The New York Times said Monday it will disband its sports department and rely on coverage of teams and sports from its website, The Athletic, online and in print.
The Times’ managing editor Joe Kahn and deputy managing editor Monica Drake heralded the change in the newsroom as “an evolution in how we cover sports.”
“We plan to focus more directly on unique, high-impact stories and enterprise journalism about how sports intersect with money, power, culture, politics and society,” the editors wrote in an email to The Times newsroom Monday morning. “At the same time, we will scale back the newsroom’s coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.”
Closing the sports desk, which has more than 35 reporters and editors, is a big change for The Times. The department’s coverage of sports, athletes and team owners and its Sports of the Times column were once a pillar of American sports journalism. This section covers major moments and personalities in American sports of the past century, including Muhammad Ali, the birth of free agency, George Steinbrenner, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, baseball steroids, and the deadly effects of concussions in the National Football League. .
The move further consolidated The Athletic’s newsroom, which the Times bought for $550 million in January 2022, adding a publication of 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams. It publishes about 150 articles every day.
The staff of The Athletic will now provide Times readers with a greater coverage of sporting events, athletes and leagues, and for the first time articles from The Athletic will appear in The Times’ print newspaper. Online access to The Athletic, which is operated separately from The Times newsroom, is included for subscribers to The Times’ suite of products.
Journalists on the sports desk will move on to other roles in the newsroom, and no layoffs are planned, Mr. Khan and Mrs. Drake said. The team at the business table will include money and power in the game, while new beats will be added to the other sections that will include games. The moves are expected to end in the fall.
When The Times bought The Athletic, executives said the deal would help the company appeal to a wider audience. They added it to a subscription package that included the main Times news site and cooking, the Wirecutter product review service, and games.
As a business, athletics 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 over three million as of March 2023, up from over a million at the time of the acquisition.
Last November, The Times hired Steven Ginsberg, a top editor at The Washington Post, as managing editor of The Athletic. In June, The Athletic laid off nearly 20 reporters and transferred more than 20 to new jobs. The outlet will no longer assign at least one beat reporter to each sports team, its executives said.
The acquisition of The Athletic raised questions about the future of The Times’ sports department, which included many distinguished journalists. There was a Sports of the Times column Initiated by John Kieran in 1927, later included a group of distinguished writers including Robert Lipside, William Roden, Harvey Aradan, George Vecchi and Ira Berkow.
Three Sports of the Times columnists, Arthur Daly, Red Smith and Dave Anderson, have won Pulitzer Prizes for their sports writing. Another sports reporter, John Branch, won Josh Haner won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for his feature on a deadly avalanche in Washington state and the 2014 Feature Photography Prize for documenting the rescue of a Boston Marathon bombing survivor.
In recent years, with the rise of digital media, the Times’ sports department has begun to downsize, as have many national and local newspapers. The division lost its separate daily print section. Not every local team is assigned a beat reporter. Box marks disappeared.
On Sunday, a panel of nearly 30 members from The Times’ sports desk, The Times’ publisher, Mr. A letter to Kahn and AG Sulzberger chastised the company for leaving its sports staff “twisting in the wind” since buying The Times. Athletic.
Mr. Khan and other members of The Times’ masthead met with the sports desk on Monday. The meeting was controversial, according to two people present, with sports reporters calling Mr. Khan was pressed as to why he had not disclosed more about the company’s plans. Mr. Masthead was waiting to share the entire project and the organization worked hard to get jobs for everyone. Khan said what they were saying was “unfair”, the two said.
In an email to the company on Monday, The Times’ chief executive, Mr. Sulzberger and Meredith Kobit Levien, “While we know this decision will disappoint some, we believe it is the right one for readers.”