athletic launched in 2016 with the goal of having a reporter covering each major team, making waves by poaching talent from other publications.

The New York Times paid $550m for the title and its 1.2 million subscribers, subsequently incorporating The Athletic as part of its subscription bundle alongside Cooking, Games and the product review service Wirecutter. Readers can still subscribe to The Athletic separately from The New York Times or vice versa, as with the other subscription verticals.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
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