(TheRedAlertNews.com) – BREAKING NOW: The New York Times announced on Monday that it’s surrendering to internal and external competition and closing its sports department — a sports desk that has produced numerous legendary columnists and Pulitzer Prize winners.
Instead, the Times will rely on The Athletic for daily coverage.
This decision comes as rumors swirled over the weekend about the sports desk’s closure. Last year, the Times purchased The Athletic, a subscription-based sports site, for $550 million.
According to executive editor Joseph Kahn and deputy managing editor Monica Drake, the 40 sports staff members will be offered different roles within the Times. The Times plans to establish a group in its business section to focus on the relationship between sports, money, and power. “We plan to focus even more directly on… how sports intersect with money, power, culture, politics, and society at large,” the memo read. However, this means reducing the coverage of games, teams, and players.
The changes won’t result in layoffs, and efforts are underway to reassign journalists who worked in the sports department to new roles. The announcement followed a letter signed by almost 30 writers and editors expressing their concerns about the future of sports coverage at The Times. “For 18 months, The New York Times has left its sports staff twisting in the wind,” the letter stated.
The Times purchased The Athletic 18 months ago with the intention of integrating the site into its other services, such as recipes and games. However, despite having 3.3 million subscribers, The Athletic is currently unprofitable and hopes to become profitable by 2025. “We intend to utilize The Athletic… to provide Times readers with a greater abundance of sports coverage,” said A.G. Sulzberger, chairman of the New York Times Company, and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien.
Since acquiring The Athletic, the Times noted an overlap in sports coverage between the two outlets. This overlap and financial difficulties in the media and advertising industries led to several layoffs at The Athletic. Despite this, the Times denied rumors of reporters being asked to leave the company or join The Athletic.
The Times’ decision is complicated because it is unionized, while The Athletic is not. Times employees work under a new union contract ratified this year. The agreement promises no layoffs in the Times newsroom and requires that any job changes follow the union contract.
The sports department’s closure ends a long legacy that dates back to the first Olympics coverage in 1896 and includes several big scoops, like reports on concussions in football, doping in horse racing, and the billions from the Middle East pouring into global sports.